Cronenberg Getting the IFC Treatment

I've made no secret of my love for director David Cronenberg. He's one of only a handful of directors to whom I have given a lifetime pass: if he made it, I'll watch it. (A corollary of that rule being that if he acts in it, as he did with "Nightbreed," I'll watch that too.)

So I was very excited to read Terrance Rafferty's article this past Friday discussing the IFC Center's upcoming Cronenberg "midnight movie" retrospective. This, sadly, looks to be an NYC only event, but IFC has done a nice job of selecting seven films from the Cronenberg oeuvre, so anyone who's interested can follow along. Their schedule looks like this:

Feb 20-21: Crash (1996)
Feb 27-28: Spider (2002)
Mar 6-7: The Fly (1986)
Mar 13-14: eXistenZ (1999)
Mar 20-21: The Dead Zone (1983)
Mar 27-28: Videodrome (1983)
Apr 3-4: Naken Lunch (1991)

The lineup works because it draws from some of Cronenberg's most mature works. The earliest film here is "Videodrome," which came at what might be called the apex of Cronenberg's work in horror — the three film run of "Videodrome," "The Dead Zone," and "The Fly," in fact, all get represented here. That's not to say that elements of horror don't infuse all the works on this list, and indeed, virtually everyone of Cronenberg's films, but by the time we get to "Crash" or "eXistenZ," the film's are horror, but also something beyond. Still monumentally terrifying, but more unsettling than scary.

Rafferty hits most of the important notes here:

“Videodrome” and “eXistenZ,” however, are midnight movies to the marrow of their disease-racked bones. Austerity is not a word that springs to mind when you watch, or think about, these bizarrely eventful pictures, which contain, in insane profusion, all the elements that moviegoers associate most closely with David Cronenberg: medical horrors, bad science, uneasy interactions between technology and the human body (especially the beleaguered brain), a persistent aura of malign unreality, and really exceptionally disgusting special effects. One of the advantages of seeing one of these high-Cronenberg extravaganzas with a midnight-movie audience is that everybody gets to go “Ewww” at the same time, which kind of relieves the tension.

For those folks with the Netflix, "Videodrome" is available as a Watch Instantly and the rest of these films can be rented as normal. Personally, I would probably skip "Spider," which is a nice film, but not nearly as enjoyable in the "midnight movie" sense as some of Cronenberg's earlier works like "Scanners," "The Brood" or even "Rabid." The latter of this group is tougher to find, though there are DVD copies. The directors' first feature, "Shivers" aka "They Came From Within" would also be a worthwhile addition, though it is even more difficult to get one's hands on. In any event, if you haven't experienced some Cronenberg, it's about time you did. Take a cue from the IFC Center and check out some of these films.

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