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David Cronenberg returns to sci-fi body horror with Crimes of the Future trailer

Prepare to be made very uncomfortable

Oli Welsh is senior editor, U.K., providing news, analysis, and criticism of film, TV, and games. He has been covering the business & culture of video games for two decades.

It always sounded as if David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future would be a return to the veteran director’s preoccupation with body horror, transhumanism, and weird, organic sci-fi — and the film’s first trailer proves this very much to be the case.

Featuring strange, fleshy technologies, body parts sewn shut or relocated to unfamiliar places, and scenes that confuse sex with surgery — as well as what appears to be a shot of someone eating a waste paper basket — Crimes of the Future is very recognizable as the work of the man who made such unsettling explorations of the human-machine interface as Videodrome, The Fly, Dead Ringers, Crash, and Existenz in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s.

Crimes of the Future, which will be released in theaters in June, reunites Cronenberg with Viggo Mortensen, star of his much more grounded (but also excellent) 2000s crime thrillers A History of Violence and Eastern Promises. Mortensen plays a near-future performance artist who “publicly showcases the metamorphosis of his organs,” assisted by his partner (Léa Seydoux). Kristen Stewart plays an investigator from the National Organ Registry who looks into the couple, and uncovers a plan to use their fame to shed light on the next phase of human evolution. (You can get a very slightly better sense of this plot from the French version of the trailer below.)

In a statement, Cronenberg said, “Crimes of the Future is a meditation on human evolution. Specifically — the ways in which we have had to take control of the process because we have created such powerful environments that did not exist previously. [...] At this critical junction in human history, one wonders — can the human body evolve to solve problems we have created? Can the human body evolve a process to digest plastics and artificial materials not only as part of a solution to the climate crisis, but also, to grow, thrive, and survive?”

Crimes of the Future comes after a fairly long hiatus for the 79-year-old Cronenberg, whose last film was 2014’s Maps to the Stars. In 2020, his son Brandon Cronenberg released Possessor, a horror film that seemed strongly influenced by the elder Cronenberg’s work.

It was also revealed that Crimes of the Future will premiere at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in May in the main competition. The winner of last year’s top prize at Cannes, Titane, also owed a clear debt to Cronenberg, so it seems the Canadian elder statesman of horror is making his comeback at a time when his twisted visions are in fashion.

Also premiering at Cannes will be Top Gun: Maverick; Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis biopic; a new crime thriller from Oldboy director Park Chan-wook; a French remake of the cult Japanese zombie film One Cut of the Dead; a new film by Mad Max director George Miller; the directorial debut of Squid Game star Lee Jung-jae, and much more. Looks like a great festival.

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