‘Crimes of the Future’: Classic Cronenberg Body Horror Wastes Its Sci Fi Concepts

Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer

Plot: Humans adapt to a synthetic environment, with new transformations and mutations. A celebrity performance artist and his partner publicly showcase the metamorphosis of his organs in avant-garde performances.

Context: Just like with any other genre of movies horror has writers and directors who have become so iconic in the industry, you’ll want to watch a movie just because their names are attached to it. David Cronenberg is one of those icons.

Can you hear me now? Good

With a filmography that includes movies like The Fly, Scanners, Dead Ringers, Crash and Eastern Promises (just to name a few), fans of horror consider Cronenberg (who is also a writer, actor and producer) the king of body-horror as well as a man with the ability to create stories that are equally cerebral as they are visceral.

I’m sure all the fans of his work have their own reasons for loving his movies; for me it was my reaction to seeing The Fly. It’s the only horror movie in all the movies I’ve seen in my lifetime to make me throw up. Sorry if that’s gross but it’s totally true. And while this might have made other people swear off his films, I not only finished watching the movie (on a different day mind you) I became a fan then and there.

I miss Bond, James Bond

All of this is my long winded way of saying I watched Crimes of the Future without seeing the trailer or even knowing who was starring in it; I simply knew it was written and directed by David Cronenberg and knew I had to see it. And while this Sci Fi Horror story does have his signature visuals of human bodies doing things they never should do, Videodrome this movie is not.

Review: The film tells the story of a performance artist named Saul (Aragorn himself Viggo Mortensen) and his assistant/partner Caprice (Lea Seydoux from the last two Bond films) who spend their days in this somewhat futuristic world growing strange organs inside Saul (which they refer to as tumors) and surgically removing them publicly as a form of avant-garde art. While famous for these performances Saul and Caprice must register these new organs with a government ministry called Organ Registry where they meet an investigator named Wippet (Don McKellar) who finds the idea of new organs that have never been seen before intriguing and his associate Timlin (Kristen Stewart), who is simply turned on by the art and in her words thinks “surgery is the new sex”.

Do you want to do the horizontal polka?

Underneath all this visual weirdness is the main story (or at least it’s supposed to be, but Cronenberg doesn’t put any real effort into it) of a boy who is murdered by his mother for being “inhuman” because he eats plastic objects. His father, played by Scott Speedman (for those of you saying ‘who?’ He’s the guy who played the hybrid were-vampire Michael in the Underworld movies), is the leader of a group of people who have evolved and can also only eat items made out of mainly plastic. They seek to find a place in this world and prove themselves the next step in the evolutionary chain, but the government and a murderous secret group (who maybe one in the same in the movie, but it’s never properly explained) are trying to cover it all up.

Now I’m all for cerebral horror but trying to figure out what Crimes of the Future is saying about society, art and whatever else it’s trying to convey was not only tedious, it was downright boring. The film opens strong with a grisly crime in a rundown home and Cronenberg’s directing forcing us to witness it all as the camera never pulls away. It also gets you invested immediately as we have no idea who these people are or why the boy is the way he is.

Oh yeah. Oh yeah. That’s the stuff!

The technology on display is also straight out of Cronenberg’s playbook with machines that look more flesh-like than metal. If you’ve seen 1999’s eXistenZ you’ll know what to expect here. He also draws from his earlier movie Videodrome with shots of cut open torsos and people who get turned on from putting their fingers and tongues in these fleshy bits. The body horror he’s known for is on full display here and expertly executed but the issue for me was, unlike his earlier work, the story gets lost amongst all of it.

I’m sure the more artistic viewers will say it’s all a metaphor for the sacrifices artist make for their art, people who push their bodies to the limit for the sake of performance. But I was personally more interested in the story of the “rebels” and their fight against a world that thought of them as monsters. Maybe that’s because I’m a comic book fan and the whole story seemed ripped from an X-Men issue but this aspect of the sci-fi driven tale was treated like an afterthought almost and I think it was to the movie’s detriment. Not to mention the threads linking the two main plots were very obvious, making the ending predictable and anticlimactic.

Aragorn? Who is this Aragorn you speak of? I’m Strider

Crimes of the Future looks like classic Cronenberg. Visually there’s a lot to appreciate here. Still, I can’t help feeling like what we got was more nostalgic than original, drawing from his earlier ideas rather than delivering anything truly new. If the sci-fi elements of the story were punched up a bit more and the focus on the weird stuff a bit less, I think this could’ve been another truly memorable David Cronenberg film instead of something I probably won’t have the desire to revisit anytime soon.

Score: 6 out of 10

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 Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever, and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.

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