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10 Essential David Cronenberg Films You Need To Watch

30 April 2014 | Features, Film Lists | by Elizabeth Howell

best david cronenberg films

When it comes to the films of David Cronenberg, average movie-goers and critics alike either love him or hate him. There are tons of critics and censors out there that have dismissed Cronenberg’s films as “gross-out” cinema, purely created for shock value. Film critic, Roger Ebert, once referred to one of Cronenberg’s films as “reprehensible trash.” Sure, if one looks at his films on the surface, most can be repulsive, and some just downright disturbing. They are most certainly not suitable for everybody’s palette.

Cronenberg has crafted a vast assortment of films over the past three decades or so. His film catalog spans across most genres; horror, science fiction, drama, even some comedy. Some, if not most of his films are not even classifiable. Here are 10 films crafted by David Cronenberg that every celluloid enthusiast should view at least once in their lifetime.

 

10. eXistenZ (1999)

eXistenZ

eXistenZ takes gaming to an entirely innovative, virtually grotesque level. This film begs to ask the questions of, “What exactly is our reality?” Personal, spinal “bio-ports” are used for gaming instead of gaming consoles. Lines are blurred between organic and mechanical material. Virtual reality blends seamlessly with the real world. Free will becomes a disorienting illusion. The line between human beings and the technology that they create becomes distorted.

David Cronenberg wrote an extremely clever script for this film. Another perfectly complimentary score by Howard Shore gives the film a haunting yet surreal feel to the film’s structure. The special effects and props created for this film visually give an organic, “fleshy” feel to the cold technology of video gaming.

Video game “pods” resemble exterior organs of the human body. They pulse. They wiggle. They even squeal. Also, Jennifer Jason Leigh is striking in the film as game designer Allegra Geller. She exudes a certain intelligent presence that is perfect for a Cronenberg heroine.

 

9. Dead Ringers (1988)

dead ringers

David Cronenberg and gynecology are two things that frighteningly go together all too well. The plot is based around Jeremy Irons two main characters, which he expertly plays. They are identical twin gynecologists, Beverly and Elliot Mantle. Elliot is a womanizer and fraternizes with the brothers’ gynecological clientel, giving Beverly is scraps, so to speak. That is, until Beverly falls in love with one of Elliot’s former conquests.

The usual gore associated with David Cronenberg becomes somewhat yielding in this film. It really didn’t warrant the massive amounts of blood and guts found in most other Cronenberg films. Of course, there are pieces of grotesque found throughout the film. For instance, Beverly has hallucinations of “altered” female reproductive organs after becoming addicted to drugs.

 

8. The Brood (1979)

The-Brood

The Brood is hard to explain. It’s almost like David Cronenberg was creating a fictional, parallel world to visually display a metaphor for the misfortune parents experience when they come to the realization that their bad habits and negative qualities are passed down to their children.

Cronenberg takes an issue as finite and harsh as that of a troubled marriage and broken family and creates a film that is upside down and is as disgusting as it is surreal, but to a point. Cronenberg himself was experiencing the demise of his own marriage and a harsh custody battle while he was writing the script for The Brood.

Maybe it was his way of publically debating the effects of psychotherapy, which was popular at the time? Maybe it was made for pure exploitation purposes, which would explain the far-out and extremely grotesque ending? The reasons behind David Cronenberg creating this film have pretty much been unnamed, although he has stated once that he wished for this film to be the “realistic Kramer vs. Kramer.”

 

7. The Fly (1986)

the Fly

Sometimes, a remake is a good thing. Sometimes, filmmakers can take the premise of a classic film and spin it to where it becomes their own masterful creation. David Cronenberg did just that and more with The Fly. He created such a primal, almost gut-wrenching at times, atmosphere to this film that it evidently bypasses the camp of the original film and cut straight for visceral emotion involved in personal tragedy.

The casting of Jeff Goldblum as scientist Seth Brundle and Geena Davis as reporter Vernoica Quaife was truly ideal for this film as their on-screen chemistry and stellar performances made the film’s tragedy that much more genuine. The raw emotion between the two central characters during the visual undoing and ultimate demise of Seth Brundle is absolutely mesmerizing. It successfully captures the emotional parallels the witnessing of a loved one ailing of a fatal disease.

 

6. Rabid (1977)

rabid

Ex-porn star Marilyn Chambers stars in this grotesque science fiction/horror film, executively produced by none other than Ivan Reitman. After surgery following a motorcycle accident, she develops a hole underneath her arm which sprouts a stinger that she uses to feed off of other people’s blood. In turn, she infects those people with same rabid bloodlust. It’s like 70s exploitive sex film meets disease meets blood-crazed, sexually-transmitted zombies, STZs, if you will. What’s NOT to love?

While Rabid is not too far from being almost exactly like David Cronenberg’s Shivers, or They Came From Within, it brought to the screen an x-factor. The film’s style, its cool, Canadian charm, and the marginal but effective star power that Marilyn Chambers brought to the screen created a crafted, easy flowing fictional setting. This was missing from Cronenberg’s first attempt at a film of this nature with Shivers. There are also a few good scares to be found.

 

 

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  • Ted Wolf

    His son has continued well with Antiviral too. Great list for one of my all-time favorite directors. I was never greatly impressed with AHOV and would probably replace that with They Came From Within

  • Gene E Hook Jr

    A History of Violence was not written by JG Ballard, it was written by John Wagner and Vince Locke.

    • Elizabeth Howell

      You are exactly correct. I do apologize for that oversight. It was based on John Wagner’s graphic novel. Should have read, “another of Cronenberg’s films based on a book, this time by…” Again, I apologize for that.

  • I watched Crash long time ago but didn’t remember the director. In the list I watched 2/10, need to check out the rest.

  • Sergio Muñoz

    “Eastern Promises” is a very good movie as well, if it is not in this list, I guess this movies are as good as EP…nice to know that!

  • Pingback: Intervista a David Cronenberg : minima&moralia()

  • AstroTurk

    Wow, what a cool ESL assignment! For your next paper, I encourage your teacher to cover word repetition, cliche, and proper use of quotation marks. Keep working hard! 🙂

  • Stephus

    Where’s Eastern Peomises??

  • Alkis3

    Spider?

  • garden variety

    Cronenberg in my opinion is the most overrated director in cinema, I understand the depth and intention to his stories and how they appeal to the intellectual mind, but as for filmaking it’s absurdly rediculous, the acting is stupid, the camera mediocre at best, the scenarios are executed with a pretense for dark without ever being able to execute it.
    He totally lacks the sensuality and dynamics it takes to make movies, i get that there’s an antisensuality in much of his stories but it just comes off as a total amateur.