OOM #14 – Dead Ringers (1988)

Hello everyone, once again we are here with the horrors of the film world, the dreadful oozing and dripping places in which the most disgusting creatures lurk. It’s almost halfway through the month of October and we have amazing movies that we’ve already covered and impressive movies, I guess, yet to see! Let’s watch what horrors today’s film holds for us. Woo!

James Rolfe’s Cinemassacre’s Monster Madness film of the day is the watchable classic kaiju ‘Sora no daikaijû Radon’ (1956), translated to Rodan in the United States, the film about the flying dinosaur that attacks Japan. I recently watched this movie as part of a personal and private project that I can’t wait to talk to you about, but in the meantime, I can say that I didn’t review it (I still have to do it), but I did write some thoughts on it when I watched it, you can read those thoughts below:

This is more atmosphere and humans than actually the presence of Rodan itself, and in a way it reminded me of the new Godzilla movie, except that this one is practically almost an hour and a half less long and less beautiful in a way. The special effects here are amazing though, the worms and creatures, the eggs and Rodan himself are among the best stuff from the flying creatures genre that you’d ever find. I think that it all comes down to one of two things: 1. It doesn’t feature any destruction between monsters, nor real destruction to real places from the monsters themselves; 2. It doesn’t have a metaphor or emotional undercurrent except the one of the man with amnesia, that doesn’t have enough weight to the final tale, except to identify Rodan as a Rodan. Still, fun.

I ended up rating it a 7 out of 10, a watchable kaiju effort that manages to be fun at many times. You can watch James’s video here.  So, since I’ve already seen this Japanese film, I need a new film to watch, and since yesterday’s film was ‘They Live’ (1988), and the list that I have with horror films that I need to watch has two more films from 1988 in it, and the first one was this particularly interesting film by David Cronenberg. Let’s see what horrors, or bodily horrors, this movie awaits. Care to join me?

Well, one thing is for sure, most people wouldn’t really call this a horror film, and hey more people would even contest its inclusion in this month of October Overlook Madness, even that it doesn’t deserve to be among these pictures, specially since this is so well regarded by many critics as a major work from a master director, like Cronenberg apparently is, to them. Now, I’m not someone important to even consider myself an influential or even correct critic, but I think that maybe it really does and doesn’t belong in this list, just as much as yesterday’s film was just in the fence between being and action movie, a sci-fi film and… where are even the horror elements? Well, there was the whole thing about dread and the ‘ugly motherfuckers’, but was there real horror? Here, there are some scenes that depict that horror that we’ve come to know, love and at the same time admire.

David Cronenberg always managed to make films that are not difficult to comprehend, but difficult to be successful, yet he has managed that with films that are inherently and always adult. They are films made with the mindset of an adult person and are aimed at them, filmed with their problems and their stories in the front, with elements of weird horror and sometimes blood and splatter, but his themes are always related to problems and tribulations of people who are inserted in the world of adulthood: having a kid, a career, having a job, death and life together, having sex, having an affair, having sex with weird fetishes because there’s nothing else that can turn you on anymore… Stuff that adult people do, you know, not me, I’m just 24 years old. And ‘Dead Ringers’ (1988) is no exception, and it might also be the most adult film of Cronenberg that I’ve seen so far.

It starts with the infancy and then the university years of the Mantle Twins, who are our protagonists, two brothers who end up studying the same, graduating as gynecologists and practicing their science in a high society ambient, with important clients and the urge to be the best of the field. They become involved with some of their patients, at the same time as they play a constant game of confusion, interchanging their identities, one becoming the other, and while they are undistinguished from each other (superbly played by Jeremy Irons) they do have some personalities that can tell them apart, but finally the whole movie becomes a study of how people can invade one another, how the act of the doctor of invading the other people’s bodies can become an unnatural act, and thus anyone involved in medicine can become some sort of pervert or even an evil being, just because it has that kind of influence over somebody else, and thus this film, while based in a real history, becomes a crazy scientist movie.

Cronenberg embellishes everything in this movie, from the most horrendous elements to the most beautiful, when the film advances it becomes better (it does have a slow start, very heavy on adult themes), as the madness of the twins becomes apparent, and thus the visual flairs that David knows that make him the most important body horror director, show up, like with the gynecological instruments that one of the twins has to make made to an artist because no one else will, and it is in those implements that remind you more of Giger’s inventions and designs, that we can see how the deranged and the mind of Cronenberg has taken over the plot and what the rest of the film can become. That’s why this film is better than later Cronenbergs, because this film doesn’t shy away from the weirdness that is ingrained in his cinema, he doesn’t narrow it down, he just makes it appear from nowhere, and it doesn’t need an explanation: it’s Cronenberg, deal with it.

9/10

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