David Cronenberg Cycle: 14 films by the master of slimy science fiction that you can now watch in streaming
There are few authors as respected within the fantasy genre as David Cronenberg. His uncompromising artistic vision, which has allowed him to remain true to his obsessions even when making blockbuster films for the Hollywood industry, as well as the highly personal nature of his themes and images, has earned him admirable fame. We honor him by rescuing from streaming platforms all his movies available to watch immediately. Hop on a Cronenberg megacycle today with this lumpy sci-fi avalanche.
‘They came from within …’ (1975)
Cronenberg’s first feature film (he had previously made a couple of extraordinary experimental medium-length films that you can easily find on Youtube, ‘Stereo‘ Y ‘Crimes of the Future‘) already has all the elements that characterize the first work of the Canadian director: a story of massive contagion with leeches, which unleash forbidden drives among the infected. Unleashed science, shattered taboos, zero budget, and disgusting bugs in one of the most sweeping debuts of the seventies, and that sets the tone for what was to come very well.
Perfect double program with the debut of Cronenberg, with which he shares thematic elements (contagion, collective protagonism, the beginning of the end of the world …). Here Marilyn Chambers is a young woman who, after a traffic accident, is operated on with an experimental treatment that makes her the carrier of a murderous and contagious rage. As in ‘They came from within …’ the viral and venereal metaphor is clear, and like there, we continue to collect large scientific companies with macabre intentions.
‘Fast Company (Voltage in the circuit)’ (1979)
A rarity in Cronenberg’s filmography, and more so early in his career. Only his third film, and it is already a swerve (pun intended) compared to his two previous films and most of those that were yet to come: cars and rock’n’roll in a raw, cheap and tremendous movie, on the goings-on between drivers on the professional competition circuit. And that draws a curiously incendiary line towards ‘Crash’, as a kind of draft of his future masterpiece, without bizarre sex but maintaining the frontal crashes.
Chromosome 3 (1979)
Again the recurring obsessions of the first Cronenberg in an absolutely terrifying film: a woman lends herself to an experimental medical treatment that somatizes her internal drives. Because of that will end up giving birth to a group of wild and murderous creatures, a brood of spawn that will make life miserable for her ex-husband. Written (obviously) while the Canadian director was going through a rough divorce, ‘The Brood’ is brutal, symbolic and has some of the most excessive scenes of his cinema, including the mind-blowing sequence of childbirth. Tremendous and insane.
Just for having given birth to the most reusable gif in the history of the internet, the one with the head exploding like a watermelon, it would already deserve a privileged place in audiovisual history, but ‘Scanners’ is much more than that. For example, an apocryphal adaptation of Chris Claremont’s founding X-Men, featuring super-powerful beings engaging in all-out mental wars. More modern with each passing day, ‘Scanners’ continues to abound in ideas of the first Cronenberg (those pseudo-scientific companies who wage battles on the fringes of society), but this time enhancing the spectacularity. Beware of the two sequels, inferior but successful, with Cronenberg already out. They are in Filmin.
David Cronenberg’s first absolute masterpiece is this definitive vision of his New Flesh concepts that, although technologically outdated (Atari + VHS in Max Renn’s living room: it can’t be more retro), conceptually remains more current than ever. . The fusion of meat with the audiovisual and our transformation into beings hyperlinked to the screens forms, thanks to mobile technology, a reality more videodromic than ever. Immortal phrases like “Long live the New Flesh” make sense today point by point, and were born here, in the most indisputably visionary film of its author.
‘The Dead Zone’ (1983)
And from one of Cronenberg’s most personal works to an adaptation by Stephen King that same year. Yes indeed, a very peculiar one and one that is among the best that the writer lived and suffered in the eighties, mainly due to the calm and cold tone that Cronenberg gives to all his films, and to the impressive presence of Christopher Walken. The actor is perfect to play a man who, after an accident, has visions that reveal the secrets and futures of those he touches, with chilling results. Perfect for an old-school edgy night.
‘The Fly’ (1986)
One of the most perverse pleasures of reviewing ‘The Fly’ is that it is part of the fox catalog background and, therefore, has arrived at Disney + through Star. But it is not the only one: Cronenberg’s essay on old age and illness, taking as its starting point a classic genre film, is still as shocking, repulsive and sick as in its day. Suffocating and with an immortal performance by Jeff Goldblum, it is perhaps Cronenberg’s commercial emergence. After her he would take refuge in projects that are more and more personal and away from the pure genre.
Cronenberg’s first “clean” film, and a curious visual twist (not thematic) in his work, but which continues to explore with the precision of a surgeon the depths of the mind and our darkest fetishisms. Here with the story of a pair of twin doctors with opposite personalities who start a toxic and insane relationship with a patient. Aesthetically spectacular, it contains an unforgettable double rendition of Jeremy Irons, and far more wickedness than it appears on its surface.
‘The Naked Lunch’ (1991)
Cronenberg teaches a few of these to his credit (there are ‘Crash’ and ‘Cosmopolis’ without going any further), but this ‘Naked lunch’ is the film that raised him to the throne of directors capable of facing impossible literary adaptations and get away with it. Few things more elaborate and less narrative than the masterpiece of literature beat more thunderous, surreal and dreamlike by William S. Burroughs, and which Cronenberg adorned with passages from the writer’s real life. It was a box office flop, sure, but this tale of alien beings in Tangier and bug-typewriters has been gaining cult status over the years.
So far we have been finding all the Cronenberg films in streaming. The streak is over with ‘M. Butterfly ‘(which you can rent, of course, on platforms like Rakouten) and’ Crash ‘(whose 25th anniversary remastering may be coming to Filmin soon). We return to her filmography with which many consider the heir to ‘Videodrome’, but in the key of video games. A fascinating wacko, with guns made from bones and video game consoles that look like wombs, in a movie whose vision of interactive entertainment hits the spot even more now than it was in its day.
You can see it in Amazon Prime Video
‘A history of violence’ (2005)
After the unbeatable and almost unknown ‘Spider’, Cronenberg moves away almost for the first time but and for the moment definitively (always in his own way, yes) from the fantasy genre. He does not lose, however, his conciseness and harshness when it comes to telling things, which suits this story wonderfully in which a stupendous Viggo Mortensen brings to life a man caught in a spiral of violence from which he is unable to escape. Based on a great comic by John Wagner and Vince Locke … which the director chose not to read so that it would not influence his rewriting of the script.
After ‘Eastern Promises’ and ‘A dangerous method’ (both can be found for rent), ‘Cosmopolis’ supposes a return of Cronenberg to a cryptic pseudo-fantastic cinema, something dark and with the unmistakable stamp of the director, in his cold and abstracted vision of human beings and their foolish passions. Robert Pattinson, already beginning to channel the vibrations of what will be his future bruce wayne, is the center of attention in this film based on a novel by Don DeLillo and full of everyday science fiction and low intensity.
‘Maps to the Stars’ (2014)
It is Cronenberg’s last film to date, from 2014 (although there is talk of a return in style to his more viscous sci-fi with an adaptation of his wonderful novel ‘Consumidos’, o de a pure horror movie, again with Viggo Mortensen). Here we will meet a series of paradigmatic characters from Los Angeles (a self-help guru, a psycho child actor) and how they all orbit around an enigmatic actress in decline, in what ends up becoming a version of ‘The Twilight of the Gods’, but with pyromania.