Canadian film

Dead Ringers

dead_ringersLong before the Winklevoss twins unfriended Mark Zuckerberg, David Cronenberg introduced us to these scheming monozygotes —  the gynegologist duo Bev/Elliot in Dead Ringers.

We’re all fascinated by twins, whether it’s the charming movie of the same name with Messrs De Vito and Schwarzenegger or the ditsy Vegas girls from The Bachelor.

According to a study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, in 2006, the rate of twin pregnancies in the United States was 32 per 1000 births. It’s rare and it’s genetic, but it’s their use in nature/nurture studies that probably piqued Cronenberg’s interest, what with his background in the biological sciences.

Like Cronenberg’s early horrors, Dead Ringers is a mutant movie, in this case, “mutant women” treated by a team of twin brother gynecologists, the Doctors Mantle, who operate out of a high-tech Toronto clinic where their surgical team dress like Spanish Inquisitors in showy red robes.

And only someone like David Cronenberg could explore the dark side of the twin phenomenon and make it great fiction fodder, teasing apart the subtle behavioral differences between the doctor twosome, Bev and Elliot, who share 100% of their DNA. (It’s a tour-de-force performance by the icy Jeremy Irons, whose name humbled would-be anagram-ist Lisa Simpson, not to mention a great technical cinematic achievement by Cronenberg “separating” the two Irons, as it were.)

One the docs has designed a solid gold “retractor”: a creepy instrument that he wants to take from the coroner’s table to the gynecologist’s chair.

And they date the same women surreptitiously (obviously the most fun you can have as a twin) while abusing drugs and alcohol.

dead-ringers-movieOne of these women, Claire Niveau, is a small time TV actress (played terrifically by Geneviève Bujold), a “mutant” possessed of a “trifurcated cervix,” most likely making her infertile.

Elliot, much like he does with his other patients, attempts to seduce her, then passes her off to his meeker brother.

As Elliot’s drug abuse begins to take more of a toll, he commissions a local artist to cast experimental gynecological implements out of metal, and that’s where Cronenberg really turns his horror obsessions inward.

Roger Ebert back-hand complimented Dead Ringers as “a collaboration between med school and a supermarket tabloid.”

And it’s as clinical as Cronenberg’s ever been, but given the circumstances, with good reason.

***1/2 (out of 5)



CrawlerIs this cover art ever deceptive? A piece of heavy machinery with Kraken tank treads and a penchant for human blood? Crawler, a movie about a killer bulldozer, covers new ground (literally) and isn’t nearly as terrible as it should be. In fact, it’s kinda loveable, like a mom loves her reprobate criminal son.

The demise of video stores (and associated eye-capturing cover art) means, to quote the late BB King, the thrill is gone when it comes to happening upon something so ludicrous, so god-awful looking and yet at the same time an absolute must-rent.

Crawler is just that. The poster is an absolute riot and Fifty Tons of Terror is a tagline to beat. But is the flick tons of fun?

Evil developers are callously constructing a golf course with complete disregard of a murder victim having been previously found there. Or something. And the deceased’s mother is picketing the project. Nonetheless, instead of erecting a plaque or planting a tree to honor the  victim, things proceed as holes are dug and land is cleared.

The project’s foreman,  who thinks one of his workers died under his watch, is away trying to dry out and drowning his sorrows in self-pity and blame.

But the show must go on.

The foreman’s replacement needs some added machinery to elevate greens and tees and to excavate mounds and to dig some bunkers. He goes to the local rental place to procure a “crawler” (bulldozer). But things are not as they seem. For starters, there’s something ominous about the machine. It’s all alone, stuck in a far-flung back corner of the facility. No matter.

crawler_promoOnce the job begins, the machine suddenly burns the forearms of some of the workers, despite it being cold to the touch. It’s come alive, running over people’s feet, injecting them with goo and sprouting tentacled dozer tracks.

Soon, the original foreman returns to do battle against the machinery.

Keir Cutler is dynamite as Karl, the machine’s unlikely love interest, as is Robert Renyolds as Dover, the sagely rental guy who opines on the nature of evil.

Loads of fun on a minuscule budget.

*** (out of 5)