If you are a horror fan, there are a number of filmmakers that you connect to, ones that have inspired many of those who grow up seeking out the genre. You have Craven, Carpenter, Argento, or what have you, but one of my personal favorites was the masterful David Cronenberg. The Canadian filmmaker first terrified me when I happened upon SCANNERS late one night. While he had done many shorts and TV projects early on, it wasn’t until I discovered some of his terrifying examinations of psycho sexual body horror. After dealing with exploding heads in SCANNERS, I then found SHIVERS (1975) and knew that the director was something truly special - someone not afraid to explore the darker side of attraction and sex.
While I truly appreciated SHIVERS, it wasn’t until I was taken in with a couple of his later projects that I was fully awestruck. RABID (1977) not only featured an adult actress in the leading role, but it was a fascinating take on the free love of the Seventies and what could go wrong. Marilyn Chambers (at the time known for TOGETHER and BEHIND THE GREEN DOOR) portrays a woman who develops a desire for human blood. With a sort of zombie twist, whoever she goes after turns into a flesh hungry rabid monster. This wildly creepy flick f*cked with my young mind, but I was officially hooked on Cronenberg and his gruesome take on extreme physical contact. It was glorious and horrifying and I couldn’t wait to continue on my journey into depravity with the writer/director as my guide.
Two years later, Cronenberg continued down this strange path of horror. THE BROOD (1979) is a wild tale featuring the incredible Samantha Eggar as a woman going through a series of bizarre therapy sessions called "psychoplasmics." Unfortunately, mysterious and vicious murders plague the woman and her husband. I won’t give anything away in case some of you haven’t witnessed this classic, but the final act is wonderfully weird and incredibly disturbing. This is a bizarre feature and it's absolutely wicked in the best of ways. With all the biting, sex and unusual goings on, Cronenberg was far from finished pushing the human body into something intensely horrific and haunting.
After the exploding heads of SCANNERS in 1981, Cronenberg went way out there with a little oddity called VIDEODROME. Featuring James Woods and rock star Debbie Harry, this creepy flick added another strange new element to his brand of horror. While THE DEAD ZONE took a less bloody approach, he made up for it with the brilliant 1986 remake of THE FLY. The film - which won an Academy Award for Best Makeup - gave Jeff Goldblum the role of a man physically turning into a fly, and it was beautifully grotesque. The filmmaker continued to create serious scares with the fantastic DEAD RINGERS (1988) and while not necessarily horror, his take on William S. Burroughs NAKED LUNCH (1991) was incredibly strange yet utterly fascinating. The man could create living, breathing nightmares that would stick with you long after the first viewing.
Aside from CRASH in 1996 and eXistenZ in 1999, the director took a more serious approach with his projects. Once he gave us A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE in 2005, suddenly we were seeing more dramatic work with a whole lot less carnage. There was EASTERN PROMISES in 2007 which earned star Viggo Mortensen an Academy Award nomination. A DANGEROUS METHOD arrived in 2011 and while his past couple of features are certainly on the strange side, they are far from the bloody terror that came before. Both COSMOPOLIS and MAP TO THE STARS feature bizarre characters, but neither of which come close to his creatively gruesome work from early on in his career. And while it has been exciiting to see him grow, it would be nice to go back to a time when he crafted such magnificently horrifying images.
Maybe it’s the booze talkin’, but we want to see David Cronenberg return to “body horror.” He had such an exciting vision when taking on intense physical frights. It's safe to say that more than a few fans still long for the brilliant thrills he once gave us. While each film had a few things in common - particularly gore and sexual situations - they all were so very unique. It would be fantastic to see him take on something frighteningly twisted once again. And yes, he has grown as a filmmaker, so I’m more than a little curious to see what he could bring us today. As a fan of much of his recent work, I still long for a little bit a little cinematic depravity of the Cronenbergian kind.