Profile: David Cronenberg
With the exception of Wes Craven, no modern horror filmmaker has been more embraced and celebrated by the mainstream than Canada's David Cronenberg.
In 1988, he won the award for Best Director from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, for one of his masterpieces, "Dead Ringers." After that film (which starred Jeremy Irons as disturbed twins) met both critical and commercial success, Cronenberg left the horror genre for about a decade, opting instead to direct warped art films such as "Crash" and "Naked Lunch." But splatter film fans will always remember him as the man who made excellent low-budget schlock such as "Rabid," "Shivers," "Scanners" and "The Brood."
In addition to being unusually bloody and explicit, a typical Cronenberg film is about human decay brought about by a mis-application of science. In "The Brood," a psychological therapy technique produces murderous, monster children. In "Rabid," a new plastic surgery technique spawns a rabies epidemic. In "Videodrome," James Woods plays a TV executive who goes insane after viewing what appears to be a kind of snuff TV show. In Cronenberg's most accessible film, "The Fly," a scientist's DNA is merged with that of a fly's during a botched teleportation experiment.
One of Cronenberg's breakthrough movies was "Scanners," which actually spawned a direct-to-video franchise. Cronenberg came up with the incredible idea of a psychic using his powers to will someone else's head to explode. The scene that resulted made "Scanners" a box office hit.
His success at B movies paved his way to the mainstream. He next directed Stephen King's "The Dead Zone," starring Christopher Walken.
Cronenberg's films improved through the 1980s, and it's a tough call picking what his best is. He made his two finest films, "The Fly" and "Dead Ringers," in a row. After "Dead Ringers," however, his films became more surreal and boring. He drifted away from the horror elements his fans had grown to expect. Cronenberg's movies remain interesting and bizarre, but many fans yearn for the days when his movies featured rabid psychopaths and horror film starlets such as Barbara Steele.
To see the Telegraph's April 1999 interview with Cronenberg, click here.
The animated "Scanners" gif on this page came from the best Cronenberg site on the Web: