Don’t expect body horror: The Shrouds reviews paint David Cronenberg’s latest as a somber exploration of grief

Don’t expect body horror as reviews for David Cronenberg’s The Shrouds paint the director’s latest as a somber exploration of grief.

The Shrouds, reviews, David Cronenberg, Cannes Film Festival

David Cronenberg’s The Shrouds recently premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, and the reviews have begun to emerge. The film follows a businessman and grieving widower who invents a controversial technology known as Gravetech that allows families to see inside the graves of their loved ones as they decompose. Although known as the master of body horror, fans shouldn’t expect too much of that as Cronenberg’s latest is a much more personal film. The Shrouds is at least partly inspired by the death of his wife, Carolyn Cronenberg, in 2017.

THR‘s Leslie Felperin said, “This fetid stew of sex, death and tech may be an aphrodisiac for hardcore Cronenberg fans, but more casual viewers are likely to find it all rather slapdash and undercooked here. Cinematographer Douglas Koch’s lighting looks drabber than usual, and many of the scenes feel like the first or second take after a long day’s filming, thrown in the can so the production can move on. There’s little of the verve, wit or invention that make vintage Cronenberg still so evergreen, which renders this already melancholy work even sadder to watch.

The Wrap‘s Steve Pond said, “At most Cannes Film Festivals, a new film by David Cronenberg might well be the creepiest, most shocking film in the lineup – particularly if it’s about cameras that allow people to see their loved ones decompose after death, as ‘The Shrouds’ is. But while ‘The Shrouds’ is strong stuff and contains images not for the squeamish, at this year’s festival, Cronenberg-style body horror has been delivered more robustly by the likes of Coralie Fargeat’s “The Substance.” By contrast, ‘The Shrouds’ is restrained, even elegant. It’s a deeply personal look at loss that finds plenty of time to get creepy but never loses sight of the fact that it’s a movie about grief.

Deadline‘s Stephanie Bunbury said, “[Cronenberg’s] customary flat style is energized here by the performances brought by actors new to his fleshy universe. Cassel, embodying the bereaved Karsh, seems to vibrate with emotions only just kept in check. Diane Kruger plays both his dead wife — always naked and sometimes partially dismembered in his tormented black-and-white dreams —  and her sister Terry, a zany dog-walker who corners him into having an affair with her.” However, Bunbury felt let down by the ending. “By the last half-hour of The Shrouds, these various plot threads (and many others, too many to mention) are whipping around dangerously like loose electric cables in a storm… Whatever else you may expect of Cronenberg as a distinctive auteur – wry humor, a measured pace, exultant wallowing in foul goo – you’re not expecting the narrative to explode into bits. That really is a new kind of ick.

IndieWire‘s David Ehrlich said, “Between its paranoid scramble of a plot and a protagonist who becomes increasingly difficult to see as anything more than an avatar for its auteur, ‘The Shrouds’ lends itself to a sort of delayed appreciation; its story only makes sense with the detached perspective that might begin to develop in the time between the death of a loved one and the funeral service at which they’re laid to rest.“.”

ScreenDaily‘s Fionnuala Halligan said, “The Shrouds, David Cronenberg’s seventh film to compete at Cannes, certainly boasts a terrific premise. But it is indeed a day to grieve when the most shocking thing about a David Cronenberg film is how dull it is.

Although The Shrouds is a personal film, David Cronenberg didn’t necessarily view it as part of his grieving process following the death of his wife. “Whether you’re rehashing something from your distant past or your present circumstances, there’s always creative energy that can be mined from your life,” the director told Variety. “But grief is forever, as far as I’m concerned. It doesn’t go away. You can have some distance from it, but I didn’t experience any catharsis making the movie.

The Shrouds stars Vincent Cassel as Karsh, “an innovative businessman and grieving widower, who builds a novel device to connect with the dead inside a burial shroud. This burial tool installed at his own state-of-the-art though controversial cemetery allows him and his clients to watch their specific departed loved one decompose in real time. Karsh’s revolutionary business is on the verge of breaking into the international mainstream when several graves within his cemetery are vandalized and nearly destroyed, including that of his wife. While he struggles to uncover a clear motive for the attack, the mystery of who wrought this havoc, and why, drive him to reevaluate his business, marriage and fidelity to his late wife’s memory, as well as push him to new beginnings.

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Based in Canada, Kevin Fraser has been a news editor with JoBlo since 2015. When not writing for the site, you can find him indulging in his passion for baking and adding to his increasingly large collection of movies that he can never find the time to watch.