Each week we pay homage to a select “Original Creator”—an iconic artist from days gone by whose work influences and informs today’s creators. These are artists who were innovative and revolutionary in their fields. Bold visionaries and radicals, groundbreaking frontiersmen and women who inspired and informed culture as we know it today. This week: David Cronenberg.
Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg has left a huge, blood-stained mark on horror cinema. As one of the pioneers of the body horror genre, a subgenre of horror flicks where the main focus is on the degradation and mutation of the human body, he’s managed to skillfully oscillate throughout his career between more mainstream pictures such as The Fly and History of Violence and rather underground productions like Videodrome.
What’s interesting about him as a director is his ability to enforce consistency throughout his work. From 1977’s Rabid to 1988’s Dead Ringers, Cronenberg explores the relationship between the human body and the scientist. Various vantage-points are explored in his movies, and while the human body is simply an object of science at the beginning, eventually the knowledgeable scientists and protagonists become part of their own experiments. Mutation and disfiguration are common themes in Cronenberg’s films, where primal violence and raw sexual instinct affect every one of the filmmaker’s subjects.
An equally impressive counterpoint to Cronenberg’s consistency is his versatility. Recurring themes and tendencies are consistently present throughout his works, as each film explores different universes, society-threatening natural phenomena, or persecuted characters who are slowly destroyed by foreign elements breeding inside of them. His creative process uncovers violence and sexuality wherever it may lurk—amongst dodgy Russian thugs or the everyday man stumbling upon a disastrous event.
We’ve selected a few of our favorite Cronenberg to give you a taste of the filmmaker’s grand-œuvre.
In Rabid, ex-porn actress Marylin Chambers plays a young woman who is horribly mutated after plastic surgery. She is left with a phallic stinger under her armpit, and uses it to feed on other humans.
Low-life cable TV operator Max Renn is caught in a spiral of conspiracy and self-destruction as he begins to broadcast a mysterious snuff-show from Malaysia. Cronenberg’s film blends elements of a paranoid narrative with mutational delusions, playing with what it means to be real in the age of television and mass media.
Dead Ringers (1988)
Cronenberg tells the story of two male gynecologists who happen to be twins. The film showcases the difficult relationship between the twins, whose symbiotic tie is jeopardized by a woman with abnormal genitalia. One of the two brothers slowly shifts into major depression and paranoia, triggered by this mysterious woman and her condition.
Eastern Promises (2007)
Cronenberg’s descent into the world of the Russian mafia is tainted with primal violence and sexual rage. The film tells the story of Nikolai Luzhin, a lowly driver and handyman for a family within the terrifying crime syndicate. Various themes such as distorted identity coexist with ice-cold characters, extremely well-rendered by the all-star cast.