David Cronenberg made his name in the horror genre early on in his career with low budget titles such as Shivers (1975), Rabid (1977) and The Brood (1979). His early offerings were critically and commercially well received and paved the way for what would become one of the defining sub-genres of the '80s: Body Horror. A recurring theme in all of Cronenberg’s horror movies: the transformation, degeneration, mutilation and disfigurement of the human body in some form or another. Nice, right? Well, if you’re weak-stomached you might want to try and just suck it up otherwise you’ll be missing out on some of the smartest, most influential and undeniably twisted films in the annals of horror history.
Cronenberg’s big break came with the mind-blowing (in more way than one) Scanners (1981). The title refers to a handful of people - Scanners - with telepathic and telekinetic powers battling each other and an evil corporation called ConSec. The image of Michael Ironside’s pulsating veiny head under psychic duress will be forever burned into our minds.
Still staying with the body-horror theme, Cronenberg’s next offering was the bizarre and brilliant Videodrome (1983). It includes superb turns from the always enjoyable James Woods, accompanied by an equally great performance by Debbie Harry. An interesting bit of trivia: Harry goes full-method-actor for the scene in which she puts out a cigarette on her breast by doing it for real. There’s dedication to the art for you.
By now Cronenberg had clearly hit his stride. He followed Videodrome with the Stephen King adaptation The Dead Zone (1983) starring Christopher Walken. The Dead Zone sees our main character re-awaken from a coma to find he has somehow developed psychic abilities. Receiving favorable reviews upon release, it was clear Cronenberg was a force to be reckoned with.
Next came Cronenberg’s most well known and biggest studio film to date: The Fly (1986). A remake of the 1958 film of the same title starring Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis, it features some of the best practical effects of the decade. It is a captivating, visceral and brutal journey from beginning to end as we watch the eccentric and brilliant scientist Seth Brundle slowly transform and lose his mind. The film’s ability to instantly draw you in, and keep you watching, is largely thanks to a stellar performance from Jeff Goldblum who, quite rightly, won the Saturn Award for best actor. Despite being over thirty years old this movie still holds up today and is an absolute must-see for any movie fanatic.
The final two entries in Cronenberg’s catalog of horror are Naked Lunch (1991) based on the William S. Burroughs novel of the same name, and the sci-fi-body-horror eXistenZ (1999). Whilst being positively received critically, Naked Lunch performed poorly at the box office. However, the previously considered "unfilmable" movie has now found its place as a much loved cult classic with a superb performance from Peter Weller.
eXistenZ explores similar technological themes as Videodrome, only this time Cronenberg turns the lens to video games. With weapons made from body parts and organic games consoles that plug into your back, to the lines between reality and fantasy being not so much blurred as almost entirely eradicated, this is pure 100% unadulterated Cronenberg body horror. And possibly one of his more accessible too. So if you’re a newcomer to the twisted world of David Cronenberg this could be a great place to start. Only one thing to do then: get watching. And remember: if you’ve seen it, rate it.
David Cronenberg Horror Movies
The Dead Zone
Released: 21 Oct 1983 |
Director: David Cronenberg
A man awakens from a coma to discover he has a psychic detective ability.