Over the next eight weeks, as part of their ongoing Film Studies programme, our friends at The Showroom Cinema in Sheffield are hosting screenings and discussions of David Cronenberg’s works. In partnership with Shelley O’Brien, Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at Sheffield Hallam University, these lectures focus on Cronenberg’s contribution to the body horror genre.
I must admit, I had to google David Cronenberg at first, as it’s not a name that I’m immediately familiar with. As O’Brien made clear in her opening of this course, Cronenberg is not a mainstream director. However, realising I’d seen Eastern Promises (2007) and A History of Violence (2005), I jumped at the opportunity. His work is uncompromising and instinctive, as week one’s screening of The Brood (1979) highlighted.
The film itself is an excellent example of the body horror genre, and displays the abject in such a raw, visceral manner. Cronenberg manages to elicit a restrained performance from noted hell-raiser Oliver Reed, in his performance as Dr. Hal Raglan, a highlight, for sure. However it’s the score that really sells the horror of this film for me. The all-string compositions by Howard Shore, now famous for his work on The Lord Of The Rings films, really works to keep the audience on the edge of their seats.
Admittedly, certain elements of the film haven’t aged too well. For instance, a particularly violent scene in the school, which I’m sure had viewers gasping when first screened, was met with laughs by this modern audience. The closing scenes of this film however, remain truly horrifying, where Nola (Samantha Eggar) licks the blood off a stillborn creature before [SPOILER ALERT] she’s strangled to death by a desperate Frank (Art Hindle). An image I’ll struggle to forget.
In the discussion session the following week, Shelly O’Brien laid out the biography of Cronenberg, and her passion for the subject, evident in every word she spoke, and the t-shirt she wore with a cheeky nod to the director. This is what The Showroom does best; giving a voice to people with a genuine passion for film and a space to discuss and share ideas. The lecture was a fantastic introduction to a director I’m not particularly familiar with, and is something that is definitely accessible to people with all levels of film knowledge, as evidenced by the varied group discussion that followed.
Next week, we’ll be watching Videodrome (1983) with another lecture the following week, delving further into the work of Cronenberg and his contribution to the body horror genre. Keep an eye out for updates.