Da 5 Bloods
On the Record
I May Destroy You
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Spider may be the biggest departure from a style which defined Cronenberg's career, that does not mean however it's existence isn't welcomed within his canon of achievements. Spider actually surpasses many of Cronenberg's and indeed many other film makers efforts, bringing to life a patient and layered performance based drama, which packs as much weight as it does punches. Spider is forced into confinement due to his deeply disturbed nature, over time he is released on the agreement he becomes a resident of a local east end half way house, a place which holds many memories for the troubled man. Once relocated, Spider retraces the footsteps of his troubled past, a drunk father and a selection of uninspiring mother figures, to unravel the reason for his mental instability. It's a slow and complex affair, forcing impatient viewers to really commit in order to understand the whole affair. Cronenberg's style works surprisingly well within the confines of an English period piece, with bold character work and subtle tension that broods throughout the increasing drama of the piece. It's his reserve here which really stands out, Cronenberg is well known for a visceral and assaulting style, and its a welcomed breath of fresh air to see him tackle something so basic. The cast are a delight to watch, Ralph Fiennes gives a career defining performance as Spider, with Miranda Richardson doubling up as the influencial women in his life. Richardson does such a dynamic job, she comes close to stealing the show. Gabriel Byrne also impresses. Spider has a wealth of attributes, but when all is said and done it never reaches quite the height of expectation or indeed gives us a solid and satisfying conclusion. Its a strong piece, surprising and filled with excellent performance, Cronenberg proves he can master a different style and Howard Shore's score is infectious, but when all is said and done, you wont be rushing back to witness its charm for quite some time.
Although not the most technically proficient or indeed polished looking film of the time, Shivers delivers on concept and atmosphere alone. On a Canadian island, the Starliner apartment complex is a thriving habitat, with everything you could ever want or need for your living experience. When a horrible double murder takes place within the complex, for reasons unknown, the complex is rocked to the core, as they search for the answer. Unfortunately for the residents, the murder is the least of their worries, when a bizarre sexual parasite begins to infect the apartment building, causing everyone it touches to partake in violent sexual acts. Its themes although covered in a horror gloss are straight forward enough, this was a film created during the love movement and the obvious spread of STD's and indeed AIDS was becoming a talking point among the media, Shivers and Cronenberg tap into those fears here, demonizing the disease and delving into the fears the general public had, on something very little people understood. Shivers may look dated by today's standards, its grainy, cheaply made and quickly put together, but none of that matters when viewing the bigger picture. Shivers is brimming with atmosphere, interesting performances and indeed unsettling set pieces, that will wash away the feel of a director making his second feature length film. Cronenberg spends a good portion of time setting the scene, introducing the characters and giving us enough insight to know something is deadly wrong from the get go, it works marvelously, paced brilliantly and constantly unnerving to witness. Shivers has been hailed as a horror classic and its easy to see why, it contains more lasting chills that a vast amount of films in the genre, it forces you to think and isnt afraid to go the extra mile in terms of what is needed to unsettle. Some newcomers may be turned off by its rough around the edges look and lack of stand out performances, however you would have to be a fool to ignore the volume of character and fear that it has to offer here. A true classic.
There are very few directors who could remake a cult classic, inject their own twisted spin on the material, then have that remake not only surpass the original in every aspect but also become the directors crowning glory. John Carpenter managed it with his revisit of The Thing, arguably Martin Scorsesse managed it with The Departed, his retelling of Asian classic Infernal Affairs and of course David Cronenberg more than achieved it with The Fly, a film that when its title is mentioned in modern day, its extremely difficult not to think of his iteration alone. The Fly stars Jeff Goldblum and Gina Davies, funnily enough a couple at the time of filming, as a mad scientist who has created the potential to teleport and a young gorgeous reporter, who happens to stumble upon his creation and indeed a loving relationship with the mad man. Seth Brundle, the scientist, aims to further his ability from teleporting inanimate objects to transporting himself through his impressive creation, but trouble strikes when he happens to accidentally splice the genes of a fly with his own, mid teleport and soon his new found powers start to become frighteningly grotesque. Its a warped and twisted tale that turns everything up to 11, injects Cronenberg's common themes of sex, infection and indeed paranoia and will utterly disturb you from start to finish. Jeff Goldblum is the best he has ever been, and thats not to say this is his only decent performance, its just his portrayal of Seth Brundle is that magnetic, that charismatic and bipolar, everything he has done since pales in comparison. He was made for this role, the speed of his language, his smug and charming bass tones, his weedy character, nervously twitching as he tries to work out vast amounts of equations, is literally enchanting to watch. He also happens to go full throttle when a grisly body transformation happens and its nothing short of revolting to watch. Gina Davis is equally brilliant, she however has far less insanity to play with, however its her grounded sense of reality that really sells the entire piece, without it the film would lean into complete fantasy, and funnily enough thats not what Cronenberg is going for here. The creature effects are revolting and just brilliant, Seth Brundle's transformation is still believable and sickening 30 years on, and a large part of that happens to be down to Cronenberg's decision to allow his emotions and mannerisms stay a firm staple until the very end. It looks chilling, it sounds chilling and the script tackles so many of our fears at once, I urge anyone to not throw up a little in their mouth. There will of course be people out their how will not enjoy this type of movie, its dark, it will make you gag, it gets under your skin and with make you feel filthy, however my argument would be that is exactly what you want from a horror film. There are 2 different types of horror, the cheap and nasty kind that appeals on a simple level with no lasting effects and the psychological kind, that allows the viewer to think, care and fear the material, The Fly is the latter, it was always going to be. The Fly is not only one of the greatest horror movies of all time, its up there with one of the greatest movies of all time, brilliant, emotional and revolting in equal measures, its not for the feint hearted, but for those with a strong stomach, there is plenty here to enjoy.
It's around the 5 minute mark of David Cronenberg's adaptation of William S. Burroughs colourful novel, that you pray you remembered to strap in. Naked Lunch is the utterly bat shit biographical, comedy, psychological horror that surrounds an exterminator, who soon finds both him and his wife addicted to the chemical powder he uses for his work. After a horrible accident, he soon finds himself on the run from authorities, sifting through foreign lands or a drug binge for the ages. Naked Lunch is best enjoyed completely in the dark, although dont expect to understand it immediately, this is a film that will take many viewings and indeed research to unlock its true potential. Cronenberg has crafted something hypnotic and disturbing in equal measures, bridging the type of comedy only Terry Gilliam could get away attempting, with his trade mark psychosis and the end result is something so intimidating and wonderful, a vast amount of viewers may be turned off. The plot is difficult to follow, the comedy is pitch black, the dialogue is laden in code and metaphor, this is not for everyone. The cast all do a wonderful job, with Peter Weller stealing the show, in fairness it is indeed his show. Naked Lunch will divide opinion, its bold, fun, dark and enchanting but equally demonic, alienating and insane all at the same time, some viewers will be in heaven for its 2 hour run time, others will be lost before the ride even begins.
What should be a match made in heaven, comes off as a slightly by the numbers expedition that leaves a bitter taste. David Cronenberg tackles Stephen King in this science fiction thriller about a school teacher who is flung into a 5 year coma, only to revive to find he has a supernatural power in which he can see the future. After the discovery of his promising new talent, Johnny Smith, yip that's his name, Smith soon finds a heavy burden laying over him, one that will put him in a lot of danger. The Dead Zone is by no means a bad film, its premise is well within the realms of the director, who does a decent job of trying to make this completely off the wall concept as realistic as possible, it helps that his cast, comprising of Christopher Walkin's gripping performance, Tom Skirrett, Brooke Adams and Martin Sheen all make The Dead Zone a believable and gripping slice of cinema. The film does a decent job of looking polished, its effect work is admirable and the score is altogether haunting. It's not that Cronenberg fails in bringing King's book to life, more than King's material just isnt up to the task here. The Dead Zone feels predictable, hammy and at times to big for its own boots. The film itself feels like 3 different films in one, leaving the final act one hell of an anticlimactic slog to get through. Cronenberg starts off small and on film it works best, the realization of Walkin's powers is brilliantly executed, the drama between him and his love interest and indeed the crime solving middle sequence all gel into a nice package, however come act 3 and aside from Martin Sheen's thunderous performance, The Dead Zone runs on empty, with no where left to go but bigger, the finale gets blown way out of the water, leaving you laughing at the film rather than with it. King's material has always had mixed results on the big screen, and although Cronenberg gives it his all, this film feels like he had no room to inject his own feel. Its not terrible and the performances alone are worth the time, but come the third chapter, you'll be checking your watch all too often.