William Beard, a professor of film studies at the University of Alberta, is the author of this scholarly book, initially published in 2001 and the first by a single author dedicated to Cronenberg's films. It analyzes all of his features from Stereo (1969) to Spider (2002). Instead of exploring a “detailed account of production circumstances, reception history or ‘career history’ in general,” Beard resorts to “interpretation, commentary and detailed exegesis” when analyzing Cronenberg’s work. Beard argues that the core structure of Cronenberg’s cinema is based on the dichotomy between the Apollonian and Dionysian principles—order, reason, and control, against liberation, sexuality, disease and the disintegration of the self. The instigating figure in the films is a scientist character who, as Cronenberg evolves from a cult filmmaker into an auteur, transgresses the boundaries that define society and liberates his ever-changing self.
Part of the Canadian Cinema series, jointly published by the University of Toronto Press and Toronto International Film Festival, Bart Beaty’s in-depth examination of A History of Violence (2005) focuses on the film’s aesthetic influences and the themes of sex, violence, deception and transformation that run throughout Cronenberg’s earlier films. Beaty positions the film as both a turning point in the director’s output as well as a Logical progression of Cronenberg’s manipulation of genre conventions. The uniquely Canadian characteristics of A History of Violence are discussed in the context of the film’s status as a mainstream success in Hollywood. Beaty’s analysis demonstrates the sheer quantity of interpretation that a single Cronenberg film welcomes. It also marks a turning point in the scholarship surrounding Cronenberg, just as A History of Violence marked a turning point in the filmmaker’s career.
In his essay, attentively subtitled “The Author is a Zombie,” Craig Bernardini compares the works of David Cronenberg and George A. Romero in order to re-examine the European auteur theory and define the notion of the contemporary North American auteur. The essay serves as a useful guide for questioning the boundaries between the notions of genre and auteur, horror and “art” film, European and North American cinema, inviting readers to challenge their own interpretative tools when analyzing films.
In this collection, film scholars David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson compile more than three hundred texts (ranging from essays to blog excerpts) surrounding the discourse of cinema. By exploring a vast number of cinematic practices, from art and genre films to animation and contemporary Hollywood cinema, these essays offer insight into the complex and diverse nature of filmmaking, revealing the workings of its artistic, technical, and industrial architecture. In “Cronenberg’s Violent Reversals,” Bordwell and Thompson set up a comparative analysis of Eastern Promises (2007) and A History of Violence, whose narrative structures exhibit a remarkable thematic and philosophical cohesion. They observe that the peculiarly secretive, dualistic and violent nature of the main characters in both films can be read as diptychs, and how the two chronologically adjacent films are thematically similar yet have opposite narrative outcomes.
Browning illuminates Cronenberg’s seldom-acknowledged relationship to literary texts, highlighting themes that have been previously neglected by critics. This comparative study looks at some of the director’s most critically acclaimed films, alongside a broad spectrum of literature, ranging from mainstream fiction, to J.G. Ballard’s “cult” novel that inspired Crash (1996), to the works of Vladimir Nabokov. Approaching the films as adaptations—whether overt, covert or analogous—leads to a multi-faceted study of what Browning refers to as Cronenberg’s “literary aesthetic,” a testament to the literary influences which manifest in his films visually, narratively, and metaphorically.
Within this anthology dedicated to the study of the horror genre, Mary B. Campbell examines how Cronenberg’s films fit within the common characteristics and tropes of the genre. Drawing from Shivers (1975), Rabid (1977), The Brood (1979) and Scanners (1981), she notes these early works share similar qualities with B-movies, but argues that Cronenberg’s films focus more on the “ancient science of alchemy” to represent their themes of paranoia and the body’s evils. Campbell pays close attention to Cronenberg’s linking together of reproduction, transformation and disease, and the fear of the “other,” likening it to other films within the horror genre. Campbell’s chapter is an in-depth analysis through the lens of genre study and offers a unique perspective on some of Cronenberg’s early films.
Using Naked Lunch (1991) and Spider as a primary focus, Reni Celeste examines how auteur theory applies to Cronenberg’s filmmaking. Both feature screenplays adapted from literature, which Celeste positions as pivotal to understanding how Cronenberg “authors” his films. Specifically, she relates how Cronenberg altered some of the content of William S. Burroughs’s 1959 novel for Naked Lunch’s screenplay, pulling in biographical elements from Burroughs’s life not included in the novel, thereby complicating an understanding of the film’s authorship. For Spider, Celeste uses the metaphor of a spiderweb to trace the director’s conception of authorship as it applies to memory and illusion. Spider’s focus on mental illness and an unreliable narrator, Celeste claims, collapses the division between screen, author and spectator. This chapter is particularly useful for researching Cronenberg’s later films, as Spider is often neglected in assessments of his career.
Using Cronenberg’s The Brood as her focus, Barbara Creed examines the “monstrous womb” in the horror genre. Creed claims this chapter to be the first example of theoretical scholarship that links conceptions of woman, the womb and the monstrous in film. The author expands the previous scholarship of Julia Kristeva, applying Kristeva’s theories of the grotesque and the abject to childbirth in The Brood. She claims that Nola Carveth’s externalized rage, manifested in the murderous brood, symbolizes the monstrousness of female desire when unrepressed. Creed also pulls in Sigmund Freud’s conception of the uncanny, arguing that the womb in horror is something both familiar and terrifying. Creed’s The Monstrous-Feminine: Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis is considered a seminal re-evaluation of the feminine within studies of psychoanalysis and film; her chapter devoted to The Brood is pivotal to the book’s general arguments and greatly influenced Cronenberg scholars. It marked the first of several writings by Creed and others, from this perspective, on the work of Cronenberg and his peers.
David Cronenberg wrote the script for Red Cars after making Crash in 1996. Telling the story of competitive Formula One drivers Phil Hill and Wolfgang von Trips of the Ferrari racing team in the early sixties, the script was never realized as a film. Instead, it was published as an illustrated book, with stylized images of drivers, cars, engines and racing atmosphere woven throughout. Curated by Cronenberg, who describes it as “a fusion of script and image…an alternate-universe way for me to create my film,” this book provides deeper insight into his well known passion for cars.
Chromosomes: A Project is an art book that offers an assortment of frames taken from several of Cronenberg’s films. The theme is centered on micro-organisms, body, disease and technology—all reoccurring subjects in Cronenberg’s work. Each image is accompanied by a comment by a personality related to both the theme and the filmmaker, such as composer Howard Shore, novelist William Gibson, Cannes Artistic Director Thierry Frémaux, professor of genetics Marcello Buiatti, automobile designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, actor Viggo Mortensen and curators Luca Massimo Barbero and Domenico De Gaetano.
The first volume in a series dedicated to Cronenberg’s screenwriting, this edition features screenplays for the director’s earliest films: Stereo , Crimes of the Future (1970), Shivers and Rabid, each illustrated with film stills. An introduction written by Cronenberg in 2001, titled “Why It’s Impossible to Read a Film Script,” directly addresses the reader, forewarning of the limited scope published screenplays offer. The filmmaker refers to the elusive nature of filming the words and actions outlined in a screenplay, arguing that the film happens in-camera and what is written on the page is inferior to the finished product.
A series of revealing interviews, conducted by Serge Grünberg and originally published in French, chronicle Cronenberg’s career, from his formative years through to the mid-2000s. Divided into chapters that read like an expanded filmography—complete with images of production stills, storyboards and early promotional posters—each interview gives insight into the makings of the provocative, at times disturbing, psychologically inquisitive films that have characterized the acclaimed director’s style and aesthetic. Grünberg’s wide-ranging questions seek out every aspect of the filmmaking process, from the technical to the thematic, from influences to inspiration.
Held in 1987 at Toronto’s Power Plant, the exhibition “Prent/Cronenberg: Crimes Against Nature” juxtaposed Cronenberg’s film work with the installation art, sculpture, and photography of Mark Prent. Visual parallels between Cronenberg’s and Prent’s works were broken up into three categories: The Body as Monster, Architecture as Presence and Visual Tableaux. Each of Cronenberg’s films, from Stereo to The Fly (1986), was represented by stills, as well as relevant clips projected in the gallery space. As Dompierre points out in her introduction to the catalogue, both Prent and Cronenberg are interested in what is deemed “socially or culturally unacceptable,” and each delves deep into the “darkness of human nature” and the “terror of the man-made environment.” The catalogue features a selected bibliography pertaining to the themes of the exhibition, the work of Prent, and Cronenberg’s films. “Prent/Cronenberg” predates other exhibitions of the filmmaker’s work and, as such, is an interesting example of interpreting Cronenberg’s films through the lens of visual art.
Published in 1984 as a British Film Institute Dossier (#21), this anthology devoted entirely to examining Cronenberg’s films covers the director’s early features, such as Stereo and Crimes of the Future, up to Videodrome (1983) and The Dead Zone (1983). The assessment of Videodrome demonstrates how it was interpreted at the time of its release, which is useful when considering today’s perceptions of the film. Other topics include psychoanalysis in Cronenberg’s films, represented by a chapter by Michael A. Silverman that utilizes the writings of Sigmund Freud to analyze superstition in Scanners. Also, Paul Taylor’s contribution focuses on Cronenberg’s television work, which is rarely discussed within scholarship on the director, neither at the time BFI published this anthology nor within more recent assessments.
Contained within an anthology dedicated to gender portrayals in film, Murray Forman’s examination of Cronenberg’s Crash focuses on how representations of masculinity intersect with class representation. With a semiotic approach, the author analyzes the significance of the automobile and the violence it can inflict, and how this significance relates to “the sacred role of the car in modern society.” Forman casts Cronenberg as manipulating notions of normative, mainstream masculinity; however, he argues that Crash never subverts traditional male gender identities, and instead revels within them. Forman’s chapter is a useful companion piece to scholarship that assesses the role of women in Cronenberg’s films, such as Barbara Creed’s writings on the The Brood in The Monstrous-Feminine.
This collection of essays covers an array of topics regarding Cronenberg’s work, from the reception of his films to psychoanalysis of his frequent portrayal of bodily metamorphosis. Jonathan Crane’s essay “A Body Apart: Cronenberg and Genre” speaks to the classification of his usual genre as horror/science fiction; Crane claims that a film’s focus on science or scientists does not bar it from the horror drama, following up with the various ways in which, despite the morally sound intentions of salvaging or improving life, those who study science become instigators in the horrific events seen in many of Cronenberg’s films. An interview conducted by Xavier Mendik has Cronenberg summarizing his minimal background in science as it resulted in the fascination evident throughout his filmography.
This collection of essays includes critical analyses of Cronenberg’s films up to Videodrome and The Dead Zone. Among them is “The Word, the Flesh and David Cronenberg,” written by John Harkness, which challenges statements made by Robin Wood in The American Nightmare. Also included in the anthology is an article by Wood that counters Harkness’s contribution and reassesses his initial reaction to Cronenberg’s films. In “Cronenberg: A Dissenting View,” Wood addresses the numerous counterattacks launched against him in regards to his claims on Cronenberg’s film. The author revisits the three films he initially analyzed, and also considers films that he had yet to review at the time of his writing in 1979. In Piers Handling’s contribution, “A Canadian Cronenberg,” the author examines how the director’s films fit within and also reject the then-traditions of Canadian filmmaking. Looking at Stereo and Crimes of the Future, Handling places these films within the category of the Canadian avant-garde; whereas, according to the author, Cronenberg’s later films operate under the “entertainment mainstream.” Other contributors to this anthology are William Beard, Maurice Yacowar, Geoff Pevere, Tim Lucas, and D. John Turner. By including the assessments of these Canadian critics, scholars, and journalists, The Shape of Rage contextualizes the national reception of Cronenberg’s films at the time of their releases.
Steffen Hantke closely examines the intersections between William S. Burroughs’ novel Naked Lunch and Cronenberg’s film adaptation of the same title. The author argues the film version explores its own status as an adaptation, complicating the role of author(s) in the film. Hantke also claims that, in adapting Naked Lunch, Cronenberg “re-fashioned” his authorial identity, positioning himself as a political filmmaker who exists somewhere between the margins and the commercial. The essay looks at some similar issues of adaptation as other scholarly works, but applies more of a socio-political objective, as it relates to the time of Burroughs’ writing and Cronenberg’s reinterpretation of it in the early 1990s.
In her book Bad Girls and Sick Boys: Fantasies in Contemporary Art and Culture, Linda S. Kauffman shows how technological advances in medicine and science (magnetic resonance imaging, computers and telecommunications) challenge our conceptions of the human body, and alter the aesthetics of its representation. Beginning with the premise that “contemporary culture is saturated not with pornography but with fantasy,” she concludes that the works of numerous performance artists, directors and writers—Carolee Schneemann, David Cronenberg, Peter Greenaway, Brian De Palma, among others—are “too literal for art, too visceral for porn.” She places Cronenberg’s work at the intersection between “pornography and horror, psychoanalysis and cinema,” describing the leitmotifs of his work—medicine, technology, disease, the body’s metamorphosis—as Cronenberg’s “surreal abjections.”
As part of the Studies in Horror Series, Tim Lucas marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of Videodrome’s release with this in-depth, detailed account of the film’s production, reception, and lingering cult status. The only journalist invited on set during filming, Lucas provides first-hand accounts of the theoretical concepts, craftsmanship and inspiration that went into Videodrome. The author points out that while the film was initially a commercial and critical failure, today it is considered one of Cronenberg’s most seminal works, one that highly influenced genres around the world, including Japanese horror. Lucas provides multiple behind-the-scenes perspectives, including interviews with Cronenberg and many of his collaborators, such as composer Howard Shore, members of the cast, and special makeup effects designer Rick Baker. In discussing the film’s special effects, the author details many of its complicated and innovative creations—several of which are included in “David Cronenberg: Evolution,” an exhibition by TIFF (2013). Also included is Lucas’s original review of the film, which appeared in Cinefantastique in 1983.
Allan MacInnis reassesses some of the arguments put forth by Robin Wood, who focused much of his introduction to The American Nightmare: Essays on the Horror Film (1979), as well as essays in The Shape of Rage: The Films of David Cronenberg (1983), on Cronenberg’s early films. Woods portrayed Shivers, Rabid and The Brood as “reactionary,” misogynistic films. MacInnis is interested in characterizing Cronenberg’s early body horror as less reactionary, and focuses on the fallacy in some of Wood’s arguments. Using DVD commentaries of Cronenberg recounting his motivations and goals in making these films, MacInnis interprets the director’s attitudes towards science, sex, reproduction and the feminine. The author concludes that Wood’s assessment of the films, first formulated in the late-1970s, only accounts for one-half of a binary relationship between repulsion and attraction. This article is an example of how more than thirty years of scholarship on Cronenberg is frequently under re-evaluation and critique.
Ernest Mathijs deconstructs the films of David Cronenberg, outlining the ways in which they intersect with the cultures from which they descend. The book examines each film from Stereo (1969) through to Eastern Promises (2007) as products of the “economic, social and political” structures of their times, connecting themes found in Cronenberg’s work to the cultural environments in which they were produced. Taking both a historical and critical approach, Mathijs examines each film to tease out the insight Cronenberg offers on “the human condition,” as well as the director’s commentary on contemporary issues.
Actor and filmmaker Don McKellar reflects on his first experience seeing a Cronenberg film and the impact it had on him creatively. McKellar claims that seeing The Brood at the age of sixteen made him realize that his “Canadianness” could be used to his advantage, and that the kinds of rage-repression and sexuality depicted in the film necessitate outlets, such as creative ones. McKellar explains his motivations in casting Cronenberg in his directorial project, Last Night (1998). The article, which appeared in the British periodical Sight and Sound, serves as an example of a Canadian filmmaker critiquing the work of another Canadian filmmaker in an international context. In terms of understanding concepts of a Canadian identity, it also points to the significant role played by Cronenberg and his films.
Peter Morris writes this extensive biography of David Cronenberg with particular attention to the cultural and political atmosphere of the city that shaped and influenced his career. Through meticulous research and a considerable collection of interviews, Morris gives readers insight into the details of Cronenberg’s life that would later shape his creative persona. The book is accompanied by a number of illustrations that paint the segments of Cronenberg’s professional and private life.
Drawing on his own interviews with Cronenberg, Andrew Parker’s chapter examines issues of national and sexual identity in Rabid, as they relate to media portrayal of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s. Despite Rabid predating the discovery of AIDS by four years, Parker finds several “extended resemblances” between the hysteria in the media coverage of the virus and the chaos and panic depicted in the film. Much of Parker’s argument focuses on the horror genre’s preoccupation with disease, contagion and epidemics contracted through blood. In terms of national difference, Parker characterizes Rabid as having varying levels of complex binary relationships—namely, the difference between Canada and America, as well as English Canada and French Canada. The chapter is an interpretation of Cronenberg’s films through the lens of media studies, offering another interdisciplinary approach to studying his films.
Michael Pepe closely examines Cronenberg’s Scanners, characterizing it is as a “baby-boomer psychodrama” that draws parallels between its main character’s status as an outsider and Cronenberg’s status as an outsider director working somewhat against the Hollywood system. Pepe outlines the influence that New York’s underground filmmakers of the 1960s had on Cronenberg, and how this influence is represented in Scanners. The author’s interest in the film is primarily focused on its representation of the oppositional relationships between “broad political, social, economic and cultural forces.” Written some thirty years after the film’s release, Pepe’s article is illustrative of the value in revisiting Cronenberg’s early films.
David L. Pike examines the “Canadianness” of Cronenberg by aligning his biography and upbringing with his filmic output and commercial success. Probing the distinctive Canadianness of Cronenberg’s films, Pike focuses on the director’s early shorts, “Transfer” (1966) and “From the Drain” (1967) (made when Cronenberg was a student at the University of Toronto), as well as his early, underground features, Stereo and Crimes of the Future. Referencing Cronenberg’s entire cinematic output up to the 2007 short film “At the Suicide of the Last Jew in the World in the Last Cinema in the World,” commissioned by the Cannes Film Festival, Pike positions Cronenberg as a commercial success, but also an outsider. Much of the article’s evidence relies on situating Cronenberg’s output within the government bodies that promoted Canadian film production through funding subsidies. As such, the chapter offers historical insight into the production and reception of the filmmaker’s early work.
Mark Player’s article concentrates on one of the more neglected of Cronenberg’s early films, 1979’s Fast Company. Described as a “love letter” to Cronenberg’s passion for cars, as Player points out, Fast Company has somewhat of a controversial presence in studies of the director; he cites the absence of “body horror” and contagion found in other Cronenberg films that both preceded and followed it. The article situates the film as a product of Canada’s tax-shelter schemes, which produced a string of Canadian films, most long forgotten. Player argues that despite critics’ dislike of the film, and scholars’ reluctance to discuss them in their examinations of Cronenberg’s career, Fast Company remains a significant work, marking a new level of professionalism in Cronenberg’s films and introducing him to collaborators that aided in the development of his unique style, many of whom he still works with.
In her essay, “Male Horror: On David Cronenberg,” Christine Ramsay examines several of Cronenberg's films, including M. Butterfly (1993), The Fly, Dead Ringers, Videodrome and Naked Lunch, taking into account contemporary feminist and cultural-studies debates, and paying particular attention to issues of masculinity. While drawing her methodology from the abject theory of Julia Kristeva, she argues that, in Cronenberg’s films, “the problems of white heterosexual middle-class masculinity—problems that involve epistemology (knowing, reason) and ontology (being, desire) and their integration through the stereotypically active, in-control, and impenetrable male hero—explode onto the ‘other,’ the Canadian, screen.” Hence, she concludes Cronenberg’s work represents the “minority discourse,” the ”abjected other” of the mainstream cinema, whose aspiration is to destabilize the dominant ‘white, middle-class, heterosexual’ masculine power structure.
This anthology addresses Cronenberg’s view that “every film is an exploration of the human condition.” The authors take various approaches to the philosophical questions that have been a constant presence in his films, which Riches has divided into three parts. In the section “Bodily Horror and Transformation,” the concept of dualism is referred to as it relates to body horror—a genre for which Cronenberg is renowned—and the aspect of the human condition that Cronenberg feels cannot accept the fusion of mind and body, nor the inevitability of death. The essays discuss the boundaries of the body, in light of technology, identity and reality. In “Psychology, Skepticism and the Self,” the authors look at themes of self, existential angst, and the philosophical problems of the mind. Finally, in “World and Worldviews,” authors draw on the works of Jacques Lacan and Gilles Deleuze, among others, and analyze Cronenberg’s work for its moral and political tones, discussing the use of language and literary adaptations.
The majority of this book comprises interviews recorded with David Cronenberg from 1984 to 1991, with a forward by Dr. Martyn Steenbeck, a scholar who dedicated much of his academic life to analyzing the impact of violent sexual imagery on the central nervous system. An introduction, written by Chris Rodley, chronicles the development of Cronenberg’s authorial style as it disturbs the boundaries among horror, low-budget and mainstream cinema. The interviews are accompanied by relevant biographical information. David Cronenberg chronicles his life experiences leading up to and during his career and status as an auteur director. Intermittent are descriptive historical facts written by Rodley, which give further context to Cronenberg’s autobiographical writing. This book provides insight into filmmaking from the director’s perspective, as Cronenberg discusses how he explored his fixations through film, interacted with both the sci-fi and horror genres, and his means of implementing scientists in both Dead Ringers and The Dead Zone
Released in conjunction with a retrospective of Cronenberg’s films at the Rotterdam Film Festival, this short publication is comprised largely of interviews. The first was conducted by Piers Handling and William Beard, and also appeared in The Shape of Rage (1983). The second interview was conducted by Jim McGreer in 1984, and is prefaced with a discussion of the filmmaking conditions that Cronenberg had worked under up to that point, focusing particularly on public funding. Also featured are discussions of Cronenberg’s television work, a short piece by Martin Scorsese on Shivers’s lasting impact on him, and a detailed filmography. Published at the midpoint of Cronenberg’s career, this publication offers insight into the early reception and scholarship surrounding the director’s work.
The Cinematic Body is entirely dedicated to studying representations of the body on film. As Steven Shaviro points out, all of Cronenberg’s films are obsessively interested in the body and the body’s intersection with politics, technology and aesthetics. Focusing specific sections on each of Cronenberg’s films (up to Dead Ringers), the author connects this obsession with the AIDS epidemic, postmodern western culture, and science. According to the author, Cronenberg’s films reject fantasy, instead embracing abjection. Much of this argument hinges on Shaviro’s assessment of the mind-body relationship in Cronenberg’s films.
Elijah Siegler analyzes the films of Cronenberg through the lens of religious studies. The author claims that interpreting how secularism looks on film is key to understanding the relationship between religious belief and cinema. Siegler identifies an existing canon of “secular auteurs” and places Cronenberg within this canon, using themes identified within many of his films and the director’s own reflections on their significance. Siegler hopes to open up the field of religious studies and its intersection with film, and argues that Cronenberg’s body of work is the perfect case study for justifying enquiries of this nature.
Edited by Image Forum and translated into English by Junko Kikuchi, The Strange Objects of David Cronenberg's Desire is the catalogue for an exhibition held in Tokyo at Seibu Department Store’s B-Forum in March of 1993. Curated by Fern Bayer and Makito Hayashi, it was the first exhibition of the original objects featured in Cronenberg’s films, and was organized in collaboration with the Festival of Festivals (now TIFF); after opening in Tokyo, it travelled to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto and made further stops in Paris, Thessaloniki, Sao Paolo and Barcelona. The catalogue includes colour reproductions of many of the artifacts, photographs and concept designs included in the exhibition, and relates how Cronenberg’s films and the man-made objects featured within speak to our understanding of material and visual culture.
Closely documenting Cronenberg’s relationship with composer Howard Shore, Paul Théberge explores the various ways that dialogue, sound and music contribute to the construction of Cronenberg’s narratives. The chapter appears in an edited anthology dedicated to sonic elements in the science-fiction genre. Genre and authorship, as they relate to Cronenberg’s early horror and later science fiction films, are a central focus in the author’s examination. Théberge finds similarities between the sonic elements in Cronenberg’s work and seminal science-fiction films such as Forbidden Planet (1956). Scanners and Crash in particular are found to have many of the same electronic sounds combined with orchestral music as Forbidden Planet, which is significant to Cronenberg’s blending of fantasy, dream and reality. In researching and formulating his arguments, Théberge consulted interviews with Cronenberg, Shore and Cronenberg scholar William Beard. It is one of the only works of scholarship to focus specifically on sound in Cronenberg’s films.
Wilson discusses a recurring theme in Cronenberg’s work: bodily transformation, in resistance or compliance with the political structures that govern, control and punish the transgressive body. In Cronenberg’s films, there is often an attempt to renegotiate the human body, to inhabit liminal spaces, as a mediator between humans and non-humans. Wilson argues that this is explored in an effort to examine the structures that discipline the body and which seek to prevent such alterations. While Cronenberg’s films seem to suggest that change is necessary, due to the ideological limitations in place the result is rarely a positive one. For many of his characters, transformation only leads to one’s demise.
Published to accompany the 1979 retrospective on the horror film presented at the Festival of Festivals (later named TIFF), The American Nightmare features original essays by critics and scholars, including Canadian Robin Wood. Wood’s introduction is divided into three sections: “Repression, the Other, the Monster,” “Return of the Repressed” and “The Reactionary Wing.” The author uses Cronenberg’s body-horror films to illustrate the “Reactionary Wing” section. Focusing on Shivers and The Brood, Wood argues that Cronenberg’s films are the definition of reactionary horror in their presentation of unrepressed sexuality as an object of loathing, especially when applied to women. Wood’s assessment of Cronenberg is seminal to his later writings on genre study. More than thirty years after The American Nightmare’s publication, Wood’s initial thoughts on Cronenberg’s films still factor into current scholarship.
Young focuses her article on the concept of “femaleness” in Videodrome, pointing out that few scholars (at the time of writing) had taken up this subject when approaching Cronenberg’s films. The author claims to be uninterested in examining how the film is offensive towards women but, rather, why it is deemed as such. Young uses Christian allegories, such as the story of Judas and the Pharisees and Christ’s crucifixion, to characterize the film’s narrative significance. As well, Jean Baudrillard’s theories on the culture of the sign, which, as the author points out, predate the production of Videodrome, nevertheless inform much of Young’s interpretation of the film. Using Baudrillard, the author offers close analysis of specific scenes where theories of media and the signifier are put forth by Cronenberg.