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Favourite Five Series: DAVID CRONENBERG

Posted in Canada, Favourite Five Series, horror, movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 3, 2014 by goregirl

David Cronenberg has forty director credits listed on IMDB; twenty-one of those credits are feature films. I have seen twenty of those feature films; Maps of the Stars has not yet been released. I think they outta start naming some Canadian monuments after David Cronenberg, or at very least a school or two. David Cronenberg Elementary; they can do a musical version of The Brood each year in his honor. Before compiling this list I went to the effort of seeing Cosmopolis, which I found Comme-ci, comme ça. It certainly wasn’t changing anything on this list. The only film I feel really strongly about from Cronenberg’s last decade of filmmaking is Eastern Promises. Don’t misunderstand, I have actually quite enjoyed Cronenberg’s entire body of work but it is his horror films that will always have a special place in my heart. Cronenberg’s early horror films are the perfect combination of the physical with the psychological. The term body horror or venereal horror has been used to describe his early genre films and an apt description it is. The term body horror basically represents a complete and graphic breakdown of the human body from any number of causes; disease, parasite, cerebral manifestation to note a few. Cronenberg’s films are complimented by strong stories, perfect casting, amazing performances and gag-worthy visuals. This was the easiest list I have ever put together; the only real struggle was leaving Dead Ringers off the list. As much as I love Dead Ringers and Jeremy Irons brilliant performance it is not a film that I revisit nearly as often as the five included below.

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VIDEODROME (1983)

Videodrome is about a struggling cable television station run by Max Renn. Renn is always on the lookout for programming not offered by the competition and shows soft-core adult films late nights. Renn is looking to step up his game and one night his engineer stumbles upon a grainy barebones production called Videodrome. Videodrome appears to be simulated snuff but as Max soon discovers it is all very real. Videodrome is more than torture, it is an addictive mental mindfuck with the ability to transform the human body. Videodrome is both a warning about the dangers of technology taking over our lives and our desensitization to violence. It also has really bloody amazing effects by Rick Baker that hold up as well today as they did back in 1983. Really ghastly and original stuff. Despite a mainstream cast and major distribution Cronenberg holds back nothing and creates a gritty, disturbing and uncompromising film. James Woods is pitch-perfect as station owner Max Renn. Woods Renn character is cocky, tactless and intense; watching him lose his grip on reality is Shakespearian. Deborah Harry was an impeccable choice as Nicki Brand; she is sexy, kinky and completely believable in the role. Renn has a sexual relationship with Brand who becomes drawn into Videodrome and eventually becomes one of its victims. Videodrome is without a doubt my favourite David Croenberg film and one of my favorite horror films of all time. “Long live the new flesh!”

Videodrome3

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THE BROOD (1979)

The Brood is about Nola Carveth who is being treated by Psychotherapist Dr. Raglan. Dr. Raglan is using an unconventional treatment called Psychoplasmics. The method encourages the patient to work through their emotion until it physically manifests itself. Nola has become a primary focus of Dr. Raglan’s therapy due to her extraordinary adaptation. Nola receives weekend visits from her daughter Candy important to her therapy; but after her ex-husband Frank finds Candy bruised and scratched he puts an immediate end to the visitations. Shortly after, Nola’s abusive mother is found brutally murdered. Even more disconcerting they discover the dead body of a mutated child who appears to be the one responsible for the death. The ability to materialize your anxiety, fear or anger would be a pretty unsettling ability to have. I can’t imagine what mad nastiness my mind would concoct! The little mutant children featured in The Brood are creepy as hell. The effects are impressive and the makeup on the mutant kiddies is beautifully grotesque. Large groups of children in snowsuits scare me to this day. One of my favourite scenes in the film takes place in a kindergarten class with a bunch of child actors who probably grew up seriously traumatized thanks to Cronenberg. The best visual effects assault however is courtesy of Nola Carveth in the film’s finale. You can find pictures of it all over the place, but I am not going to be the one to spoil it for you. It really is freaking spectacular! Another top-notch cast that includes legend Oliver Reed who plays Dr. Raglan with charisma, strength and authority, the exquisite Samantha Eggar who plays Nola Carveth with disturbed psychosis, rage and a touch of empathy, Cindy Hinds who plays Candice Carveth a quiet, solemn little girl with an adult-like numbness that is chilling and Art Hindle who plays the voice of reason Frank Carveth. Mood and atmosphere, well paced, steadily building tension, amazing effects and stunning performances; The Brood is a suspenseful, intense and chilling experience.

The Brood

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NAKED LUNCH (1991)

Naked Lunch is loosely based on William S. Burroughs’ novel of the same name. Cronenberg turns the story into a semi-autobiographical account of Burroughs life. Characters are based on Burroughs real life acquaintances Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Joan Vollmer and Paul and Jane Bowles. Bill Lee is an exterminator whose wife Joan is addicted to the insecticide he uses to kill bugs. Bill too is affected by the substance which causes him to have severe hallucinations. So severe are his hallucinations that Bill believes he is a secret agent for an organization called Interzone and is assigned tasks by a giant insect! Although I included Naked Lunch on my top ten horror film list for 1991 it really is not a horror film; although Cronenberg definitely includes horrifying images in the film. There are some downright gross visuals that are on par with any of the horror films on the list. As noted, Cronenberg never intended his film to be a straight up adaptation of Burroughs book but I think he does a superb job of capturing the general vibe while maintaining a distinct David Cronenberg flavor. I love Cronenberg’s approach with the inclusion of facts from Burroughs fascinating life. The shooting death of Burrough’s girlfriend Joan Vollmer is worked into the plot of Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch. Burroughs says of the incident “I am forced to the appalling conclusion that I would have never become a writer but for Joan’s death”. Naked Lunch is a strange, hypnotic, and sublime trip into another world. The film is accented by some truly exceptional performances from Judy Davis, Roy Scheider, Ian Holm, Julian Sands and Nicholas Campbell and most notably Peter Weller who plays Bill Lee. When I think of the most iconic acting roles of the past few decades Weller’s Lee is one of the first that comes to mind. Naked Lunch has withstood countless viewings and always leaves me feeling a little disoriented but awestruck. It is truly a one of a kind experience that, like a lot of Cronenberg’s films, elicits strong opinions of love or hate; I happen to think it is a masterpiece. “Exterminate all rational thought. That is the conclusion I have come to.”

Naked Lunch

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RABID (1977)

Rabid focuses on Rose, the victim of a serious motorcycle accident. Rose becomes the beneficiary of a radical surgery performed by Dr. Keloid involving tissue grafting. The surgery has an unexpected side effect in the form of a vagina-like orifice in her armpit that craves human blood. Rose runs amok in an effort to sate her cravings. Rose’s feedings not only cause bodily harm but they infect her victims causing them to go into a rabid state and attack and infect others. Doctors in horror movies have caused so much mayhem over the years haven’t they? If Rose had been taken to a regular hospital instead of a plastic surgery clinic none of this would have happened. Needless to say the infection spreads like wildfire and martial law is declared. The infected move quickly and attack viciously; fortunately they are easy to kill. The effects are solid although Rabid is not especially graphic. Rose’s armpit vagina is the film’s coolest effect and it is quite a unique one too! There are some particularly well-executed action sequences. My favourite is a scene that takes place in a mall during Christmas time and a security guy goes on a crazy shooting spree and kills Santa! Another scene that takes place on a subway is also delightfully chaotic. Marilyn Chambers does not speak much in her role as Rose but she is lovely and intense and a pleasure to behold. Chambers brings a good balance of strength and vulnerability to Rose. Frank Moore is natural and likable as her boyfriend Hart. Rabid is well-paced with evenly distributed violence throughout. Rabid is smart, well-written, intense and seriously entertaining.

Rabid

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THEY CAME FROM WITHIN (1975)

They Came from Within aka Shivers is about an experiment conducted by Dr. Emil Hobbes using parasites. The parasites cause the patient to have an overwhelming sexual appetite. Hobbes implants his girlfriend Annabelle with the parasite who is living in The Starliner a self-contained, exclusive high-end condominium. Annabelle quickly spreads the parasite throughout the building. Hobbes then kills his Annabelle and himself and the case is closed. Meanwhile residents of the building are getting sick and parasites are running loose and attacking the residents. The condominiums on-site Doctor Dr. St. Luc uncovers information about Hobbes research and tries to contain the parasite in the Starliner condominium, but will it be too late? Shivers is an intense, intelligent, claustrophobic tale full of sexuality and violence. Shivers opens with the death of a very young woman by the hands of a middle-aged man who then cuts his own throat. The next bit of yuckiness comes from a resident named Nick who leaves work early feeling sick. He vomits out a parasite and it is not long before all hell breaks loose in the enclosed space of the condo. The violent and deviant scenes to follow are unique and effective in that very special Cronenberg sort of way. Shivers has sex, nudity, incest, violence and even cannibalism. There is a ton of crazy shit going on here! Repulsive, erotic, nasty, “even dying is an act of eroticism”. As is the case with all the films on this list there are great performances here from Paul Hampton as Dr. St. Luc, the feline-esque Lynn Lowry as Nurse Forsythe, Allan Kolman as Nicholas Tudor, Susan Petrie as Janine Tudor, Joe Silver as Rollo Linsky and Barbara Steele as Betts. Cronenberg creates an excellent mood of paranoia and includes plenty of subtle and not-so-subtle commentary on contemporary 70′s culture. Shivers was Cronenberg’s first horror film and is one of his best.

shivers

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THE BROOD (1979) – The Dungeon Review!

Posted in Canada, horror, movies with tags , , , , , , , , on December 7, 2010 by goregirl

“The Ultimate Experience Of Inner Terror”

I did a little blurb about David Cronenberg when I first started this blog, but I am shocked that The Brood is my first full-length review of one of his films. What the hell is wrong with me?! Cronenberg is without a doubt one of my favourite directors of all time. I am particularly fond of Cronenberg’s older stuff referred to as “body horror” which is certainly apt as the body is transformed, infected and diseased in the most grotesque of ways. While the premise of his films seem wildly outrageous, Cronenberg’s intelligently written plots make you believe the impossible may actually be possible. Cronenberg’s films boast unforgettable scenes of gore and violence and some of the genre’s most perfectly cast leads. Jeff Goldblum in The Fly, James Wood in Videodrome, Christopher Walken in The Dead Zone, Jeremy Irons in Dead Ringers to name a few. Cronenberg includes social commentary, humour and various obsessions in his stories and character development is always an important component. I could go on for days about Cronenberg, but I’ll sum it up by just saying I think the man is brilliant. His flicks get under my skin and that really turns me on.

Psychotherapist Dr. Hal Raglan is using an unconventional treatment with his patients called Psychoplasmics. The method encourages the patient to work through the emotion until it physically manifests itself. Dr. Raglan demonstrates with an audience attended therapy session where we see one man abused by his father develop welts on his skin. Nola Carveth becomes the focus of Dr. Raglan’s unorthodox treatments due to her extraordinary adaptation to the therapy. Nola receives weekend visits from her young daughter Candy that is important to her therapy. But after ex-husband Frank picks up Candy after one such visit and finds her bruised and scratched he puts an immediate end to the visitations. Dr. Raglan attempts to reason with Frank, understandably to no avail. Shortly after, Nola’s abusive mother is found brutally murdered. Even more disconcerting they discover the dead body of a mutated child who appears to be the one responsible for the death.

Oliver Reed is the perfect choice for Dr. Raglan and brings charisma, strength and authority to the mad doctor role. The idea of Psychoplasmics is eerie. The ability to materialize your anxiety, fear or anger would be a pretty unsettling ability to have if you ask me. I’m not sure the Psychoplasmic therapy is actually helpful to the patients in any way. It seems more of a burden than anything. A rather horrifying burden as a matter of fact! The wonderfully wide-eyed Samantha Eggar plays Nola Carveth exquisitely. There is no disputing that Nola is disturbed, but along with the psychosis and rage she brings a certain amount of empathy to the role. Cindy Hinds who plays Candice Carveth barely speaks the entire film. The solemn little girl sees some pretty disturbing things but has this numbness to it that is chilling. The films final shot of Candy suggests that the apple may not fall far from the tree. My one and only complaint about The Brood is the casting of Art Hindle as Frank Carveth. Frank is supposed to be the sane character in the story, and Hindle isn’t awful in the role, he’s just kind of generic and flat. Sharing the screen with Oliver Reed and Samantha Eggar doesn’t do Hindle any favours. He is the only minor blemish on an otherwise brilliant piece of filmmaking.

The mood and atmosphere in The Brood is perfect, and hints from the start that something is not quite right. When Frank finds bruises on his five-year-old daughter after picking her up from a weekend visit with mom, we get our first hint of the horror to come. The film is well paced and the steadily building tension is spot on. There isn’t a ton of violence but what there is will certainly leave an impression. The climax is one of the greatest horror moments of all time! It’s a visual assault even after multiple viewings! (I intentionally included no spoilers in this review, but if you want the films monumental moment ruined you will have no trouble whatsoever finding reviews with spoilers galore and pictures to back it up). Another great scene takes place in a kindergarten class with a bunch of child actors who probably grew up seriously traumatized thanks to Cronenberg! The effects are impressive, particularly those featured in the finale. The makeup on the mutant children is very creepy. From the back or a distance the mutant tikes blend in nicely bundled in their winter snowsuits. Little kids in snowsuits scared the hell out of me for years after seeing this film.

As mentioned in my opening statement, Cronenberg has a way of making the impossible seem horrible possible and The Brood is a perfect example. The minds power over the body is a fascinating topic, which Cronenberg takes to a whole new frightening level with his Psychoplasmics. Harnessing negative emotion and creating something physical may seem absurd but it is completely believable in Cronenberg’s world. The Brood is full of anger, bitterness and trauma with some seriously ass kicking final scenes that will stay with you long after you’ve turned off the DVD player. The Brood is suspenseful, intense and chilling. Hell hath no fury like Nola Caveth scorned. Highest of recommendations.

Dungeon Rating: 5/5

Directed By: David Cronenberg

Starring: Oliver Reed, Samantha Eggar, Art Hindle, Henry Beckman, Nuala Fitzgerald, Cindy Hinds, Susan Hogan, Gary McKeehan

RUE MORGUE FESTIVAL OF FEAR 2009 – UPDATES!!

Posted in horror, Trailer with tags , , , , on July 13, 2009 by goregirl

festival-of-fear-2009If you have been following this blog for a while than you already know that I will be attending the Rue Morgue Festival of Fear at the end of August. In just over a month I will be Toronto bound! I just have to make it through the next 30 days or so without my head exploding! Bloody hell I need a vacation! I received a couple of updates via Facebook last week about new additions to the line up. The below information is a cut and paste job. I will continue to post updates as they come in. You can also join the Facebook group to receive regular updates yourself or go to the Rue Morgue website by clicking on the link in my blogroll. I posted the trailer for ‘OFFSPRING’ since they’ve added, the writer, director and one of its stars to the festival lineup. Looks like it could be very gory!

JACK KETCHUM
(The Girl Next Door, Offspring)

Jack Ketchum (a.k.a. Dallas Mayr) published his first novel in 1980 titled OFF SEASON, a version of the notorious Sawney Beane story. The novel was condemned by the Village Voice as “violent pornography” and set the stage for Ketchum’s ouvre, which has become some of the most controversial material coming out of the genre. Three of his most powerful novels have recently been turned into films, including THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, THE LOST and RED starring Tom Sizemore and Robert Englund. In 1990 Ketchum published OFFSPRING, the sequel to Off Season which has recently become a full length feature film starring Art Hindle and directed by Andrew Van Den Houten. Ketchum’s other notable works include SHE WAKES, COVER, ROAD KILL, ONLY CHILD, LADIES NIGHT and TRIAGE (with fellow writers Richard Laymon and Edward Lee). 2009 marks Ketchum’s second appearance at the Rue Morgue Festival of Fear.

ART HINDLE
(Black Christmas, The Brood, Offspring)

After being inspired and touched by a Toronto Workshop Productions play, Hindle made the commitment to leave the stock market for theatre. His first big role was in a biker movie THE PROUD RIDER, spawned by the popularity of Easy Rider. To prepare for the role, Hindle actually worked with a real motorcycle gang, the Satan’s Choice. But it was a film by Bob Clark called BLACK CHRISTMAS, followed by David Cronenberg’s THE BROOD that made Hindle into a horror film star. Recently, Hindle can be seen in the new horror film OFFSPRING written by acclaimed author Jack Ketchum.

ANDREW VAN DEN HOUTEN
(Offspring, Headspace)

Andrew van den Houten began his career in front of the camera as a child actor, performing in commercials in his native New York City. He founded the production company Modernciné during his junior year of college and, after graduation, returned to New York where he produced and directed a number of award-winning short films and television commercials. In 2005, he directed HEADSPACE, an official selection of the Brussels International Fantasy Film Festival, a multiple award-winner at the New York City Horror Film Festival, and winner of the Best Monster Movie at the World Horror Convention in San Francisco. Van Den Houten also produced Jack Ketchum’s THE GIRL NEXT DOOR and recently directed OFFSPRING, also based on a novel by Jack Ketchum.

MIKE AUSTIN
(Austin Tattoos)

Mike Austin made his debut on the artscene at the Fanshawe College in London, Ontario in the mid-‘80s while still in his teens. After college, Austin was offered a job working for the Malin brothers at BLUE DRAGON TATTOO in 1987. In 1992, he opened his own studio, and since then has won countless awards and acclaim on the international tattoo scene. Austin’s undeniable talent has pushed the envelope from that day forward to eventually become a world renowned power producer of original and custom designs praised by the likes of Guy Aitchison, Bob Tyrell and Paul Booth, to name a few. Austin has
numerous other artistic and freakish endeavours on the go including drawing, pastel and painting, along with a taste for funerary antiques, horror and mythological memorabilia. Austin recently had the honour of illustrating a series of dark and brooding books on Inuit Mythology of which several prints has appeared in the prestigious artshow CIRQUE DE LA LUNE held at the Arts Project in London, Ontario. Rue Morgue is proud to present Mike Austin as the exclusive working tattoo artist of
the 2009 Festival of Fear.

VINCENT MARCONE
(MyPetSkeleton, Johnny Hollow)

BRETT KELLY
(Attack of the Giant Leeches, My Dead Girlfriend)

BILL ZEBUB
(Assmonster: The Making of a Horror Movie)

DR. KIM PAFFENROTH
(Apocalyptic, Zombie Horror)

VAGRANCY FILMS
(Canadian Grindhouse Champions)