They Came From Within:
Cronenberg's 1977 follow-up, Rabid, followed closely in Shivers' footsteps. It's more of a zombie movie than a Body Snatchers-styled invasion, but once again, the director instills his fascination with contagions, sex and bodies gone awry. In this case, the sexual imagery comes from porn star Marilyn Chambers, who stars as Rose, a woman who develops a seemingly vaginal opening in her armpit from which protrudes a phallus that she uses to feed on the blood of her victims. Her inherent sexuality attracts victims, who don't die, but rather turn into rabid, flesh-eating zombies.
Building off the success of his first two films in both Canada and the US, Cronenberg enjoyed increasing budgets for his next three Canadian horror efforts. And of course, he continued his body horror motif throughout all of them. The first, 1979's The Brood, which involves humans learning to manifest their emotions into physical transformations, including a brood of demonic children birthed out of one woman's emotional pain.
Scanners (1981) seems downright normal by comparison, revolving around a group of telekinetic and telepathic people who can -- sometimes to their dismay -- read minds and inflict damage on people through the power of thought (see the infamous exploding head scene). Videodrome (1983) then returned to more abstract concept with the story of a television signal that causes tumors to grow in viewers' bodies, generating hallucinations of body morphing that eventually become reality.
For his next Hollywood effort, though, he found a story that fell squarely into his body horror realm: the Vincent Price classic The Fly. In retelling the tale of a scientist who inadvertently splices his genes with that of a housefly, Cronenberg focuses on the gradual, grisly metamorphosis -- thanks to Oscar-winning makeup -- that Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) undergoes as he loses his humanity and becomes increasingly insect-like.
Since The Fly, Cronenberg has focused his directorial efforts on less body-conscious (and more psychological) thrillers that have only tangential horror elements -- such as Dead Ringers (1988), eXistenZ (1999) and Spider (2002). His participation in outright horror since the '90s has actually come from acting in films like Jason X and Clive Barker's Nightbreed. Still, even if he never directs another horror movie, Cronenberg's place in history as a horror innovator and auteur is set in stone.
Select Horror Filmography:
- Jason X (2001) [Actor]
- Resurrection (1999) [Actor]
- eXistenZ (1999)
- Extreme Measures (1996) [Actor]
- Blood & Donuts (1995) [Actor]
- Nightbreed (1990) [Actor]
- Dead Ringers (1988)
- Friday the 13th: The Series: "Faith Healer" (1988) TV episode
- The Fly (1986)
- The Dead Zone (1983)
- Videodrome (1983)
- Scanners (1981)
- The Brood (1979)
- Rabid (1977)
- Shivers (1975)