Blu-ray Review: The Cronenberg Collection

David Cronenberg Collection

This newly released box set includes three horror movies films from director David Cronenberg. Presented in this box set are three of his earliest films Shivers (1975), Rabid (1977) and The Dead Zone (1983).

The first two films are in fact the directors first two full length films made in Canada, and were made with a government tax exemption which meant that there was a lot of funding for low budget projects and Cronenberg was able to take advantage by making these two films, as well as The Brood (1979) and Scanners (1981) which inevitably led him to Hollywood, and to The Dead Zone (1983) and he has never looked back.

Cronenberg is one of the most successful directors working today and his visions are always unique and captivating and as film buffs we should all be thankful he has been as prolific as he has been and worked collaboratively with many writers, actors and cinematographers over the last five decades.

This three film set is a must as two of these films are making their home video debut in New Zealand and are fine examples of his earliest work.

Shivers (1975)

Running Time: 87 minutes

Featuring: Paul Hampton, Joe Silver, Lynn Lowry

Betts: I loathe to eat alone. It makes me feel so fat and lonely.

The plot of this film is based around a group of residents who live within the confines of a suburban apartment building, they are slowly being infected by a strain of parasites that turn them into mindless, sex-crazed fiends out to infect others by the slightest sexual contact.

This film is an excellent example of what Cronenberg was best at – using a process of transformation to reflect societal issues. The film feels very claustrophobic and the four walls in almost every scene best illustrate this. Even when we are shown the outside world it is behind a wall of glass so the residents can see escape but it is never realized. The residents are trapped in a world within a world – best seen these days in the recently released “High-Rise” (2015).

As an early work this is worth the watch and the iciness that is present throughout the film.

Rabid (1977)

Running Time: 91 minutes

Featuring: Marilyn Chambers, Frank Moore, Joe Silver

A young woman develops a taste for human blood after undergoing experimental plastic surgery, and her victims turn into rabid, blood-thirsty zombies who proceed to infect others, which turns into a city-wide epidemic.

This is my favorite film here and is perhaps one of the top three Cronenberg films ever, it still packs a punch and has a wider view of the world than anything Cronenberg had done before.

The film featured porn star Marilyn Chambers and whilst this may have been some kind of 70s stunt casting she does an excellent job in her role as the ultimate femme fatale spreading her disease throughput the population.

This is definitely a pre-cursor to the zombie films that we have today as most are set in an isolated environment then exposed to the wider world.

The ending of the film is one of Cronenberg’s bleakest but stays firmly in a realistic world as we see bodies being collected and dumped throughout an unnamed city.

This film is highly recommended.

The Dead Zone (1983)

Running Time: 103 minutes

Featuring: Martin Sheen, Christopher Walken, Brooke Adams, Tom Skerritt

Johnny Smith: The ICE… is gonna BREAK!

This is based on the Stephen King book of the same name and is widely considered a bit of a miss but not as bad as some of the other adaptations of the time. The plot revolves around Johnny Smith who after a major car accidents and time spent in a coma is able to see the future and the past by touching people. This leads to a run in with a possible future President and the outcome he sees….

This was Cronenberg adapting a story, something he was not afraid of and is still not – although this film is relatively straightforward in terms of both the directors work as well as King’s own work. Most of the subtly of the book have been removed, so this became quite an average thriller with some supernatural overtones at best.

What is interesting is the way in which Cronenberg was able to harness some major acting talent, Sheen, Adams and Walken and bring to the screen some great performances. This is something Cronenberg has been able to do for some time and to let his actors shine in material others might balk at.

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