When I was at UCLA in the mid-90s I saw a double-feature at Melnitz Theater (the Film School’s theater) that really freaked me out. The theme of the double-feature was “Maternal Nightmares,” and the films were Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and David Cronenberg’s The Brood (1979). I am thinking about this outing because I recently saw my first film in the theaters in a long while, David Cronenberg’s recent feature Eastern Promises (2007) (in Italian no less—so granted I may have missed a few things), and I was totally let down. Like The History of Violence (2005), I find Cronenberg’s recent films to lack all of the true terror and deeply disturbing horror of his earlier work like Shivers (1975), Rabid (1977), Scanners (1981), VideoDrome (1983) and The Brood, by far his most terrifying. How can you frame anything more terrorizing than homicidal ghoul children? Don’t believe me? Check out the following scene from the film, but just remember that you were warned!
Now that is great horror! Cronenberg’s more “serious reflections” on violence in his last two films have some solid filmic elements, but move far away from what made his films truly visceral and haunting. They are almost comic-book like, doing Tarantino with none of the flare. I agree with my friend Andrea that the state of film is in terrible decline, but this fact “hasn’t created in me any sense of obligation” (to quote Stephen Crane out of turn).