Crimes of the Future Drama

Review: ‘Crimes of the Future’ Embraces Both the Best and Worst of David Cronenberg’s Past Works

May 30, 2022Ben MK

The term body horror encompasses everything from the schlock appeal of The Human Centipede to the art house cinema of Under the Skin. But for David Cronenberg, who helped shape the genre into what it is today, body horror has always been a means of exploring the intersection between the corporeal and the psychological. And with the intriguingly titled Crimes of the Future, the man behind such sci-fi-themed tales of terror as Videodrome, The Fly and Existenz is once again returning to familiar themes, as he brings to the screen a new vision that promises to provoke, disturb and arouse.

Set in a dystopian society where the very concept of physical pain has all but been eradicated, the film follows Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen), a man suffering from a unique medical condition known as Accelerated Evolution Syndrome. Faced with the frightening and uncertain prospect of new organs continuously developing inside his body, Saul and his partner, Caprice (Léa Seydoux), have been removing them on a regular basis and turning the act of doing so into performance art, a strategy that has elevated them to celebrity status among their peers, who take pleasure in mutilating their bodies. However, when a shadowy cult intent on taking humanity down a dangerous and controversial new path arises, Saul and Caprice find themselves offered the opportunity to take their art to a whole new level — by conducting a public autopsy that might shed light on the future of our species.

It's a stunt that attracts the attention of Timlin (Kristen Stewart) and Wippet (Don McKellar) at the National Organ Registry, as well as that of an agent (Welket Bungué) from a special law enforcement division called New Vice. But what could the cult's reclusive leader — a man named Lang Daughtery (Scott Speedman), who has perfected a surgical procedure that allows him and his followers to digest synthetic food that would otherwise prove toxic to humans — hope to gain from such a public display? And why has he chosen Saul in particular to be the medium through which to convey his message? As Saul discovers, he may have more in common with Lang than he ever anticipated. But is he ready for what the revelation will spell for the next phase of human evolution?

Needless to say, it's subject matter that won't suit everyone's tastes. In fact, there's a good chance that many viewers will find the movie's content downright revolting, especially when it comes to graphic scenes that revel in their grotesquely mesmerizing depictions of bodies being sliced open, orifices being stitched shut, and alien-like machinery penetrating the flesh. For those who happen to be on the same wavelength as Cronenberg, though, Crimes of the Future almost feels like the 79-year-old filmmaker paying homage to his past works, channeling his most acclaimed masterpieces, while also committing the same missteps as his lowest ranked films.

The result is a movie that's eager to indulge in the visceral aspects of Cronenberg's most bizarre, escapist fantasies, but which is purely superficial when it comes to examining our preoccupation with body image, plastic surgery and genetic modification. Make no mistake, hardcore body horror fans will be nothing short of elated by Crimes of the Future's unmitigated commitment to grossing out audiences. But for those in search of something more meaningful, the real crime is the lack of genuine substance lurking beneath all that sinister style.

Crimes of the Future releases June 3rd, 2022 from Sphere Films. The film has an MPAA rating of R for strong disturbing violent content and grisly images, graphic nudity and some language. Its runtime is 1 hr. 47 min.

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