“My novel The Dead Zone arose from two questions,” writes Stephen King in his superb retrospective On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, “Can a political assassin ever be right? And if he is, could you make him the protagonist of a novel?” King worked backwards from there, arriving at the supernatural premise of a man granted dark visions of the future. Such a premise could have easily supported a novel without treading into such murky political waters, but that was where King’s interest lay, and what the story marches toward with an air of grim inevitability.
Tag: David Cronenberg
In 1979, Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg was far from a household name. To his credit, he had the relatively well known body-horror features SHIVERS and RABID as well as two earlier – and much rougher – features, STEREO and CRIMES OF THE FUTURE. But, in 1979, Cronenberg would announce himself in a big way – with the drag racing drama FAST COMPANY released in the same year – thanks to the psychological, perverse, body horror of THE BROOD.
How can the duo of red and green, the charming pair that conjures up Christmas cheer possibly be associated with something as dark as heroin addiction? On the color wheel, red and green are complimentary colors, meaning when used together, achieve the highest level of intensity and contrast. Typically, I shy away from the use of red and green in my artwork because the viewer’s association with Christmas is so instantaneous and unavoidable. It is an immense undertaking to reassign that symbolic association, but director David Cronenberg succeeds in appropriating red and green as a device to illustrate the effects of heroin in the film adaptation of Naked Lunch (also a feat in itself as the novel by William S. Burroughs was billed as “unfilmable.”)
In the introduction to his book Killing For Culture: An Illustrated History of Death Film From Mondo to Snuff, David Kerekes states “Film doesn’t simply document, it creates. Whatever is put before the camera imbues the celluloid with life, grants those frames their existence. When somebody is seen to lose their life on film, their death becomes a product subject to change”. It seems that the death described by Kerekes is quite obviously more real in nature than what most audiences would ever think of buying a ticket to see – or would they? – his opening remarks ring true to enigmatic reaction that VIDEODROME’s Max Wren (James Woods) has when he first encounters streams/recordings of “real” people meeting their demise.
When I was growing up in the early 1990s, the sci-fi section of the video store was my second home. Most of the tapes that I took home were DTV dreck with glossy artwork and succinct, sensational quotes adorning the packaging. The majority of these were one-off titles that I would forget almost immediately after the end credits began, but I was working towards something bigger. There were two franchises that sounded very similar to my adolescent self. Both were tucked away close to the end of the alphabet but took up ample shelf space and I wanted them all: SCANNERS and TRANCERS.
“Hustlers of the world, there is a mark you cannot beat: the mark inside.”
-William S. Burroughs
And with that opening epitaph, we willingly immerse ourselves in the private nightmare of exterminator/secret agent William Lee in Naked Lunch, a watermark achievement in David Cronenberg’s body of work, and an event that in retrospect seems inevitable. William Burroughs penchant for the grotesque and absurd melds with Cronenberg’s compulsion to “Show the unshowable, speak the unspeakable,” and results in a repulsive and brilliant thriller that explores identity, addiction at large, and what it really means to be a writer.
By Mel Cartagena
Videodrome – 1983 – dir. David Cronenberg
If at times you feel overwhelmed by the tidal wave of ‘entertainment’ that comes at you from your all around, then you understand how Max Renn (James Woods) was feeling in Videodrome. In his quest for the ultimate cheap thrill he finds himself caught in the zone between the real and the manufactured fiction he peddles.