Life & Culture

Crimes of the Future Film review: A surgical shocker

Viggo Mortensen stars as Crash writer/director David Cronenberg returns to the body-horror genre, depicting a grisly future where surgery is the new sex


Crimes of the Future
CERT: 18 | ★★★★✩

Jewish-Canadian writer-director and reigning king of the “body horror” genre David Cronenberg (Videodrome, The Fly, Crash) has spent his long and fruitful career grossing out and scandalising film audiences across the board.

After dipping his toe in the more mainstream side of things with A Dangerous Method in 2011 and Cosmopolis a year later, Cronenberg has finally returned to what he knows best in his first horror offering since eXistenZ more than two decades ago.

Despite sharing the title of Cronenberg’s 1970 film of the same name, Crimes of The Future is neither a remake, nor does it riff on the same themes as its predecessor.

Instead, the veteran filmmaker here delivers one of his most “out there” narratives yet.

In the future, humans no longer feel pain and have adapted to a synthetic environment with new physical transformations and mutations. Viggo Mortensen (The Lord of the Rings films, Green Book) is Saul Tenser, a celebrity performance artist who along with his partner Caprice (played by prolific French actor Léa Seydoux) publicly showcases the metamorphosis of his organs in avant-garde happening shows designed to satisfy the morbid fascination with surgery.

The couple find themselves entangled in a potentially deadly game when they meet with Wippet (Don McKellar) and Timlin (Kristen Stewart), two bureaucrats in charge of the National Organ Registry, an official body designed to uphold the state’s restrictions on human evolution by cataloguing newly-evolved organs.

Riffing on the same voyeuristic themes as his 1996 film Crash about a group of car-crash victims who use car accidents to express themselves sexually, Cronenberg delivers a hypnotic ode to his own back catalogue.

Granted, there doesn’t seem to be anything new here from him, but the crux of the story is that surgery is the new sex.

He takes this idea, just as he did with Crash almost three decades ago, and runs away with it. The result is a series of well-orchestrated tableaux that almost play out like scenes from an orgy which go on for far too long without ever culminating in anything beyond what was already on offer.

While Crimes of the Future makes for a welcome return to the genre for its reigning master, one can’t help but feel that more coherent and vastly superior work is being done by the likes of Cronenberg’s son Brandon (Antiviral, Possessor), who has managed to build his own cult following. Still, it’s great to have Cronenberg senior back, thriving and shocking the masses once more.

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