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All Hail the New Flesh
by James Shafie

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Strangely enough, a pretty funny flick.

Strangely enough, a pretty funny flick.
Making your mark as a director in the film business is a Herculean feat. Not only is the film pretty much on top of your shoulders, if it flops it's entirely your fault. You have to be original, and make sure your actors project well, and have the rest of the crew do everything perfectly, and have the script be articulate and intelligent, and and and. It just keeps going. When someone can actually make a film, have it succeed AND actually be lauded for their work, well that guy deserves a nice long nap.

The Horror genre is an even worse place to be in. Good directors pop up frequently (Alexandre Aja and Lucky McKee to name two) who are very apt at what they do, but are dismissed since they are in this genre. All in all, the horror business is one you do for enjoyment and creativity, not profit. David Cronenberg has achieved all three, and more.

Cronenberg directed some small, independent films and a few shorts before directing his first full length movie, SHIVERS, in 1975. The film that truly got him noticed in the film community was SCANNERS. Not only did it have a mildly famous actor (Michael Ironside), it showcased the depths
Exterminate all rational thought. That is the conclusion I have come to.

"Exterminate all rational thought. That is the conclusion I have come to."
Cronenberg was willing to go in terms of special effects, the most notable being the explosion of man's head.

After Scanners, Cronenberg secured himself in the annals of movie history with his next three films. VIDEODROME was directly subsequent, a film many consider to be Cronenberg's best. After that came The DEAD ZONE; this was adapted from a Stephen King novel and was one of the leading factors in the launching of Christopher Walken's career. The film that really demonstrated what Cronenberg could do though, was the 1986 movie, THE FLY. The special effects in this film were jarring and magnificent, making a man's transformation into a fly not only believable, but disgustingly engrossing.

After that, Cronenberg wasn't just a director people noticed, he was one to be studied. He has many trademarks and styles which are wholly unique to him. He didn't earn himself the nickname of the "King of Venereal Horror" for making movies about bunnies and lollipops. One of the themes of his movies is flesh. Many of his films have inanimate objects coming to life, living, breathing and even experiencing sexual pleasure. The television in
Censors tend to do what psychotics do: confuse reality with illusion.

"Censors tend to do what psychotics do: confuse reality with illusion."
VIDEDROME and the multitude of typewriters in NAKED LUNCH both show this quality. The motif of sexuality in Cronenberg's films is strong, whether it is a vagina in James Woods stomach (VIDEODROME), a fetish between car-crash survivors (CRASH) or twin gynecologists sharing their women (DEAD RINGERS).

His movies are brilliantly disturbing and wonderfully visceral. You can't watch a movie of his and not have a reaction. A quote from the director shows one way of thinking towards his films, "My dentist said to me the other day: I've enough problems in my life, so why should I see your films?"

His newest film, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, was his most "Hollywood", enlisting big name actors, and using a heavy budget. He says the reason was that he deferred most of his own salary to direct the film before it, SPIDER. I had seen "HISTORY" in theaters, and while watching, I began to get disappointed; I saw none of the Cronenberg traits. But two came forth, a massive head wound that was an enormous achievement in detail, and a psuedo-rape between a man and his wife. Rest assured, this director is far from finished and leagues away from turning tame.

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The Lair of the Mad
Every other Tuesday

'The Lair' discusses the many aspects and qualities of the horror genre. From actors, to make-up, to music, James Shafie explores everything the "cult" genre spews up.

Other Columns
Other columns by James Shafie:

Speaking Out

Yearn For Change

Queen of Night

Too Close Enough To Touch

The Time of the Beasts

All Columns

James Shafie
James Shafie is an avid watcher of movies of all sorts, but the horror genre is closest to his heart. He loves to read and is addicted to music, mostly metal and itís thousands of sub-genres. He was once fired by Blockbuster, which we see as a strong character trait.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to James Shafie by clicking here.

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