There have been many classic directors of the horror genre over the years, but none of them have been as consistently good as director David Cronenberg. Kicking off in the early ‘80s, the man has directed more solid flicks than he has flops, and he continues to take on new and interesting projects… and most the time, he nails it! Cronenberg has a knack for exploring body horror (or horrors of the flesh), and lately has been diving into the hidden horrors of culture, ensuring that every project that has his name attached is one I’ll be checking out time and time again (well, mostly every project). So with that, let’s dive into the elegantly twisted world of director David Cronenberg!
My earliest memory of Cronenberg’s work is his 1986 remake of THE FLY, starring Jeff Goldblum as the unfortunate scientist who accidentally fuses his DNA with that of a common housefly. I was 6 when I first saw this flick and to this day, no matter what Goldblum does, he will always be the fly who barfs on Twinkies before eating them. What an utterly disgusting movie, and yet so f*cking brilliant in every way possible, that it remains as one of my favorite flicks of all time. And that’s exactly how Cronenberg rolls: delivery sick and twisted shit in the most elegantly thought-provoking way possible. And that’s why we love him so much!
Just look at this list of solid films under his belt: RABID, THE BROOD, SCANNERS, VIDEODROME, THE DEAD ZONE, DEAD RINGERS, NAKED LUNCH, EXISTENZ, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, and EASTERN PROMISES. That’s a lot of good shit! Over the years he’s taken on exploding heads, technology, the era of television and video tape, dangerous diseases, twin doctors with sick fetishes, a classic novel by Stephen King, virtual reality, and has pared with what could be his coolest muse yet: Viggo Mortensen. The man is nothing if not consistent with the level of quality he delivers time and time again, and his ability to take on a variety of subjects with his own Cronenbergian twist is why we keep going back time and time again.
Unfortunately, among the many classics under Cronenberg’s belt, are a few that are less than awesome… but considering the number of good versus the number of crap, I’ll take it! While I wasn’t a fan of CRASH, I don’t know if I could say it was a bad movie… I just didn’t like it all that much. Same could be said about SPIDERS, a film a really wanted to like but found myself bored out of my mind throughout. Ralph Fiennes is a great actor, but what the hell was with SPIDERS, anyway? The flick had great potential, but it didn’t deliver for me. I also didn’t dig on A DANGEROUS METHOD as much, but I think that’s more of a personal taste, as I’m not a fan of period dramas like that. Viggo is awesome though, so at least it had that going for it.
And finally, the one film I can honestly say is a steaming pile of donkey shit: COSMOPOLIS. Starring TWILIGHT’s Robert Pattinson, the movie is more or less a love letter to RPatz’ face, with a PS note about how interesting (not) extremely rich f*cks are (not) in New York City. I hated this movie with a passion… so much so that I had to turn it off before the end credits started rolling. Yes, it’s that bad. Pretentious, preachy, boring, and more or less a movie that featured a cast of characters that I could f*cking stand. It’s amazing how horrendous this movie is, which makes me think… maybe that was Cronenberg’s intention after all? Somehow, sending a larger message about unlikable the filthy rich are. If that’s the case, well played, Cronenberg… well played.
At the mere mention of body horror, the one name that should come to everyone’s mind is the grandmaster of body horror himself, David Cronenberg. I don’t believe he invented it, but the man has spent the bulk of his career exploring body horror for all its shocking value in cinema, and for the most part… it works extremely well. Lately, however, Cronenberg has steered away from the body horror and has seemed to drift towards social commentary ala VIDEODROME, especially with the likes of A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, EASTERN PROMISES, and yes… COSMOPOLIS. Between body horror and social commentary, the man has touched it all from Stephen King adaptations (THE DEAD ZONE) to sci-fi and virtual reality gaming (EXTiSTENZ), to remakes (THE FLY), and films that are so downright bizarre that they verge on the edge of insanity and genius (NAKED LUNCH, SCANNERS). But there’s also something complexly elegant and thought-provoking in his movies (even the more schlocky ones) that one can’t deny admiring, at least on some cerebral level or another. The guy’s a genius and his body of work shows it, plain and simple.
One of his least-known films is also one of his first: SHIVERS aka THEY CAME FROM WITHIN. This here is one freaky little movie and one that everyone should be checking out. An apartment building is taken over by slug-like parasites that transfer from human host to human host when said humans f*ck each other… and since this is the ‘70s, everyone is f*cking each other. The film starts off with a really bizarre killing from the building’s medical team, and slowly builds from there. It plays much like a zombie movie from that era, and you know… it works 98% of the time. Things are slightly off, whether that’s the actress on screen being wet behind the ears, or that the film was one of the first films Cronenberg had ever taken on, so there was bound to be a blemish or two. Either way, it’s a fun “zombie” movie / killer slug movie (think SLITHER) and one everyone should have a chance of check out.
As far as I can tell, the only thing Cronenberg is working on right now is MAP TO THE STARS, a film that quite frankly sounds a little whack. Complex look at Hollywood and what it reveals about Western culture. He’s back at it with looking at our culture, which could be cool, but the only star attached to this one right now is RPatz, I fear this will be the Hollywood/LA version to New York’s COSMOPOLIS, and if I haven’t stressed it enough at this point, let me stress it again: that movie is horrible. But one bad seed won’t destroy my view of Cronenberg, so I have hopes that MAP TO THE STARS will be an overall better ride.
David Cronenberg is a living legend of the horror genre. The man is the creative genius behind such classics as VIDEODROME, SCANNERS, THE FLY, THE DEAD ZONE, DEAD RINGERS, NAKED LUNCH, and so many other great films that it’s hard not to award the man such a prestigious level of honor. He rocks the body horror (or horrors of the flesh) better than any other director out there, and has taken on such a variety of different types of projects over the years, that while many directors may come close, nothing quite delivers the goods like a David Cronenberg films.