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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Five Best: David Cronenberg Horror

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Ah, David Cronenberg. I used to toss Cronenberg and David Lynch into the same category of directors, but have since been in awe of Cronenberg's transformation into a director who can tell a Hollywood-style story, but add his own warped twist (Lynch is still more of a psychological auteur, not bending to narrative standards). More recent successes like Eastern Promises and A History of Violence prove Cronenberg's competence as a dramatic filmmaker, but lest us not forget his roots in horror. So, in honor of Halloween next Monday, let's look at his five best films that would fall into the horror category. Here they are, in chronological order.

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The Brood (1979)

I will start by saying that there is a remake of this film in the works, which is sad. Cronenberg's first real commercial and critical success, this twisted film is one of his most surreal. In the film, a man searches for the unconventional methods of his institutionalized wife's psychologist, which seem to produce twisted results. Meanwhile, a troupe of mutant children are going on a killing spree. The connection is horrific and the payoff is indescribable, as Cronenberg takes a dark turn into his obsession with body dis-morphia and obsession.
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Videodrome (1983)

James Woods and Deborah Harry (of Blondie!) star in this commentary on the television industry and its hold on American minds. As TV programmer Max Renn, Woods looks for the easiest way to make a buck and put as much sleaze on his station as he can. When he comes across a terrifyingly brutal and realistic show call "Videodrome," he decides to put it into the channel's schedule. Unfortunately, "Videodrome" is more than just a television show. It's dark, disturbing, and a creepy look at what the tube can do to you.
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The Dead Zone (1983)

Based on the Stephen King novel, Cronenberg's The Dead Zone stars the ever-eerie Christopher Walken as a man who awakens from a coma to discover he has psychic powers. What first appears to be a gift eventually becomes a curse, as his visions become more terrifying and apocalyptic. When he sees a young, idealistic politician as the key to the end of mankind, he has to take matters into his own hands, at all cost. Walken is the only choice that could have ever been made for this role, adding his own flavor of disturbia to an already terrifying story.
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The Fly (1986)

Of all these films, this one really takes the cake. A remake of the campy 1958 Vincent Price film, Cronenberg further dissects mankind's obsession with appearance and his own interest in death and decay. Jeff Goldblum stars as scientist Seth Brundle, who invents a device that transports matter between two pods. When he tries to teleport himself, a fly enters the pod with him, changing his biological makeup and slowly transforming him into a "Brundlefly," as his girlfriend (played by Geena Davis) watches him slowly rot away. It's gruesome, uncomfortable, and easily one of Cronenberg's crowning achievements.
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Dead Ringers (1988)

Jeremy Irons stars as two identical twin gynecologists who "share" women.This obviously leads to confusion when one of the brothers falls in love for the first time and drug use becomes apparent. Irons plays the two brothers so night-and-day - one is a confident womanizer, one is a quiet, socially awkward man. Dead Ringers doesn't have quite the visual payoffs that his other films do - it's even tough to argue this as a "horror" film, exactly. But it's certainly psychologically horrifying, as we see the lengths these two brothers go to when they begin to feel like they're being separated.

Cronenberg has done much more than these, but these are the best. A few more are listed below in case you're interested. And look for his new movie A Dangerous Method, due out soon. Happy Halloween!

Scanners (1981)
Naked Lunch (1991)
Crash (1996)
eXistenZ (1999)

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