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(Credit: Toronto Film Festival)

Film

David Cronenberg questions the "most frightening film ever made"

@Russellisation

Concerned with the intricacies of the human mind in response to an ever-changing society, the horror of David Cronenberg is rooted in existentialism as the filmmaker explores what, or who we are, besides a bag of bones and pliable flesh. 

Creating some of the finest horror movies of all time, including Videodrome, The Fly and Scanners, the style of Cronenberg isn’t like such filmmakers as John Carpenter or Tobe Hooper. Instead, Cronenberg adopted a more auteur style that continued to inspire and influence modern cinema well into the 21st century. Though he has dropped the horror genre in recent years, Cronenberg remains inextricably linked to the concepts of mind and body, exploring psychoanalysis with his modern movies Cosmopolis, A Dangerous Method and Maps to the Stars.

Speaking about the role of physical and mental transformation throughout his filmography, Cronenberg told Bomb Magazine, “Because of our necessity to impose our own structure of perception on things we look on ourselves as being relatively stable”. Continuing, Cronenberg highlights, “in fact, when I look at a person I see this maelstrom of organic, chemical and electron chaos; volatility and instability, shimmering; and the ability to change and transform and transmute”. 

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Becoming an authoritative figure in the world of horror, Cronenberg has become a go-to filmmaker when it comes to opinions on the most terrifying cinematic genre, providing a philosophical approach to the question of ‘what frightens him the most’. 

“That’s totally subjective because what frightens some people is like a laugher to somebody else,” Cronenberg told The Guardian in 2014, “For each person, there might be a different answer to that question”. Drilling deeper into this concept, the filmmaker asserts, “Bambi is a terrifying film for a kid because Bambi’s mother is killed. When you’re a child that’s a terrifying thing. So does that qualify?”.

As for what personally shook Cronenberg to the core, the director recalls a movie named Blue Lagoon “which was really scary” for the Canadian filmmaker as a child, with Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now chilling his bones as an adult. “Nic Roeg’s film with Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland. That really got to me, that was very effective film-making, its anticipation of death was so palpable,” Cronenberg states, well-explaining the effectiveness of the horror classic.

“There’s no absolute universal,” Cronenberg rightfully observes, concluding his typically philosophical approach to the question that pinpoints the fluctuating terror of Bambi, Blue Lagoon and Don’t Look Now.