January 9, 2001
Known as the "King of venereal horror," David Cornenberg's films generally involve horror caused by a mutation, a parasite, or unique medical conditions. Explicit carnage is his signature in these subversive and stylish epics, also littered with metaphors for larger social questions. He is truly one of the more fascinating writer/directors of our time, often injecting traumatic nightmares with steamy sex scenes, and vice-versa. It's weird, wild stuff.
Are you sitting down for this one? OK. The use of genetically engineered parasites as organ transplants turns a utopian apartment building into a chaotic orgy of venereal proportions. Cronenberg's phallic, worm-like creature fascination makes an early appearance in this one. Imagine the claustrophobia of the first ALIEN film, but in a familiar, everyday-type setting. Interestingly however, this film pre-dates ALIEN by a few years. Nightmarish, like Night of the Living Dead with sex.
A science fiction espionage tale about a corporation responsible for a pharmaceutical side effect that causes telepathy, who then fear a war between telepaths and regular humans. Definitely a solidly paced and directed film. The villain's intentions will be familiar to those who have seen the recent X-MEN film. Why hasn't anyone made a TV series about this? Probably because the sequels, in which Cronenberg had no involvement, are terrible. Futuristic in that 1970's way, you've got to love this one.
A not-so-distant cousin of SCANNERS (and later an uncle of NAKED LUNCH and EXISTENZ), this move is a sci-fi tour de force in which TV viewers are controlled by electronic signals embedded behind violent pornography. Featuring Blondie's Debbie Harry in a peculiar supporting role. An all-around mind-blowing film in every aspect. Shocking, Surreal, and Required Viewing.
A well-conceived film re-interpretation that deals with a scientist's molecular transformation into an insect. Geena Davis and Jeff Goldblum make a great tragic couple in this film that delivers the chills. Everyone in their twenties can remember the buzz surrounding this when it first came out. So for those never got around to seeing it, and those who remember it with vague terror, it's still scary like few other mainstream horror films of recent times. Rent it and stay up late and watch it alone.
An adaptation of the novel Naked Lunch, a book that many claimed was "unfilmable". Literary heretic William S. Burroughs' imagery of supernatural subterfuge is well-realized and further stylized by the director. Cronenberg chose to infect a biography of Burroughs during the period when the novel was written with the more coherent, and all-the more disturbing, elements from the novel itself. Dark, confusing and satisfying. The ending suggests the whole tale is just the beginning of all the real fun in Burroughs' interesting personal and literary life.
This one is on my top ten favorite movies of all time list, so you have no choice but to rent it out of morbid curiosity (if not a genuine interest in being entertained.)
A movie about car-crash fetishists, starring Rosanna Arquette, James Spader and Holly Hunter. Decent concept and sufficient atmosphere, but you just yawn a lot and wonder if you should go do laundry or something else equally more exciting. How could such a great director with such a top-shelf cast make such a bad movie? The gratuitous use of pointless sex scenes really drags down this story that's trying to be intellectual. It somehow missed the mark, so you can give it a miss.
A thinking-man's "MATRIX", starring Jennifer Jason Leigh, and up-and-coming star Jude Law. This one is a cake made of all of his films that came before. It incorporates the conspiracy/espionage feel of SCANNERS and NAKED LUNCH with his most accessible, yet most ingenious, concept so far: Post-modern virtual reality video games become more believable than (and indistinguishable from) reality. Don't expect Matrix-style acrobatics or anything, but the action gets nearly as intense as the plot itself. Rent it. Watch it. Buy it. Study it.
-- Trey Lane
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