Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Posts tagged “David Cronenberg

Maps to the Stars – Trailer

A new film from David Cronenberg is always something to look forward too, especially when he turns his mind towards something dark…

Led by the loathsome yet funny and touching child-star Benjie, we witness the convoluted world of shallow, selfish celebrities and their minions, all of whom are about to be manipulated and destroyed by the young woman who literally represents the fruit of their twisted machinations, Agatha, Benjie’s tormented, apparently psychotic sister. As much as it is a sharp, comic look at a vacant and corrupt world, MAPS TO THE STARS is also a haunting ghost story.

David Cronenberg Tribute

David Cronenberg (1969 – 2014) from Hello Wizard on Vimeo.

How They Made the Exploding Head in Scanners

Scanners, David Cronenberg’s 1981 film that defies explanation, is justly famous for not only its mind-bending narrative, but its torrent of effects, including one scene where, well, a guy’s head explodes. Check out this video and see how they did it!

In Scanners, the people who lend the film its title possess a telepathic ability which, in the film’s universe, manifests as ability to control another’s body, as well as hear their thoughts. Or, you know, explode their heads. (NOTE: if you are reading this, you almost certainly know that.) In the most famous scene from the film, an executive (who is a scanner himself) from the evil ConSec has his cranium demolished by a renegade scanner who is totally not down with ConSec and all their nefarious plans to weaponize other scanners. But how did they do it? Well, prepare to find out how Special Effects Supervisor Gary Zeller and Special Makeup Artist Stephan Dupuis made that head (which belongs to Canadian actor Louis Del Grande, for the record) explode!


The Fly – By Drew Millward


J. G. Ballard

James Graham “J. G.” Ballard (15 November 1930 – 19 April 2009) was an English novelist, short story writer, and prominent member of the New Wave movement in science fiction. His best-known books are Crash (1973), adapted into a film by David Cronenberg, and the semi-autobiographical Empire of the Sun (1984), made into a film by Steven Spielberg, based on Ballard’s boyhood in the Shanghai International Settlement and internment by the Japanese Imperial Army during the Second World War.

After the Pearl Harbour attack, the Japanese occupied the International Settlement. In early 1943 they began interning Allied civilians, and Ballard was sent to the Lunghua Civilian Assembly Centre with his parents and younger sister. He spent over two years, the remainder of World War II, in the internment camp. His experiences there formed the basis of Empire of the Sun, although Ballard exercised considerable artistic licence in writing the book, notably removing his parents from the bulk of the story.

It is often supposed that Ballard’s exposure to the atrocities of war at an impressionable age explains the apocalyptic and violent nature of much of his fiction. Martin Amis wrote that Empire of the Sun “gives shape to what shaped him.” However, Ballard’s own account of the experience was more nuanced: “I don’t think you can go through the experience of war without one’s perceptions of the world being forever changed” But also: “I have—I won’t say happy—not unpleasant memories of the camp. […] I remember a lot of the casual brutality and beatings-up that went on—but at the same time we children were playing a hundred and one games all the time!”

In 1946, after the end of the war, his mother returned to Britain with Ballard and his sister. They lived near Plymouth where he attended The Leys School in Cambridge. After a couple of years his mother and sister returned to China, rejoining Ballard’s father, leaving Ballard to live with his grandparents when not boarding at school. In 1949 he went on to study medicine at Kings College, Cambridge, with the intention of becoming a psychiatrist.

At university, Ballard was writing avant-garde fiction heavily influenced by psychoanalysis and surrealist painters. At this time, he wanted to become a writer as well as pursue a medical career. In May 1951, when Ballard was in his second year at King’s, his short story “The Violent Noon”, won a crime story competition and was published in the student newspaper Varsity. 

Encouraged by the publication of his story, Ballard abandoned his medical studies, and in 1952 he enrolled at Queen Mary University of London to read English Literature. Ballard then worked as a copywriter for an advertising agency and as an encyclopaedia salesman. He kept writing short fiction but found it impossible to get published.

In 1953 Ballard joined the Royal Air Force before leaving the following year to pursue writing. He made his science fiction debut in 1956 with two short stories, “Escapement” and “Prima Belladonna”, published in the December 1956 issues of New Worlds and Science Fantasy. The editor of New Worlds, Edward J. Carnell, would remain an important supporter of Ballard’s writing and would publish nearly all of his early stories.

In 1960 Ballard moved with his family to Shepperton in Surrey, where he wrote his first novel, The Wind from Nowhere, over a two-week holiday simply to gain a foothold as a professional writer, not intending it as a “serious novel”; in books published later, it is omitted from the list of his works. When it was successfully published in January 1962, he quit his job at magazine Chemistry and Industry, and from then on supported himself and his family as a writer. Later that year his second novel, The Drowned World. 

In 1964 Ballard’s wife Mary died suddenly of pneumonia. After the profound shock of his wife’s death, Ballard began in 1965 to write the stories that became The Atrocity Exhibition, while continuing to produce stories within the science fiction genre.

The Atrocity Exhibition (1969) proved controversial – it was the subject of an obscenity trial, and in the United States, publisher Doubleday destroyed almost the entire print run before it was distributed – but it gained Ballard recognition as a literary writer. It remains one of his iconic works, and was filmed in 2001. Along with the book, he also produced a 75-hour installation for the ICA called The Assassination Weapon, the title of one of the book’s chapters, featuring a film about a deranged H-bomber pilot projected simultaneously on three screens to the sound of cars crashing.

Another chapter of The Atrocity Exhibition is titled “Crash!”, and in 1970 Ballard organised an exhibition of crashed cars at the New Arts Laboratory, simply called “Crashed Cars”. The crashed vehicles were displayed without commentary, inspiring vitriolic responses and vandalism. In both the story and the art exhibition, Ballard explored the sexual potential of car crashes, a preoccupation which culminated in the novel Crash in 1973.

The main character of Crash is called James Ballard and lives in Shepperton (though other biographical details do not match the writer), and curiosity about the relationship between the character and his author gained fuel when Ballard suffered a serious automobile accident shortly after completing the novel. Regardless of real-life basis, Crash, like The Atrocity Exhibition, was also controversial upon publication. In 1996, the film adaptation by David Cronenberg was met by a tabloid uproar in the UK.

Although Ballard published several novels and short-story collections throughout the seventies and eighties, his breakthrough into the mainstream came only with Empire of the Sun in 1984. It became a best-seller and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. It made Ballard known to a wider audience, although the books that followed failed to achieve the same degree of success. Ballard continued to write until the end of his life, and also contributed occasional journalism and criticism to the British press. Of his later novels, Super-Cannes (2000) was particularly well received. Ballard was offered a CBE in 2003, but refused, calling it “a Ruritanian charade that helps to prop up our top-heavy monarchy”.

Ballard was diagnosed with prostate cancer in June 2006, from which he died in London in April 2009. The last of his books published in his lifetime was the autobiography Miracles of Life, written after his diagnosis. His final published short story, “The Dying Fall”, appeared in the 1996 issue 106 of Interzone, a British sci-fi magazine. It was reproduced in The Guardian on 25 April 2009.

The literary distinctiveness of his work has given rise to the adjective “Ballardian”, defined by the Collins English Dictionary as “resembling or suggestive of the conditions described in J. G. Ballard’s novels and stories, especially dystopian modernity, bleak man-made landscapes and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments.”  In 2008, The Times included Ballard on its list of “The 50 greatest British Writers since 1945”.

Antiviral – Lucas Clinic Ad and Trailer

The latest Cronenberg movie to hark back to the early days of disease/body horror is called Antiviral. The movie tells of sick celebrities and their rabid fans who are determined to infect themselves with the diseases their idols are suffering from. The difference this time is that it isn’t David Cronenberg at the helm, but his son Brandon, who seems to share his father’s tastes… Disease-centric, Dubious Medical Facility, Obsession…

The Lucas clinic brings people closer to their favourite celebrities by infecting the fans with diseases of the rich and famous. Check out the Lucas Clinic Trailer:

The first trailer, below, is excellent, and unsettling in a way that fans of early David Cronenberg films should really love.

Deborah Harry

Deborah Ann “Debbie” Harry (born July 1, 1945) is an American singer-songwriter and actress, best known for being the lead singer of the new wave band Blondie. She has also had success as a solo artist, and in the mid-1990s she performed and recorded as part of The Jazz Passnegrs. Her acting career spans over thirty film roles and numerous television appearances.

Harry was born in Miami, Florida, and adopted by Catherine Harry and Richard Smith, gift shop proprietors in Hawthorne, New Jersey. She graduated from Centenary College in Hackettstown, New Jersey, with an Associate of Arts degree in 1965. Before starting her singing career she moved to New York City in the late 1960s and worked as a secretary at BBC Radio’s office there for one year. Later, she was a waitress at Max’s Kansas City, a go-go dancer in Union City, New Jersey, discothèque, and a Playboy Bunny.

After stints in a few bands, Harry guitarist Chris Stein formed Blondie in 1974. Blondie quickly became regulars at Max’s Kansas City and CBGB in New York City. After a debut album in 1976, commercial success followed in the late 1970s to the early 1980s, first in Australia and Europe, then in the United States.

Harry featured in The Blank Generation (1976), the earliest “home movie” of New York punk’s birth filmed by Amos Poe and Ivan Kral, legendary 1970s guitarist with Iggy Pop, Blondie and Patti Smith. She also appeared as herself in the film Roadie (1980). Then in 1983, Harry, who had already appeared in a number of independent and underground films, made her major motion picture debut in the David Cronenberg film Videodrome. 

Videodrome is a 1983 Canadian science-fiction, body horror film written and directed by David Cronenberg, starring James Woods, Sonja Smits and Deborah Harry, with exceptional effects by Rick Baker. Set in Toronto during the early 1980s, it follows the CEO of a small cable station who stumbles upon a broadcast signal featuring extreme violence and torture. The layers of deception and mind-control conspiracy unfold as he uncovers the signal’s source and loses touch with reality in a series of increasingly bizarre and violent organic hallucinations.

The film received generally positive reviews, with a rating of 80% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 40 reviews. It has been described as a “disturbing techno-surrealist film” and “burningly intense, chaotic, indelibly surreal, absolutely like nothing else”.

Harry took on a number of acting roles including the villainous Velma Von Tussle in John Water’s Hairspray (1988), an affluent suburban housewife and modern-day witch in Tales From the Darkside: The Movie (1990) and Body Bags (1993) by John Carpenter. She has also featured in numerous documentaries about the NY Punk scene, including the excellent End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones (2003), Mayor of the Sunset Strip (2003) and Too Tough to Die: A Tribute to Johnny Ramone (2006).