Introduction to David Cronenberg Retrospective


In 1975, a low-budget horror film called Shivers, also known as The Parasite Murders or They Came From Within in select regions of Canada and the United States, was released. The film was produced for $185,000CAD and grossed $5 million at the box office, making it the most profitable Canadian film ever released up to that point. While the film received negative reviews upon release, in retrospect it has to be seen as a significant work of world cinema because it introduced viewers to David Cronenberg.

For the better part of the past five decades David Cronenberg has been a stalwart of Canadian film. He pioneered the body horror genre and has done more than any other director to explore the more grotesque avenues of human psychology and sexuality. Unlike other great Canadian filmmakers like Norman Jewison, James Cameron, and, more recently, Denis Villeneuve, David Cronenberg never left Canada to pursue a career in the United States. Instead, he continues to produce esoteric horror films and dramas in his home country, making a name for himself on the international film stage even as he has never enjoyed the blockbuster success of his peers.

In honour of David Cronenberg’s upcoming 75th birthday on March 15 and because we so often neglect the cinema of our native country, we’ve decided to take a look back at every film in Cronenberg’s long and varied career. Over the next several months, we’ll review every feature film he has released over his 49-year career, including the two avant-garde features that preceded Shivers, and perhaps offer a few essays on how his films have shaped other trends in cinematic horror and drama.

Cronenberg is arguably the greatest Canadian filmmaker of all time and a personal favourite of the Brothers, especially Aren. By exploring his films in chronological order, we hope to examine some of the frequent themes that develop throughout his work, such as the mind’s effect on the body and the ways that sexuality and trauma shape identity. We’ll also look at how his films break with genre conventions, especially in the horror genre, and how his more restrained late-period films rework and reflect on his early exploitation flicks.

Get out your old VHS tapes (or Betamax for Videodrome enthusiasts), add his films to your streaming queues on Netflix and Amazon, and prepare to follow along as we explore the films of one of the greatest and strangest artists Canada has ever produced. Our retrospective will begin with Aren looking at Cronenberg’s debut feature, the black-and-white avant-garde, Stereo, from 1969. 

Until then, long live the New Flesh!