Saturday, May 8, 2010

Daniel Clowes! In Toronto!

Okay, so my girlfriend keeps telling me to write more movie reviews because it's been, what, four or five months? And I know all of my readers (that means you, guy who keeps leaving me porn links in my comments section) must be feverishly awaiting more sullen dismissals of cinematic magic; but too bad for you, because something even better happened yesterday. None other than legendary underground comic artist/writer Daniel Clowes was here in Toronto to launch his new book, Wilson.

If you don't already know, Daniel Clowes is the author of numerous comics including Ghost World (also co-writer of the Terry Zwigoff-directed film adaptation), Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron, Ice Haven, and David Boring (my favourite), all drawn from his Eightball comic series. The man is justly acclaimed as one of the pioneers of the underground comic movement and one of the greatest writers and artists in the industry. Along with Alan Moore's Watchmen, Ghost World really was the main thing that got me back into reading comics, something I'd neglected since my very early days of mild X-Men fanaticism. More than anything, Clowes' work introduced me to a new world of wry, witty, surreal stories that were a far cry from the superhero genre I had been familiar with. His stories are populated with outsiders, misfits and sociopaths; yeah, characters that I could identify with for a change. All this with a frankness and lack of pretentiousness that are difficult to find in most literature.

Apparently Mr. Clowes is rather publicity-shy, this having been one of his first public appearances in years (reportedly). Obviously I had to go, so I got tickets (free but limited) and Dom and I went down on Friday to catch his appearance. He spent more than 90 minutes talking candidly about his career in retrospect and answering questions from some National Post guy (yeah, I know... the Post, ugh. But the guy was ok.) Really interesting - I learned a few things I did not know about Clowes. For instance, he animated a Ramones video, worked for Cracked magazine (hahaha), had his art on a weird Coca-Cola spinoff called OK Soda along with fellow comic artist Charles Burns, and may or may not have been responsible for discovering Scarlett Johanssen, which I may add is a somewhat dubious feat, considering her post-Lost in Translation work. But anyway... OK Soda. Weird. Apparently they marketed it like, "oh, here's this soda, it's not great but it's okay, you can drink it if you want... or not. We don't really care." It's funny, even these big corporations were trying to capitalize on the whole underground movement in the nineties, and I didn't even realize that there was one. If only I hadn't been wasting my time with T.S. Eliott, the cryptic, overwrought fascist tit!

Anyway, I thought it was great. Not only that, but he also had a book signing afterward! I wanted to get my copy of David Boring signed, but unfortunately I lent it out to one of my buddies ages ago and I haven't seen it since. Luckily they had a table where they were selling some of his stuff and I was able to pickup Eightball #19 where the story debuted. He signed that and also my old copy of Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron. His wife was there too, and they were both really nice, although I really was rather nervous and didn't know what to say. What a dork! Anyway, it's not like I would have come up with something so great to say to him that he would remember it later and go, "wow, what a cool and smart guy that Sean was..." I was just happy to meet one of the artists whose body of work has occupied a part of my insular life for years. It's the first time I've ever had the chance.

I read Wilson while I was at work. Clowes said he was thinking of Charles Schultz while he wrote it, and I definitely feel that translated well to Wilson, which is both hilarious and sad - the sign of the best kind of comedy. Somehow, the book is oddly redemptive too. But Clowes noted during his talk that he doesn't feel that people really redeem themselves in the end - it's life that beats you down over time, and it forces a kind of resignation and redemption upon you regardless of your intentions. (I agree.)

So yeah, I know you don't read any shit about yourself on the internet or probably anywhere else, but thanks, Daniel!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Directed by Paul Solet

I missed Grace at the Toronto After Dark film festival, and have been looking forward to seeing it for quite a while. It was billed as more or less a zombie baby movie, but my early thoughts of a mother-daughter Basket Case-style romp were tempered by some rather sober reviews.

The story revolves around Madeline (Jordan Ladd), a pregnant woman whose unborn child dies after a car accident. She decides to bring the child to term nonetheless, with the help of her midwife, Patricia (Samantha Ferris). The stillborn child mysteriously revives, but it isn't normal - or at least, I've never heard of any babies who require human blood to live. Madeline's husband dies in the accident, but her intrusive mother-in-law Vivian (Gabrielle Rose, I remember her from an episode of Battlestar Galactica!) still tries to pry into her life with the kid (Grace is her name), creepily hoping to replace her dead son by taking custody of Grace.

Grace is impeccably directed, a stylistic tour de force. Solet's tendency toward restraint and understatement create a singularly discomfitting experience for the viewer. Backed by a spare, chilling musical score, the camera jumps from bizarre perspectives to uncomfortably intimate close-ups, but the overall tone is one of cool detachment. Solet is very successful at making Grace an extremely nuanced film; aside from the unsavoury nature of Grace's appetite and of Madeline's unquestioning loyalty and love for her, all of the other characters in the film have similarly unsettling obsessions. Solet's restraint renders many of these unhealthy yens implicit; yet they are disturbing all the same.

The acting is similarly understated, but on the whole quite good. Ladd masterfully portrays Madeline's resigned helplessness in the face of her situation. Rose also gives a solid performance, cold and brittle, and yet quietly desperate for her lost bond with her dead son.

It's hard to imagine how Grace could have been improved upon. However, while technically superb, the film is difficult to watch and not very entertaining. On the whole it's a dour and humourless affair. Not that one would expect a lot of laughs, considering the subject material, but I am reminded of the excellent Norwegian vampire film Let the Right One In, which explored a bloodthirsty child and her caretaker with a wry sense of humour. Grace is more interested in creating an unpleasant feeling in the stomach. While nothing outright scary happens, the whole movie is creepy and uncomfortable, and not in a good way. I can't say I would be interested in seeing it a second time... ever.

Although I enjoy challenging material, I still think that the goal of the cinema is ultimately to entertain. Grace wasn't bad, but it certainly fails in that respect. Then again, I also detest babies, so I wonder why I even bothered to watch it in the first place.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

500 Days of Summer

500 Days of Summer
Directed by Marc Webb

I certainly wanted to like this movie. I was sold on the solid leading duo of rising star Joseph Gordon-Levitt and hipster wet dream Zooey Deschanel. I also found the idea of an anti-rom-com marketed towards the indie crowd to be appealing. But I had my doubts, and these are frequently the harbinger of disappointment.

"This is not a love story," goes the warning at the very start of the film, following shortly thereafter with the breaking up of Tom and Summer (JGL and Deschanel) over pancakes. The story picks up again at the beginning of Tom's infatuation with Summer, when she arrives as a new employee at the greeting card company he works at. From this point on, the movie jumps to various moments throughout their relationship (500 days, get it?) and you could be forgiven for forgetting the whole "not a love story" thing... for a while.

The thing is, Tom is a sappy guy with delusions of true love and destiny; but Summer is aloof and non-committal. She tells him up front that she's not looking for anything serious - and proceeds to sleep with him. Mixed signals much? But Tom allows himself to believe that Summer is "the one" and starts pressuring her to define their relationship. See, all his life he's been fed notions of love through movies, music, and literature; hell, his job as a greeting card writer requires him to perpetuate this pleasant but nebulous sentiment. (In perhaps the best moment in the movie, Tom gives us a bitter, but illuminating, rant on the perpetuation of bullshit as regards the neat packaging of love and sentimentality in society.)

So far, so good. I thought Gordon-Levitt was quite good, and I thought it was a nice change to see a male character with notions of true love. Deschanel, on the other hand... Well, I always liked her, but I'm definitely thinking she's a one-trick pony. Cute and quirky are nice, but it seems to be all this girl does; she's always the same. I tend to wonder if she's just being herself rather than acting. But my main problem was with how her character was written. Summer is just not a believable person. It seems like they took a poll of indie guys and scenesters to find out what their dream girl would be like, and then they just combined the results into some sort of mythical creature. Not that Summer is perfect; on the contrary, she's quite neurotic and emotionally distant. But on the whole, the character never really comes to life because she seems artificial.

Another problem is that 500 Days of Summer really milks the indie cred. I think that the inclusion of Deschanel would have been enough, but the writers and director definitely seemed to be hell-bent on making every hipster reference possible. At one point Tom sings along with a karaoke version of "Here Comes Your Man" by the Pixies. (Does it strike anybody as odd that they would have this song, but not Springsteen's "Born to Run"?) Tom and Summer goof around in an Ikea. Tom sports a Joy Division tee. Both share an enduring love of the Smiths. On the one hand, it's sort of nice for once to see a movie with which I share the same cultural reference points. On the other hand, it does come across as phony and pandering. And I have to wonder, if this movie was specifically marketed to somebody like me, and I wasn't sold on it... what would the average person think? Would it seem charmingly obtuse? Exciting and mysterious? I have no idea.

It's too bad about the level of artifice on display, because the movie is well-directed otherwise. A number of different styles keep the film feeling loose and fun. There are some funny fantasy sequences like a song-and-dance number, a black-and-white Bergman tribute, and some hilariously contrasting montages. The supporting cast is apt but unintrusive. My girlfriend thought I was insane when I got all excited about Matthew Gray Gubler making an appearance as Tom's buddy Paul; I'm used to seeing him as nerdy Dr. Spencer Reid from "Criminal Minds." He definitely looks weird in a polo shirt. Stick to the suit and tie, Gubler! Tom's advice-dispensing, 10-year-old sister was a totally ridiculous and unnecessary addition to the story.

In the end, I didn't think 500 Days of Summer was all that bad. I certainly think I liked it better than Dom, who was quite unimpressed (but who now thinks more highly of Gordon-Levitt at least.) I agree with her criticism that Tom should have seen the break-up coming because Summer was clear on not wanting a serious relationship right from the start, and that it shouldn't have taken three quarters of the movie for him to realize it. However, I think the point was that he was able to delude himself into thinking that Summer was the one in spite of all evidence to the contrary. He allowed his ideals and misconceptions to overtake his real life and wound up disappointed. You have to come around to the idea that, in spite of his charm and earnestness, Tom was being a dick, not Summer. Blinded by his obsession, he failed to realize that while Summer seemed to be the right one for him, he was not the right one for her.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Best of the Rest

Hello to all my readers out there (yeah, just you, Dom.) Apologies for the lack of reviews as of late. Thought I'd get right back into it in style with Street Trash, a really classy, upstanding film full of warmth and adventure.

What have I been up to in the mean time? Why, obsessively buying new music, reading, and even watching some TV. So it's time for:

The Best of the Rest Music Edition

1) Final Fantasy (now Owen Pallett due to copyright laws) - Heartland:
Like all of Pallett's other work as Final Fantasy, Heartland is awesome and totally unique. Please go out and buy this masterpiece unless you're some sort of jerk who thinks violins are gay. I always say that the Constantines are Toronto's best band, but that's just because Final Fantasy is a one-man show (well, until recently.) Filled with gorgeous orchestration, vocal melodies that creep up on you with successive listens, and sometimes obtuse lyrics following a violent farmer in a mythical world who sets out to unseat his own maker, it still manages to sound immediate and un-pretentious. Also, "E is for Estranged" is imo Pallett's best song to date, and if I weren't sociopathic, I would probably describe it as heartbreaking. Heartland follows up the excellent Spectrum EP. A real stunner.

2) M.I.A.:
So I think Arular is totally underrated because everybody keeps going apeshit over "Paper Planes" and the rest of the Kala album. But you know what? Kala is awesome anyway. I like it because it feels like having a party, but you don't have to invite anybody. I used to hate anything international-sounding, but you know, I could get into it. Shout-outs to Sri Lanka, Africa, shit, even to her loyal following of indie-rock crossover fans like myself (the chorus to Pixies classic "Where is my mind" adapted into a club track, fuck yeah!)

3) Coheed & Cambria - The Second Stage Turbine Blade & In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth 3 Imagine Rush were an emo band, and they decided to make a four-album emo-prog-rock-metal space opera. Imagine the story is a ludicrous mess involving filicide, planetary destruction, and cyborgs harboring a universe-threatening virus, and villains with such names as Mayo Deftinwolf. Add in a healthy dose of adolescent angst. Now, imagine that you are not a 13-year-old girl with black nail-polish who actually takes this music seriously. To normal peole this seems like a recipe for crap, but for a nerd like me it is the musical equivalent of The Labyrinth - an embarrassing and ridiculous yet enjoyable and hook-laden affair. The only difference is that everybody loves The Labyrinth because it features David Bowie and it's from the 80's. If we can all accommodate Ewoks in Return of the Jedi and still rate that among sci-fi's greatest, I'm sure there is room in some people's hearts for these dudes, lacking in integrity though they may be; although we can probably ignore their recent crap.

4) Mountain Goats:
Anything by John Darnielle is great. His old tape-recorded shit where he furiously strums at his acoustic guitar and sings about peanuts and baseball and bitterness is great. He's great when he turns out piano ballads about vague religious epiphanies. He's great when he does moody songs about killing yourself. He's great when he does metal songs about H.P. Lovecraft. He's great when he writes lengthy and feverish liner notes about veganism or angry shout-outs to departed friends. He's great when he names his albums after places like Sweden and Ghana and the album art is just a Swedish flag or an outline of Ghana. He's great when he rhymes "sentimental" with "Lincoln Continental." He's great when he writes a song about the Picts, but then changes to "The Anglo-Saxons" because it sounds better, regardless of historical accuracy. He's great even though so many of his songs sound the same; his songs, full of places to go, outsiders on the run, loves left behind in vague apartments, people driving themselves into ruin, insurance fraudsters, drunken Marduk fans; exiled, paranoid, proud, unapologetic and alive. Great man, no longer underrated. Wields his acoustic guitar like the saviour of all music.

5) Beat Happening - You Turn Me On
I never listened to their earlier stuff, but this sounds more or less like a perfect album to me. That effortless-sounding casual quality, cute and beautiful mellow tunes that sneak into your head until you can't get them out, stomping child-like bangers about witches and burning buildings, overall oddly resonant. I'd call it a lost classic since I never hear anybody mentioning it; definitely one of the best of the 90's.

6) The Silver Jews:
So I hear Pavement are reuniting. Olympic Island, though? Man, I hate these outdoor music festivals. Plus, on the island? That sucks, man. I hate taking the stupid ferry, waiting in line, sitting around on the grass with the crappy acoustics, a bunch of dopes sitting around smoking ganja, some bohemian twat dancing freakishly with her arms flailing wildly in the air... can I afford to miss the biggest reunion tour since the Pixies, which I also missed? Probably. And you know what? Pavement may be one of the best 90's bands, but The Silver Jews are better. There, I said it. Not that any of you readers could care less, but David Berman's weirdo honky-tonk Americana is both odder and more witty than Stephen Malkmus' best material with Pavement. Sorry Steve, I still love your shit, man, but hey... About time somebody gave the Jews their due. Lyrically obtuse, but they start to make sense the more you listen to 'em. Other than Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, what 90's album could rival the Jews' American Water? It just takes a while to sink in, is all. Making the familiar strange again.


Lastly, Lou Barlow, if you are out there, my girlfriend and I saw you at the Dinosaur Jr. show at the Phoenix in Toronto (Jan 21 2010) and she was very impressed and mesmerized by your hair.

Street Trash

Street Trash
Directed by J. Michael Munro

So. You know how I have an enduring love for crappy horror flicks made in bad taste with low budgets? This fucker just set the bar lower. Like, a lot lower. Hell, I don't even really know where to begin!
Street Trash is fairly infamous, and with good reason. I don't know what the shit they were thinking when they made it, but I can only guess that Munro and crew got together and decided to make the most vile and unrespectable movie in history. Now, I haven't seen any of John Waters' early work yet, but I think they certainly more or less achieved their goal.

Street Trash. Street Trash.... where to begin? It boggles the mind. The story loosely revolves around a liquor store owner who sells bottles of decades-old wine to a bunch of bums for one dollar a pop. But this wine is seriously fucked up, because if you drink it, you melt - you melt into piles of abstract expressionist dayglo crud that burn like Aliens blood. The cast of characters is mainly the sorriest bunch of filthy and sociopathic bums ever assembled, rounded out by sleazy mobsters, psychotic cops, lecherous junkyard owners, and headed by a demented vietnam war vet who looks like Zach Galifianakis if he just emerged from a septic tank. Evil Galifianakis (fine, his name is Bronson in the movie) rules over a sorry lot of hobos living in an automotive junkyard. Bronson is so fried from his tour of duty in Nam that he carries around a knife carved out of a human femur.

The narrative is a total mess. It's more of an amalgamation of variously funny and/or surprisingly disturbing set pieces. The humour frequently falls flat either due to poor acting or worse writing. However, my buddy Corey and I are connoiseurs of poor taste, so we found more than enough to amuse us. Frankly, I don't know a single person other than Corey that would want to watch Street Trash, so I couldn't really recommend it to a normal individual. It crosses so many boundaries that I don't know what the fuck... It's racist, misogynistic, there's a scene where all the bums play catch with a severed penis, there's a scene which implies the gang rape of a drunk bimbo by a mob of homeless guys followed by (implied) necrophilia with same bimbo after her body washes up on shore (going rather too far for even our depraved sensibilities), there's a crapload of people melting and exploding, a cop beating a guy to death and then vomitting on his corpse... look, I don't think I really need to go on. Anyway, that's the worst of it.

I guess I really had no idea what I was getting into here. The thing is, the whole movie is so knowingly ridiculous and over-the-top, it's impossible to seriously allege that it is actually racist or misogynistic or anything else for that matter. But Street Trash is so relentlessly lowbrow that it actually ventures into twisted surrealism at times. Nowhere is this more evident than Bronson's messed up and jarringly serious Vietnam flashbacks. The film could not in any way be called political, but these scenes, the dismal urban landscapes, and the overwhelming nihilism on display certainly give what would otherwise be goofy horror schlock a dark and sometimes sinister atmosphere. In fact, it's somewhat puzzling. You almost think that there's some evil intent beneath the surface of Street Trash - it's just that, nobody would ever give it enough credit to search for it.

My favourite movies are more along the lines of Solaris, Lawrence of Arabia, and The Third Man. In this lofty company, Street Trash can only look like what it is - an amateurish, sordid affair; but it's certainly a true original. In any case, I couldn't recommend it to anybody other than trash culture junkies.

A well-earned 3.7

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Directed by Guillermo del Toro

This is the first feature film of Mexican director Guillermo del Toro's so-far uneven career. On the one hand, he directed the superb dark fantasy/historical drama Pan's Labyrinth, and I heard that the similarly-themed The Devil's Backbone was also quite good. On the other, he was responsible for the terrible Hellboy II: The Golden Army (don't believe the hype, people, it was a complete travesty) and its middling predecessor, as well as such mediocre fare as Mimic and Blade II. A special-effects whiz and so-called "visionary" filmmaker, del Toro has scored a ton of fans with his unique brand of fantastical faeries and beasts, and some creepier fare as well. But personally, I feel that the content of his films struggles to keep up with their visual inventiveness. I think that being pegged as a visionary has set up the expectation that he will continue to wow audiences with special effects, but the brilliance of Pan's Labyrinth suggests that he can do so much better than, say, completely burying the beloved Hellboy comic series beneath a goofy storyline whose sole purpose is to serve as a vehicle for a series of goofy goblins, ogres, elementals and faeries of his own devising. I mean, he didn't even make any attempt whatsoever to stay true even to the basic tone and style of Hellboy!

But this isn't a review of Hellboy. On to Cronos. What can I say about this one? I'll start by noting that I was rather disappointed. I was expecting a dark horror fantasy, but Cronos is just plain silly. Sure, it starts off well, with an aging antiques dealer named Jesus Gris coming across an ancient device that grants immortality to its posessor. The only thing is, it turns you into a vampire, more or less. Not at first, to be sure. The story is typically Faustian; the Cronos device begins by making Jesus feel younger and more vigorous. He quickly becomes reliant upon the device. It's an old story and its been told better elsewhere. His young daughter tries to stop him from using the device, but it's too late. The other plotline involves a rich but terminally ill, crusty old bastard, a cartoonish Claudio Brook as De la Guardia. For obvious reasons he wants the Cronos device for himself, and he elects his thuggish, plastic-surgery-obsessed nephew Angel to "acquire" it from Mr. Gris. Ron Perlman is bafflingly cast as Angel. His performance is atypically ridiculous - I really don't know what to make of it. At one point, he even affects the old evil "muwahahahahaha!!!" laugh; I have no idea if it's supposed to be a parody or not. Every scene with him in it is rendered absurd by his cheesy performance. I don't say this lightly because I normally like Ron Perlman!

For what appears to be a horror film, Cronos is damnably slow. It plays out more like an amateurish moral allegory. The story is boring and frequently ludicrous. Really, the only interesting thing going on is del Toro's visual flair, on display even at this early stage in his career. The Cronos device itself looks pretty cool, especially shots of the various mechanical goings-on inside. There's also a pretty amusing scene where Jesus rises from the grave. Makeup effects are decent if not amazing. Basically, you can see the groundwork that would eventually lead to much better and more entertaining movies.

Even if you're a del Toro fan, damn you, I wouldn't really recommend Cronos. It's not awful, but it's terribly blase. All I have to say to you, Mr. del Toro, is you had better not fuck with The Hobbit! I'm watching you!! It does not need any "improvements" from you. If I see a single creature that you made up yourself, I'm going to hunt you down, man! Am I allowed to say that? I'm not really going to hunt you down, Guillermo... just... cool your jets. I know you can't help yourself. You're thinking, "oh come on... Tolkien wouldn't mind if I insert just one no-face monster with eyes where they're not supposed to be..." But no, just no. Don't do it. People are gonne be really angry. They're going to give you the Evil Eye and you're gonna have to burn a weirdo special rock on your stove all the time to ward off the bad vibes. Okay, okay, I'm done.


NOTE: Cronos bears no relation whatsoever to the detail of Francisco Goya's similarly-titled painting, above; but it's way cooler than anything you're going to see in the movie.

The Brood

The Brood
Directed by David Cronenberg

David Cronenberg is one of Canada's few auteurs. With a solid output of creepy and very unconventional horror, sci-fi, and dramas, Cronenberg should really be more popular than he is. I guess he just sort of falls somewhere in between conventional genre fans and a rather squeamish mainstream audience that can't seem to warm up to his work.

The Brood is a flawed but mostly excellent thinking man's psychological horror film. Reading the description on the back of the box, you might think you know what to expect from it, but that's not really the case. This was one of Cronenberg's earliest films, obviously he was working on a smaller budget than later classics like The Fly. Otherwise, many of his hallmarks are here - a sharp, intelligent script, creepy and sometimes repulsive special effects, visceral scenes of violence. The only thing that mars the movie is somewhat limited acting performances; Cronenberg is usually able to draw the best out of his cast (Jeff Goldblum at his insane best in The Fly, Jeremy Irons' creepy, layered performance as twin gynecologists in Dead Ringers), but there is a lack of depth in the cast of The Brood.

The Brood is probably the closest Cronenberg got to directing a straight horror flick, with a deceptively simple plot. Dr. Hal Raglan (a glowering Oliver Reed) is a pioneer in the field of "psychoplasmics," a parapsychotherapeutic method involving drawing out patients' anger in metaphysical manifestations. He would seem like a quack except that what seems metaphysical actually turns out to be rather more physical. Manifesting itself as cancerous growth and skin affliction in some patients, psychoplasmics definitely redefines expressing one's inner rage. One of Dr. Raglan's patients is the disturbed Nola Carveth, unfortunately over-played by Samantha Eggar. When things start happening to people related to her, her separated husband Frank starts to investigate further, in the interest of protecting their daughter Candice - unexplained bruises start to appear on her, but Frank thinks it has something to do with his crazy-as-a-loon wife.
Cronenberg launches into a series of grisly and bizarro murders, perpetrated by... well, I won't ruin any surprises, I'll just say that they're creepy. Things just get weird from this point on. It's like he took a standard slasher concept and set it slightly askew. As Frank delves into psychoplasmics, he finds more pronounced versions of the manifestations of anger and self-loathing in the patients he meets. The film has a sort of minimalist production which fits the overall mood, but it carries over into Art Hindle's performance as Frank. He seems improbably credulous of the many shocking developments, including the brutal killings of relatives, police investigations, freaky creatures, injury to his daughter. In his situation, I would be flipping out. Still, considering most horror movie acting in the seventies, I guess I can't really complain much. These lapses were somewhat lessened by a few excellent performances from the supporting cast. Gary McKeehan is good as disturbed patient Mike Trellan, and Robert Silverman is just great as the wry and off-kilter Jan Hartog.

More unsettling than outright scary, you'll still probably jump more than once during The Brood. It can be easily appreciated as a straight horror film, but the themes it explores venture into the allegorical as well. This is probably the best thing about Cronenberg's work; uncompromising intelligence along with excellent special effects and engaging stories. Plus the odd scene or two that might make you want to hurl. He has been able to bring legitimacy to the horror genre like no other filmmaker I can think of. Hopefully the success of Eastern Promises and the superb A History of Violence prompts moviegoers to explore his sorely underrated earlier work.