In Homage To Sci-Fi Mastermind David Cronenberg

It’s Science Fiction week at the Roxy Cinema and the weekend features two crowning achievements by David Cronenberg, one of the genre’s indisputable greatest.

Cronenberg’s prolific career was distinguished in the early 1980’s with his unique vision of science-fiction horror combining socio-psychoanalysis and disquietude surrounding rapidly emerging technologies. These obsessions remained central to this body of work but evolved outwardly through the years into realms of literature, gender identity, organized crime, and Hollywood corruption.  He is widely regarded as one of the greatest film directors of all time, but maintains a reputation for the genre that earned him his first distinction.

Scanners was marketed as a cyber-slasher movie and caused a stir with it gory special effects – but the complex and inventive storyline is laden with conspiracy, espionage, and political commentary that resonates eerily with our own troubled times. It’s a futuristic thriller centering around a newly evolved race of beings termed “Scanners” who possess powers of extra-sensory perception and telekinesis.  Con-Sec, a Private Security firm prophetic of Blackwater, seeks to hone them as a powerful weapon. One unfortunate Scanner is even abducted into the art world where his demented creations are hawked to collectors. But the plans of the Power Elites to harness these social outcasts for their own ends is thwarted by an inner sector of Scanners with their own sinister agenda for a reconstructed society. The production design is slick with steel geometries and blood red carpets; and the special effects are admittedly staggering.

Sunday night the Cinema features the most iconic film of David Cronenberg’s early years, Videodrome.  The director goes full course with this techno-surrealist masterpiece where machines breathe erotically with their fixtures and fissures melding into organic tremors. James Woods stars as Max Renn, the president of a UHF network who stumbles upon sordid satellite transmissions of snuff films from a remote source known only as “Videodrome.” Debbie Harry co-stars as Nicki Brand, TV talk show host with a doctorate in psychiatric medicine and a taste for sado-masochism. The plot thickens around the absorbing powers of Videodrome and philosopher/pop-culture analyst Jack O’Blivion and his beautiful daughter Bianca, with their vision of a dystopia where television takes over and becomes a substitute for life.

David Cronenberg is a true visionary. He branded a new phase in the dialogue between horror and science-fiction by actually identifying new anxieties to exploit through horror that kept pace with innovations in media and technology. He understood that consciousness is an evolutionary phenomenon that coexists with the robots it creates and  the neuroses it engenders. He cautioned against the elitism inherent in corporatism and academia, and revealed the disdain they harbor against their assessment of the average citizen. The expanses of his philosophical and artistic scope culminate in films exposing unprecedented imaginings of the beautiful and the bizarre.

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Words by M.Pellerano