Archive for william s burroughs

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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My TEN Favourite 1990s CRITERION Films

Posted in movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 13, 2013 by goregirl

Have you entered my contest to win a $50 Criterion gift certificate? And if you haven’t; why in the hell not? For rules and to enter click here. In keeping with my 90s theme here are my ten favourite Criterion films from the 1990s. This is a rotten cheat of a post; it really is just an elaborate excuse to remind you about my contest and whore out some of my previous lists.

1990s Criterion films Shortlisted but not making the final cut were: Hoop Dreams (1994), Insomnia (1997), Three Colors: White (1994), Three Colors: Blue (1993), The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Short Cuts (1993), Ratcatcher (1999), Cronos (1993), Clean, Shaven (1993).

The following list is in no particular order; every single one of these titles received a 5/5 from me…

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Being John Malkovich (1999)

being john malkovich

Blurb from Criterion

Have you ever wanted to be someone else? Or, more specifically, have you ever wanted to crawl through a portal hidden in an anonymous office building and thereby enter the cerebral cortex of John Malkovich for fifteen minutes, before being spat out on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike? Then director Spike Jonze and writer Charlie Kaufman have the movie for you. Melancholy marionettes, office drudgery, a frizzy-haired Cameron Diaz—but that’s not all! Surrealism, possession, John Cusack, a domesticated primate, Freud, Catherine Keener, non sequiturs, and absolutely no romance! But wait: get your Being John Malkovich now and we’ll throw in emasculation, slapstick, Abelard and Heloise, and extra Malkovich, Malkovich, Malkovich!

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Crumb (1994)

Here is a video I posted from the soundtrack for Crumb: Cocaine – Dick Justice – Music from Crumb: A Terry Zwigoff Film…

Blurb from Criterion

Terry Zwigoff’s landmark 1995 film is an intimate documentary portrait of the underground artist Robert Crumb, whose unique drawing style and sexually and racially provocative subject matter have made him a household name in popular American art. Zwigoff candidly and colorfully delves into the details of Crumb’s incredible career and life, including his family of reclusive eccentrics, some of the most remarkable people you’ll ever see on-screen. At once a profound biographical portrait, a riotous examination of a man’s controversial art, and a devastating look at a troubled family, Crumb is a genuine American original.

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Europa (1991)

europa

I recently posted my 50 favourite directors and Lars Von Trier was number 18.

Blurb from Criterion

“You will now listen to my voice . . . On the count of ten you will be in Europa . . .” So begins Max von Sydow’s opening narration to Lars von Trier’s hypnotic Europa (known in the U.S. as Zentropa), a fever dream in which American pacifist Leopold Kessler (Jean-Marc Barr) stumbles into a job as a sleeping-car conductor for the Zentropa railways in a Kafkaesque 1945 postwar Frankfurt. With its gorgeous black-and-white and color imagery and meticulously recreated (if then nightmarishly deconstructed) costumes and sets, Europa is one of the great Danish filmmaker’s weirdest and most wonderful works, a runaway-train ride to an oddly futuristic past.

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Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

fear and loathing in las vegas

Terry Gilliam is another favourite director featured on my list of 50; he is number 20.

Blurb from Criterion

It is 1971, and journalist Raoul Duke barrels toward Las Vegas—accompanied by a trunkful of contraband and his slightly unhinged Samoan attorney, Dr. Gonzo—to cover a motorcycle race. What should be a cut-and-dried journalistic assignment quickly descends into a feverish psychedelic odyssey. Director Terry Gilliam and an all-star cast headlined by Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro show no mercy in bringing Hunter S. Thompson’s excoriating dissection of the American way of life to the screen, creating a film both hilarious and savage.

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La haine (1995)

la haine

Did you know I have a list of my favourite non-horror films from the 1990s on this blog? I do! Here it is.

Blurb from Criterion

Mathieu Kassovitz took the film world by storm with La haine, a gritty, unsettling, and visually explosive look at the racial and cultural volatility in modern-day France, specifically the low-income banlieue districts on Paris’s outskirts. Aimlessly passing their days in the concrete environs of their dead-end suburbia, Vinz (Vincent Cassel), Hubert (Hubert Koundé), and Saïd (Saïd Taghmaoui)—a Jew, an African, and an Arab—give human faces to France’s immigrant populations, their bristling resentment at their marginalization slowly simmering until it reaches a climactic boiling point. A work of tough beauty, La haine is a landmark of contemporary French cinema and a gripping reflection of its country’s ongoing identity crisis.

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Hard Boiled (1992)

hard boiled

Sadly, Hard Boiled has been discontinued from Criterion’s library. It is well worth seeking out just the same!

Blurb from Criterion

Violence as poetry, rendered by a master—brilliant and passionate, John Woo’s Hard Boiled tells the story of jaded detective “Tequila” Yuen (played with controlled fury by Chow Yun-fat). Woo’s dizzying odyssey through the world of Hong Kong Triads, undercover agents, and frenzied police raids culminates unforgettably in the breathless hospital sequence. More than a cops-and-bad-guys story, Hard Boiled continually startles with its originality and dark humor.

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Man Bites Dog (1992)

man bites dog

Man Bites Dog was my number three pick for my top 10 favourite horror films from 1992. To read it click here.

Blurb from Criterion

Documentary filmmakers André and Rémy have found an ideal subject in Ben. He is witty, sophisticated, intelligent, well liked—and a serial killer. As André and Rémy document Ben’s routines, they become increasingly entwined in his vicious program, sacrificing their objectivity and their morality. Controversial winner of the International Critics’ Prize at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival, Man Bites Dog stunned audiences worldwide with its unflinching imagery and biting satire of media violence.

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Naked Lunch (1991)

naked lunch

Naked Lunch was my number one pick for favourite horror film from 1991! To read it click here. A full review for this one will be forthcoming before months end!

Blurb from Criterion

In this adaptation of William S. Burroughs’s hallucinatory, once-thought-unfilmable novel Naked Lunch, directed by David Cronenberg, a part-time exterminator and full-time drug addict named Bill Lee (Peter Weller) plunges into the nightmarish Interzone, a netherworld of sinister cabals and giant talking bugs. Alternately humorous and grotesque—and always surreal—the film mingles aspects of Burroughs’s novel with incidents from the writer’s own life, resulting in an evocative paranoid fantasy and a self-reflexive investigation into the mysteries of the creative process.

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Night on Earth (1991)

night on earth

Jim Jarmusch is number 31 on my 50 favourite directors list.

Blurb from Criterion

Five cities. Five taxicabs. A multitude of strangers in the night. Jim Jarmusch assembled an extraordinary international cast of actors (including Gena Rowlands, Winona Ryder, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Beatrice Dalle, and Roberto Benigni) for this hilarious quintet of tales of urban displacement and existential angst, spanning time zones, continents, and languages. Jarmusch’s lovingly askew view of humanity from the passenger seat makes for one of his most charming and beloved films.

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Shallow Grave (1994)

shallow grave

Blurb from Criterion

The diabolical thriller Shallow Grave was the first film from director Danny Boyle, producer Andrew Macdonald, and screenwriter John Hodge (the smashing team behind Trainspotting). In it, three self-involved Edinburgh roommates—played by Kerry Fox, Christopher Eccleston, and Ewan McGregor, in his first starring role—take in a brooding boarder, and when he dies of an overdose, leaving a suitcase full of money, the trio embark on a series of very bad decisions, with extraordinarily grim consequences for all. Macabre but with a streak of offbeat humor, this stylistically influential tale of guilt and derangement is a full-throttle bit of Hitchcockian nastiness.

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