David Cronenberg is undeniably one of the most prolific directors of all time. He is not only the pioneer of the body horror genre, but also the creator of numerous existential thrillers. Here is a list of several films not directed by the great Canadian director that could be part of his marvellous filmography.
10. Hardware (1990)
Richard Stanley’s “Hardware” is a futuristic sci-fi flick set in a post-apocalyptic world where humans struggle to survive. In this dystopian future, a nuclear war has transformed most of the cities into a irradiated wasteland.
There a former soldier Moses Baxter (Dylan McDermott), along with his buddy Shades (John Lynch), buy from a nomad scavenger the pieces from a buried cyborg as a Christmas present for his girlfriend Jill (Stacey Travis). Unfortunately the robot, which is M.A.R.K. 13 military cyborg, reactivates and reassembles itself using metal pieces from Jill’s apartment. What follows is a nightmarish battle against this violent cyborg that threatens to kill Jill.
It is quite obvious that this British cyberpunk horror film is one of the most underrated science fiction films of all time. Despite the fact that the movie received mixed reviews upon its release, it was destined to become a cult classic. It is a bleak depiction of a dystopian world where the future of humanity is at stake, because of the tragic consequences of the nuclear destruction as well as the unforeseen threat of cyborgs.
Like other great sci-fi works such as “Akira”, “Brazil” or “Blade Runner”, the film manages to create a dark, atmospheric and claustrophobic universe. It is a nihilist presentation of a deranged world where there is no purpose or hope.
However, “Hardware” is an obscure cult gem quite similar to Cronenberg’s great works such as “eXistenZ” or “Crash”.
Taking everything into consideration, Richard Stanley’s vision of a post-apocalyptic world is a great effort to depict the dark side of human nature.
9. Altered States (1980)
“Altered States” is a disturbing and frightening sci-fi film, directed by the controversial British filmmaker Ken Russell. Based on the novel of Paddy Chayefsky, the film follows the story Eddie Jessup (William Hurt), a mad scientist who conducts experiments with dangerous drugs. To be more specific, this brilliant scientist, who is also a Harvard professor, researches the effects of hallucinogens on mental health.
Thus, he embarks on a trip to Mexico to find a rare ancient drug that causes hallucinations. Then he conducts experiments using himself as a subject with this dangerous drug and an isolation tank. Through this experience Eddie believes that not only he has entered an alternated mental state, but also his body has been partially regressed genetically into some primitive form.
Despite the fact that “Altered States” is a truly terrifying film, there aren’t many gore scenes. But, the dream-like scenes, the disarming music, the gorgeous cinematography and the great performance by William Hurt create an eerie atmosphere. This is also the cinematic debut of William Hurt, who delivers a spellbinding performance as a mentally deranged character.
It goes without saying, that this unconventional film had a great influence on David Cronenberg’s “Videodrome”. In addition, “Altered States” looks a lot like the unsettling masterpiece about drug use “Naked Lunch”.
All in all, Ken Russell manages to create one of the most bizarre films of all time. It is undoubtedly an unforgettable experience that will bring you out of your comfort zone.
8. Opera (1987)
Directed by the master of giallo horror Dario Argento, “Opera” (or “Terror at the Opera”) is a visually stunning gore tale. The film tells the story of Betty (Cristina Marsillach), a young opera singer who gets her big chance to shine, when the main star of a creepy modern opera of Verdi’s “MacBeth” gets hit by a car. Betty agrees to take her place as the main star, in spite of her young age and lack of experience.
Once Betty takes to the stage as Lady Macbeth, she becomes the target of a stalker, a psychopath who is on a killing spree. Although Betty is the main target, this deranged and depraved character makes her watch the vicious murders of her friends, lovers and co-workers. Betty has to deal with not only this ferocious beast that threatens her career and life, but also her nightmares and past memories.
Once again the great filmmaker Dario Argento (“Deep Red”,”Suspiria”) manages to create a suspenseful Hitchcockian thriller with numerous violent and bloody scenes of murders. His unique cinematic style with vivid colours, astonishing photography and exceptional camera movement create a visually stunning gem of cult cinema. In addition, the chilling musical score by Brian Eno and Claudio Simonetti enhance this eerie atmosphere.
It is quite obvious that this underrated masterpiece is an ode to body horror. The Canadian master of this genre, David Cronenberg, has also directed similar movies featuring bloody scenes of excruciating violence such as “Dead Ringers” or “Scanners”.
To sum up, “Opera” is one of the last great films of the giallo genre that will definitely be a pleasant surprise for those who enjoy gore and well crafted scenes of murders.
7. Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007)
“Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead” is the swan song of the legendary director Sidney Lumet (“12 Angry Men”,”Dog Day Afternoon”,”Serpico”). It is a flawless family drama about betrayal, lies and violence with a cathartic ending.
Through a non-linear presentation the film follows the story of two brothers Andy Hanson (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Hank Hanson (Ethan Hawke) as they are planning to rob their parents jewelry store. Andy’s life is out of control since he has to deal with a dysfunctional marriage, huge debts and his drug addiction.
On the other hand Andy, who is also in great debt, is a divorced father of a young girl. Thus, the robbery is their only choice to redeem themselves. But things get out of hand when the heist goes terribly wrong resulting in a fatality. The consequences of this misfortunate event will change their lives forever.
Sidney Lumet presents a powerful drama that is a bleak depiction of a living hell. The performances by the entire cast are absolutely phenomenal contributing to this tense atmosphere. It is a philosophical study of determinism as well as a presentation of a dysfunctional family. Moreover, the great filmmaker manages to create a film that looks a lot like a Greek tragedy since the characters have to face their destiny.
However, this dark tale bears a strong resemblance with David Cronenberg’s thought-provoking films “A History of Violence” and “Eastern Promises”.
Overall, “Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead” is one of the most powerful movies of the 21st century as well as a part of Lumet’s legacy.
6. Demon Seed (1977)
Based on the novel by Dean R. Koontz, “Demon Seed” is an offbeat sci-fi horror movie directed by Donald Cammell. The gorgeous Julie Christie (“Don’t Look Now”) stars as Susan Harris, the wife of a brilliant scientist Alex (Fritz Weaver). Alex, who is working on a secret project, developed a computer called Porteus IV that has the ability to simulate human intelligence processes such as learning, self-correcting and performing difficult tasks.
Proteus asks Alex for a terminal to study human behaviour and biology, but his request is denied. As a consequence, Proteus uses the terminal of Alex full automated house and captures his wife Susan. The computer in order to increase its intelligence and become immortal, decides to force Susan carry his baby (“seed”). Thus, Alex has to fight a battle against time to save not only his wife, but also the rest of the world.
It is quite obvious that “Demon Seed” is a bizarre sci-fi horror flick quite similar to David Cronenberg’s critically acclaimed works “The Brood” and “eXistenZ”. The film depicts the fear of advanced technology (“technophobia”) as well as the unforeseen consequences of technological evolution. In addition, Julie Christie delivers an engaging performance that is supported by Weaver’s great acting.
Despite the fact that “Demon Seed” is an underrated movie that deserves more attention, it is a jewel of cult cinema. An absolutely terrifying and nightmarish tale of modern technology.