AVAILABLE ON DUAL FORMAT BLU-RAY AND DVD: 17th August, as a Special Feature in Arrow Academy’s Blu-ray set of Videodrome
RUNNING TIME: 71 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
It is the future and a disorder known as Rouge’s Malady, caused by cosmetic products created by the mad dermatologist Antoine Rouge, has killed off all women over pubertal age. Dr Adrian Tripod was once the director of a dermatological clinic called the House of Skin, and he’s now searching for his mentor Antoine. As he works in various institutes, he’s surprised at the weird ways in which men are trying to adjust themselves to a defeminised world, from mutating organs to the production of a froth that everyone seems to want to lick but which makes them behave oddly….
Though made on a slightly higher budget and now in colour rather than monochrome, Crimes Of The Future is in many ways an even odder film than Stereo, and one that may alienate some viewers even more. I expected the film that David Cronenberg made between Stereo and the first of his more commercially inclined pictures Shivers to be closer to his first full blown horror film than Stereo, but no, it’s even stranger, with Cronenberg making no concessions to the viewer except that his narration for this one, which like Stereo was shot silently, is easier to understand. Crimes Of The Future is a somewhat frustrating film which seems to be largely comprised of people behaving very strangely and carrying out bizarre little rituals. It’s closer to something like the work of, say, experimental art house filmmakers like Alan Resnais or Chris Marker, than any science fiction or horror film I can think of, though perhaps THX 1138 has a rather similar atmosphere.
The main protagonist, again played very oddly but [considering the film he’s in] appropriately, by Ronald Mlodzik, is the person who narrates, his gentle, even sleepy but slightly creepy voiceover enhancing the almost dreamlike feel of the piece as Adrian Tripod [Cronenberg used to give his characters such peculiar names] moves from locale to locale [mostly interiors of the same college, but excellently chosen and often cleverly shot so places seem bigger than they probably are], encountering various, often slightly mutated, characters indulged in strange goings-ons. There isn’t really much of a plot, while many scenes just involve people walking slowly or sitting still for minutes at a time, so much so that I reckon some first viewers, even if they’ve already seen Stereo, will feel inclined to pick up the remote control and have one finger hover over the fast forward button. When I watched Crimes Of The Future, I was in the mood for something minimalist and different from the norm, so I happily let the film’s almost sleepy atmosphere take over me. Despite some chases and acts of violence, Cronenberg again doesn’t feel it necessary to make things exciting, while his camera work is less interesting than that in Stereo but has discovered how to frame shots most effectively, often with something odd uncannily happening in the distance.
Along with some of the Cronenebergian ideas already introduced in Stereo, Crimes Of The Future introduces his favourite ‘venereal horror’ theme, though he can’t afford much in the way of special effects to show any of the grue for which he would soon become famous. We do get to see men bleeding, a man with a webbed foot, another man who has a strange nostril growth, and some organs in a jar as we meet a man who, in some kind of imitation of the act of giving birth, keeps growing organs which are constantly removed [Videodrome’s ‘New Flesh’ already], though more time is spent on peculiar activities. Near the beginning, people in lab coats run after a man, but when Adrian comes across them a little later, they are lying on the grass painting their fingernails. At the Metaphysical Import/Export centre, Adrian goes around and shows employees bags of socks and underwear which they then place out on the floor. There’s a really bizarre pantomime involving feet which evolves into something like a lover’s quarrel. Adrian, an intriguing but hardly likeable protagonist, behaves very oddly himself, though the film only started to sit ill with me when it introduced an aspect of paedophilia, leading to an extremely distasteful ending which would probably cause a whole lot of fuss if the film was made in today’s time. Kudos though to Cronenberg for having the courage to present on film exactly what he wanted to.
Like Stereo, there’s no music score to Crimes Of The Future, but there is an extremely unsettling soundtrack comprised of percussion effects and sounds like distorted birdcalls, though after a while it becomes overused. Crimes Of The Future is a truly peculiar piece that may almost makes the viewer think he or she is watching aliens. It’s extremely difficult to get a handle on if you’re not in a particular mood [I was lucky], but it is rather haunting in its slightly melancholy way, and it’s very possible that you could dislike it one day and like it the next, whether you watch it for a second time or have just thought about the movie a bit more.