Beyond Fest Cronenberg 2018 Shaping of Rage600 Cronenberg fans. Beyond Fest. An entire day of blood, sex, violence and social taboo. To say that The Shaping Of Rage, all-day Cronenberg marathon was one of my most anticipated of the fest, would be an understatement. Having not seen these films for some time, I was excited to experience them on the big screen, and with like-minded fans who knew every part of them front and back. Needless to say, the experience wasn’t a let down, and every film still spoke powerfully about a director who was always clearly ahead of his time. I packed four bottles of water, a few snacks, and was ready to have my existence blown to bits.

Shivers Lynn LowryThe print for Shivers was a Frankenstein assembly, culled together from numerous sources. One scene had French dubbing, and the opening title had the film named The Parasite Murders.

As Cronenberg’s first feature, the film still holds up as one of the most horrifying ever made. It imagines a massive, self-supporting luxury apartment complex housing an insidious secret. We quickly find out that a scientist has created a parasite designed to make people act out their most carnal, primal impulses. The experiment creates a zombie apocalypse in which the film’s disease is spread through sexual assault.

Modern context only amplifies the film’s progressive ideas about sex and gender politics. Even with its low budget, Cronenberg is telling us a story that has gotten more important as time passes. A truly forward-thinking film that dared to explore our most intimate, self-destructive urges without abandon.

Marilyn Chambers RabidRabid continues where Cronenberg’s debut left off, but this time with a more focused perspective from its female protagonist. The unwitting guinea pig of a plastic surgeon, a woman named Rose (Marilyn Chambers) finds her self a vampire of sorts, luring those around her and then literally feeding off of their blood. The results turn her into a Typhoid Mary of sorts, unleashing a plague that quickly spreads and turns Canada into a war zone.

Again, looking at the way that Cronenberg is subverting ideas about sex and violence, the film takes on a tragic lens. One reading shows us a woman who no longer feels connected to the world around her. She acts upon primal necessity and is brutally punished for it. There are other ways the film can be seen as well, but nevertheless, it’s another underrated work from Cronenberg, whose style and taste for the taboo is beginning to pick up steam.

Samantha Eggar The BroodNext up, the print for Cronenberg’s The Brood was immaculate. It looked incredible, with a lot of the film’s bright production design and shadowy atmosphere contrasting nicely throughout.

As Cronenberg’s next foray into body horror after Rabid, The Brood, is easily his first masterpiece. Though the film still tackles a bit of the sexual implications from his previous films, this one is much more psychological, using Freudian touches to capture the manifestation of rage. Just as Shivers and Rabid, the film is about externalizing the internal, resulting in some of his most iconic creatures, and leading up to a jolting last act that includes some unforgettable imagery.

Huge ups to Oliver Reed’s steely performance and Samantha Eggar for that show-stopping, climactic reveal.

This may also have one of my favorite Cronenberg endings, closing with a shot that indicates how the effects of trauma can be passed on to our children.

Scanners Beyond FestLast up, Scanners, also with a great looking print, feels slightly out of place within these films, not as psychosexual, not still serving up a story with a lot of bodily carnage.

Looking at the film now, this feels like Cronenberg’s superhero film. Featuring a secret society of people who can scan other people’s minds, the story takes on an espionage plot with big social implications. The Beyond Fest audience applauded at the film’s opening head explosion, and to this day, the scene absolutely still delivers.

As a sci-fi thriller, the film moves very fast, offering a more heightened reality than Cronenberg’s previous films (which ironically felt more grounded), and a deeper mythology to chew on. The film’s closing moments tie things together in an unexpectedly personal way, and lead to a very trippy ending that makes our minds race with possibilities.

Having not seen this for a long time, I didn’t realize that Patrick McGoohan was in the film and had such a pivotal role. All in all, this feels like something Nolan might’ve made if he dipped into horror, and I’m surprised this hasn’t been remade yet – I think it’d be great to see it done today.

Michael Ironside Beyond FestAfter Scanners, Beyond Fest surprised us with a Q & A with the legendary Michael Ironside, who took the stage to give us a few anecdotes about Cronenberg himself. He gave us some hindsight into the making of Scanners, about how Cronenberg would share his dreams on set, and how his favorite Cronenberg film was The Brood. Answering a question from the crowd, he also told us that the best directors he ever worked with are all great listeners, capable of understanding the communal aspect of making films, and using everybody to their best abilities.

After 4 films and 8 hours, my mind was torn to shreds, and my body was physically exhausted, but wow, that was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Though none of these films are particularly rare and easy to find, seeing them projected on the best screen in Los Angeles, and with a crowd hungry for them, was an experience I’ll never forget.

These films still hold up with ease, and are a testament to an artist pushing not only his own boundaries, but anyone willing to listen.

SG