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In honor of David Cronenberg’s birthday, our staff celebrates his work, sharing the films that most affected us from five decades of revolutionary genius.

“I’m not looking to make comfortable cinema, there’s enough of that around and that’s the easiest and safest stuff to do. Somebody’s got to do the other stuff.” – David Cronenberg
Intro by The Angry Princess (Editor-in-Chief)

A fiercely independent auteur, Cronenberg has made a remarkable career out of wrapping art around the inexorable connection between the mind and the body. His particular genius is reflecting humanity’s deep-seated fears about change, the perils of progress, and our inability — in spite of all our mental capacity and virtually limitless knowledge — to control or hold back the forces of nature and the inevitable deterioration of the human body.

Cronenberg is the master of body horror and how psychological stresses can manifest into physical changes. His films blur the lines between reality and madness, often reflecting the very real horrors of the time. His masterpiece, 1986’s The Fly, is a pointed metaphor for the AIDS epidemic (which was at its height during the time of the film’s release), while one of his earliest films, Shivers, is a searing take on paranoia, sexual mores, and threat of the cold and isolationist society we were slowly becoming at the time. It’s as relevant today as when it was released in 1975.

Throughout his career, Cronenberg’s deep reflections on human nature, violence and sexuality have made him an undisputed master of contemporary cinema. His films reveal the horror of man’s fragile identity. Unflinchingly brutal and uncomfortable, he makes us confront the abyss of the human soul and forces us to take an honest look at our true nature.

Join us as we honor the unparalleled genius of David Cronenberg, celebrating some of our favorite twisted masterpieces. 

SCANNERS (1988)

A tribute by Matthew Currie Holmes

“When I’m preparing a script, I don’t look at movies for inspiration. I read. And I mostly read philosophy and science.” – David Cronenberg

If I could imagine David Cronenberg as a child, I would suspect he was that technology-obsessed kid, considered weird by some, who was more interested in what happened if Clark Kent ingested kryptonite than he was about watching the wondrous adventures of Superman. That’s not to say Cronenberg is rooting for the destruction of the good guy. On the contrary, he’s rooting for the good guy the whole time… his lens, though has always been ‘observational’.

Cronenberg seems more interested in asking: “What would happen if Superman was thrust into his absolute worst case scenario. What would that look like?” And then he takes it just a little further.

Cronenberg has always had the unique ability to perverse what we hold sacred in pop culture.

He makes profane what we enjoy most in mainstream entertainment. It’s almost as if he delights in making us feel uncomfortable. One of the best examples of this is his 1981 Sci-Fi conspiracy thriller Scanners.

Scanners is about a group of telepathic and telekinetic people known as ‘scanners’ who are being recruited by ConSec (an evil corporation who wants to use them as weapons) and Darryl Revok (Micheal Ironside), a renegade scanner, who wants to  build an army of his own. Revok not only wants to wage a war against ConSec, but to eventually take over the world. 

A simple, elegant ‘superhero’ film that, by all accounts could have been a pretty straightforward, kid friendly, sci-fi thriller. Its concept alone could have made the film a box office smash.

In Cronenberg’s hands, however, Scanners is a very adult, unpleasant, nihilistic, gore-fest that borders on depressing. 

Scanners is essentially a low-fi X-Men movie with a heavy dose of counter-culture parable, and grisly special effects meant to disgust and unsettle. That’s actually a good thing.

What makes Cronenberg unique and captivating as a filmmaker is that he never shies away from the visceral — taking delight in revolting the audience. He is an artist who needs to find a very specific set of answers, and in doing so, constantly offers us the alternative view of what could be a very pleasurable, mainstream thriller. In this way, he satisfies both his own morbid curiosity as well as ours, whether we want to know these answers or not. 

Scanners is not a great film, but it is definitely a great film to see if you are at all interested in getting inside the head of a filmmaker — one who, though he consistently eschews them, clearly does love mainstream movies. But as a scientist and philosopher, as well as a filmmaker, he just can’t seem to NOT ask the darker, more probing questions. 

And that is most certainly a very good thing.

DEAD RINGERS (1988)