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October 9, 2015

David Cronenberg: A Halloween Love Letter

It’s important, in the discussion of Halloween (the season of gore), to acknowledge those individuals that have, truly, made a lasting impression on the visceral art of gore. We would be remiss without looking up. Not skyward, mind you, no self-respecting gore meister would go that direction, but more North. Canada, to be exact. There, among the socialized medicine, seventeen-year-old drinking age and football end zones the size of island continents dwells the oft-overlooked king of the literate chunkblowers… David Cronenberg. His films have nauseated us for years, from the gritty and gory Rabid (1977) starring the late Marilyn Chambers through Jeff Goldblum’s star turn in The Fly (1986) and everything in-between, Mr. Cronenberg has sickened us, for the better, time and time again.

It’s important to note, though, that his penchant for the macabre, including his use of the wet stuff, is part of the theme of his films… it informs the social commentary. Cronenberg is not a master filmmaker, he is a master storyteller. In being a master storyteller, every one of his stories means something. All of it has a message and a theme and, thankfully for us, he chooses to express that theme using some of the most disturbingly metaphorical gore scenes ever films. Metaphor. Wait a minute. Metaphor. Gore. Meta-Gore… is that new? If that’s new, then I have dibs on it.

The proof, my dear friends, is available in high definition and 1080p for our enjoyment. Videodrome (1983) tells the sordid tale of James’ Woods descent into madness and a societies’ reliance on the television for truth. VHS won the war against Beta, and the war for Woods’ soul, as his body assimilated a video tape in one of the grossest scenes every shot in the early 1980s. Need more proof? Exploding heads are always fun and the best ones blew up all over the silver screen in 1981’s Scanners. Yep, Cronenberg.

So, you’re a creature feature kind of freak, hmmm? We’ve got that covered as well. Who can forget Jeff Goldblum’s Brundle-Fly puking onto some food in order to dissolve it and suck the nutrients up? Better yet, puking on his nemesis’ hand and leg to dissolve it? The Fly (1986), a re-imagining of the Vincent Price classic, holds a special place in this particular gore hound’s heart.

The Brood (1979), They Came from Within (1975), The Dead Zone (1983), Dead Ringers (1988), Naked Lunch (1991)… Cronenberg has left a legacy of disturbing imagery and chunkblowing-worthy grossness that needs to be embraced (not literally since it is wet and sticky and may stain). As an actor, he even joined fellow splatterpunk pioneer Clive Barker to appear in Nightbreed (1990) and entered the new millennium by appearing in the Friday the 13th franchise, specifically Jason X (2001).

Best of all, though, this isn’t gore for gore’s sake. Cronenberg uses spilled entrails and puking man-flies and armpit-injector prostitutes to make statements. Horror, in general, and splatter, specifically, have been useful tools for filmmakers and fictioneers alike to communicate what REALLY scares us. Wrapping it up in an oozing or exploding gore-soaked metaphor makes the kids forget that they are learning something or getting a message and that, dear friends, is where Cronenberg succeeds like very few before him and even less after.

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