Director’s Chair Introduction: David Cronenberg

by Tony Cogan · October 1, 2018 · Director's Chair, Uncategorized · No Comments

Deadline: 27th October 2018

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Hello everyone, it’s time to announce the director for this month’s Director’s Chair and, seeing how we’re in October, we’re carrying on the tradition of highlighting a horror director and for this month, I think it’s time we looked at one of the kings of body horror, David Cronenberg.

Cronenberg got his start in Canada making films funded by the Canadian government and in partnership with Ivan Reitman (prior to Reitman doing stuff like Ghostbusters and Stripes). With Reitman as a producer, Cronenberg started to hone his body horror style with films like Shivers and Rabid, along with going into more social commentary with stuff like The Brood and Scanners. It was really in the 80’s that Cronenberg really became a horror icon, firstly with Scanners, which contains probably the best head explosion put to film, then hit a double whammy in 1983 with Videodrome and The Dead Zone. Videodrome contained more of the surrealist social commentary that Cronenberg established, along with a healthy smattering of body horror, whilst The Dead Zone was a bit more of a mainstream film, being based on the book by Stephen King and being the first film of Cronenberg’s that he didn’t write, with The Dead Zone being one of his more commercially successful films and is ranked as one of the best adaptations of Stephen King.

Following that, Cronenberg had his biggest commercial hit with his remake of The Fly, which went more into depth with the characters and the whole scenario of someone turning into a fly than the original film did, bolstered by incredibly make-up and effects and strong performances from Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis. Cronenberg later returned to The Fly in 2008, directing an opera version of the film written by the film’s composer Howard Shore. He later went more into the psychological with films like Dead Ringers, an adaptation of Naked Lunch, along with going outside his comfort zone with M. Butterfly, an adaptation of Madame Butterfly.

Following that, Cronenberg had one of his more controversial films with an adaptation of JG Ballard’s Crash, mainly in the UK where a campaign by the Daily Mail and the Evening Standard led to the BBFC inquiring with a Queen’s Counsel and a psychologist due to the calls to ban it. Ultimately, the BBFC (following the results of the inquiry by the Queen’s Counsel and the psychologist) found no cause to ban the film, passing it uncut with an 18. However, the film was still banned by Westminster Council (since, in the UK, councils can choose whether or not to allow films to play), meaning that it could not be shown in the West End of London. I’d recommend reading the BBFC’s case study on Crash for more information.

After Crash, following a few more psychological films with eXistenZ and Spider, Cronenberg went a bit more accessible with an adaptation of A History of Violence, which remains my favourite film of his, and established a working relationship with Viggo Mortensen which carried into Eastern Promises and A Dangerous Method. With A Dangerous Method, Cronenberg also started a working relationship with Sarah Gadon which carried over into Cosmopolis, Maps to the Stars and Cronenberg’s acting work in Alias Grace.

Now Cronenberg has had hints of going into more of the blockbuster territory. He’s had hits, mainly The Dead Zone and The Fly, but he has been considered for major blockbusters. Alongside David Lynch, Cronenberg was one of the directors in early consideration for Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and he spent a year working on an adaptation of Phillip K Dick’s We Can Remember it For You Wholesale (which became Total Recall), before leaving due to creative differences. I have to say though, I can’t really imagine Cronenberg working in this environment, his style is just too out there for those kinds of films.

Now, as a reminder, I’m looking for any features you have on the films of David Cronenberg, if you want a reminder of Cronenberg’s films, I’ve got them listed below.

  • Stereo
  • Crimes of the Future
  • Shivers
  • Rabid
  • Fast Company
  • The Brood
  • Scanners
  • Videodrome
  • The Dead Zone
  • The Fly
  • Dead Ringers
  • Naked Lunch
  • M. Butterfly
  • Crash
  • eXistenZ
  • Spider
  • A History of Violence
  • Eastern Promises
  • A Dangerous Method
  • Cosmopolis
  • Maps to the Stars

I look forward to reading whatever you send me.