Director Showcase – David Cronenberg
To celebrate the release of Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method on Blu-ray and DVD this week I decided to take a look at his career as Canada’s leading directors of all things dark and disturbing.
David Cronenberg is an indie auteur famed for his vivid horror films that usually revolve around parasites or strange medical conditions and often contain squirm inducing shots of mutilated body parts or disgusting insects. Not to be pigeon-holed with other schlock horror directors, Cronenberg is a master of his craft and despite the gruesome subject matter that permeates his filmography the underlying social commentary in his films highlights his talent as a film-maker.
In more recent years Cronenberg has turned away from his horror roots but continues to create thought-provoking films that cement his reputation as an important director. With numerous projects in the pipeline I am certain that he will continue to provide us with challenging cinema, and I just hope that his currently untitled Eastern Promises sequel sees the light of day.
Whenever there is an argument about remakes being a pointless exercise I inevitably point the doubter in the direction of The Fly. The 1958 version is a brilliant sci-fi but Cronenberg’s adaptation delved further into the grim reality of the situation with his body horror never being better suited to what remains a compelling yet horrifying watch. Jeff Goldblum is incredible as the eccentric scientist whose experiments with teleporting go awry when a a fly inadvertently becomes involved in the process. Rightly winning an Oscar for best make-up in 1987, The Fly is the perfect introduction to Cronenberg’s bizarre creations.
This creepy thriller highlights a point only briefly touched upon in Poltergeist a year earlier, with the metaphor that watching television can be bad for the viewer, but hammers the message home a lot harder. James Woods is suitably paranoid as Max Renn, a sleazy cable programmer who finds a new controversial show and his life begans to spiral out of control as his obsession with television becomes all consuming. The state of the art effects highlight why so many film fans prefer realism over CGI, as the results are often far more believable when the effects are actually present in the shot. Very weird and very disturbing but as a fan of films that push the audience to their limit, I cannot recommend Videodrome enough.
A History of Violence
A History of Violence marks Cronenberg’s foray into a more accessible style of filming but his favoured dark subject matter remains in this involving study of a small town family man whose past catches up with him. William Hurt was Oscar nominated for his supporting role despite his brief appearance on the screen but it is the conflict between Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris) and family man Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) that really ratchets up the tension. Cronenberg is well known for his signature shot of a gun coming through someone’s stomach and although it didn’t quite make the cut, fans of Cronenberg’s should check out the deleted scenes to see how he intended to include it in a film that doesn’t stray into fantastical territory.
Following the success of A History of Violence, Mortensen returned to star in this exceptional portrayal of the Russian mafia alongside the ever watchable Naomi Watts as Anna, a midwife who is left clues that link an unborn child to a violent family. Rightly nominated for an Oscar, Mortensen is captivating as Nikolai, the henchman who aids Anna in her search for justice while attempting to establish himself as a force to be reckoned with. One of the best crime thrillers of recent years, Eastern Promises is a masterpiece that thanks to Cronenberg’s direction refuses to hold back when it comes to depictions of violence.
Crash – Not to be confused with the dull melodramatic Oscar Baiting drama helmed by Paul Haggis, Cronenberg’s Crash is a different beast entirely. Based on J.G. Ballard’s controversial book, it takes a look at the lives of a group of people who get their sexual kicks from car crashes.
Naked Lunch – Another adapation, Naked Lunch is a loose biographical account of William S Burroughs and the strange experiences he encountered whilst writing the novel. A bug exterminator accidentally kills his wife and is drawn into a mysterious plot where his hallucinations bring to life a series of bizarre creatures.
Scanners – A dangerous group capable of exploding people’s heads through the power of their minds plan on global domination and a leading psychic is tasked with tracking them down. If you aren’t excited by the prospect of exploding heads then Cronenberg proably isn’t the director for you.
Dead Ringers – Twin brothers and gynaecologists confuse their social circles and the audience alike as no-one is able to tell them apart. An infatuation with a patient leads to a deterioration in their relationship that neither twin is prepared for.
A Dangerous Method – For details, be sure to check out my review
Films to Avoid:
Spider – This portrait of a schizophrenic may be an accurate representation of the illness but is dull and uneventful when compared with Cronenberg’s other directorial efforts.
The Brood – Cronenberg’s early horrors showcase a director finding his feet but whilst Shivers and Rabid made for compelling viewing, the absurdness of The Brood and the lack of scares is likely to leave viewers cold.
About The Author – Tom Bielby
Long time film fan and aspiring film writer, Tom is a horror fanatic who wasted far too much time at University sitting through every film in the IMDB Top 250. He is partial to foreign films and cult cinema and would love to rid the world of people who rustle their popcorn during important scenes. He can be found on Twitter under the alias @filmbantha
Are you a fan of Cronenberg’s work? If so do you prefer his body horror films or his recent attempts to distance himself from the genre? Let us know your thoughts below.