By Scott Cole
The master of body horror is back. After sitting for weeks with the provocative but typically enigmatic teaser trailer for writer/director David Cronenberg’s upcoming feature Crimes of the Future, the official full-length trailer has just dropped Friday, and it promises a wild ride from the love-him-or-hate-him Canadian filmmaker. This new trailer reveals more of what Cronenberg is up to this time, and it seems he is returning to his sci-fi/thriller roots of the 70s, 80s, and 90s while still exploring the integral themes that have permeated much of his work throughout those decades: what it means to be a human being and how unusual or unhealthy relationships to sex can shape that humanity.
With this new trailer, we see that the film takes place in a dangerous futuristic world where pain seems to no longer be a common experience for humans. “We’ve all felt that the body was empty. Empty of meaning. And we’ve wanted to confirm that so that we could fill it with meaning,” we hear a character played by the wonderful French actress Léa Seydoux explain in voiceover. In fact we see her character “digging around” in the abdomen of another character – presumably our lead – played by Viggo Mortensen, reuniting with Cronenberg after their fantastic collaborations in 2005’s A History of Violence, 2007’s Eastern Promises, and 2011’s A Dangerous Method.
About halfway through the new trailer, which is just shy of 2 minutes, we find Kristen Stewart asking Mortensen, “Is surgery the new sex?” This obviously calls back to memories of Cronenberg’s 1996 film Crash, which explored characters who were sexually aroused by car crashes. Cronenberg, who has never shyed away from taking a risk, often will take the difficult position of examining sexual behaviors by removing the element of eroticism. Crash was met with resistance after claiming the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1996, but its reputation and appreciation has grown significantly throughout the years (including a recent induction into The Criterion Collection). Similarly, Crimes of the Future will appear in competition at Cannes in 2022.
Interestingly, Crimes of the Future is also the title of a similarly futuristic small independent film that Cronenberg wrote, produced, and directed in 1970. This new 2022 film is an entirely new effort with no connection to the earlier film. In fact, 2022’s Crimes of the Future is a version of a story that Cronenberg has been trying to get off the ground since the early 2000s (an earlier and very different draft of the screenplay very nearly produced with the title Painkillers). In the years since 1970, Cronenberg made a name for himself with intriguing films that often featured an element of body horror. For those new to Cronenberg looking for a taste of what to expect from Crimes, check out 1983’s Videodrome, 1986’s The Fly, or one of my personal favorites, 1999’s eXistenZ.
The second half of the trailer is where the editing ramps up with quicker, more disturbing images, and the small morsels of plot threads we are given become harder and harder to follow. But this is all part of the fun, and it honestly feels nice to watch a trailer nowadays and not feel like you’ve seen the entire movie. As a lifelong Cronenberg fan who has been anxiously waiting since his last film in 2014 (Maps to the Stars), I personally cannot wait for his new effort and return to both his philosophical and gut-churning roots.
Crimes of the Future will be released in theaters on June 3, 2022.