A Cronenberg Halloween
by Ralph Lucas – Publisher
(October 31, 2018 – Toronto, ON) David Cronenberg didn’t invent the horror genre but serves to this day as inspiration to many Canadian filmmakers who follow in his path. Titles like The Child Remains, The Harrowing, Pyewacket, Wait Till Helen Comes, Splice and so many more including more recent films like Les Affamés and Summer of ’84 all fall into the horror genre. The Bob Clark Canadian feature Black Christmas (1974) is often cited as being the inspiration for John Carpenter’s Halloween, which spawned a long series of sequels and more recently a reboot that owned the box office when it opened October 19th. You may recall Jamie Lee Curtis, fresh from her success in Halloween, cemented her early reputation as the “scream queen” with the 1980 slasher film Prom Night by Canadian director Paul Lynch.
The signs were there in the 1960s. Cronenberg’s 1967 film From the Drain is about two veterans in a mysterious war who sit in a bathtub until one of them is strangled by a plant that grows out of the drain. His career was built almost step-by-step over the next two decades with a series of films that clearly established him as a master of the genre. Films like Shivers (pictured above) in 1975, Rabid (1977) and The Brood (1979), Scanners in 1981, Videodrome and The Dead Zone both in 1983, The Fly in 1986 and Dead Ringers in 1988, which brought horror into the real world where the monster at first seems to be a really nice guy. Dead Ringers won 11 Genie Awards including Best Picture. By the way, the Soska sisters who gave us Dead Hooker in a Trunk, are now working on a remake of Cronenberg’s Rabid.
Halloween might be this huge annual event, but if you put a clock on it and limit the timing to the start and end of kids in costumes coming to your door, it’s usually over in one or two hours. Any single film would be good enough for a homemade scarefest.
My pick? The Brood. Why? Released almost 40 years ago, it’s largely overlooked in Cronenberg’s oeuvre. Costarring Oliver Reed as Dr. Hal Raglan and Samantha Eggar as his troubled patient Nola Carveth, writer Andrew Dowler, writing in an issue of Cinema Canada back when the film had just been released said it best: “Cronenberg structures The Brood and engages the imagination with a series of mysteries. What is the dangerous flaw in Dr. Raglan’s radical therapy, Psychoplasmics? Who or what is murdering the people that Nola Carveth, Dr. Raglan’s star patient, hates? How are the murders and the therapy connected? These fuel the action and encourage us to look for clues, to try and beat Cronenberg to the punchline. But, while we’re doing it, he’s feeding us scenes that lead to an awareness of a second, unstated mystery. Is Nola Carveth really crazy? If so, what are the causes and forms of her madness? The climax of the film links the two sets of mysteries and satisfies the demands of the plot (and the audience) in as gruesome a manner as could be wished.” Sounds perfectly delicious, doesn’t it?
I’m sure you have your own favourite David Cronenberg film or films. I’m surprised the Movie Network hasn’t put together a Cronenberg fest for tonight. Maybe next year. Maybe a streaming service will do it. That said, TMN does offer Pyewacket tonight at 7:30.
Have a happy and safe Halloween.
Ralph Lucas is the founder and publisher of Northernstars.ca. He began writing about film and reviewing movies while in radio in Montreal in the mid-1970s.