Crimes of the Future (CREDIT: NEON)

Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Léa Seydoux, Kristen Stewart, Don McKellar, Scott Speedman

Director: David Cronenberg

Running Time: 107 Minutes

Rating: R for Body Horror at Its Finest

Release Date: June 3, 2022 (Theaters)

Who’s ready to party like it’s 1983 and strap in for some vintage David Cronenberg? Of course, the answer to that question is: Everybody! Alas, though, maybe not. We Cronenberg-heads are in fact a select breed. But there are enough of us that the arrival of Crimes of the Future in 2022 is cause for celebration as we harken back to the director’s 70s/80s bodily manipulation heyday. It even has the same name as one of Cronenberg’s earliest features! Despite that shared moniker, be forewarned that this isn’t a remake. I haven’t seen the previous Crimes, but based on the synopsis, it seems pretty clear that they don’t really have anything to do with each other, beyond the fact that Cronenberg envisions multiple ways to run afoul of the law in the coming dystopias.

The premise is both straightforward, and completely bizarre. Performance artist couple Saul and Caprice (Viggo Mortensen and Léa Seydoux) have a regular live stage show in which they grow and remove new organs in Saul’s body. Meanwhile, a subculture has developed around evolving the human body to be able to eat plastic (with delicious-looking purple candy bars aplenty). Okay, maybe that premise is straightforward only if you’re already a permanent resident of Cronenberg World. But the filmmaking coaxes you into thinking that all this is normal, starting with the opening scene of Saul hanging out at home in a newfangled hammock to recover from all that organ removal. Watch out, though, because here comes Kristen Stewart and Don McKellar on hand as a couple of “National Organ Registry” investigators to indicate that maybe this isn’t the most advisable practice around. But pretty much anyone who’s skeptical ends up getting seduced at some point in a sleekly sexy sort of way.

This is exactly the sort of vision that Cronenberg originally established his reputation on. It’s been a while, though, since he’s made something within this classic vein, even as he’s been steadily working every decade for the last 50-plus years. It’s a joy just to be immersed in something this trippy and transportative, even if the central mystery plot is a little hard to parse.  But I can forgive that thanks to the strength of the world building.

The major, somewhat disturbing, difference this time around compared to Cronenberg’s breakthrough classics is the cinematography. The bumpy film stocks of yore imbued the likes of Rabid and The Brood with a vibe that they’d been illicitly smuggled into cinemas, whereas the digital cleanness of Crimes gives off a sense that we’re home and safe among friends. But we’re not home, unless your last name is Frankenstein. Just as Videodrome cried out “Long live the new flesh,” Crimes of the Future declares “Surgery is the new sex,” and we’re all going to have to deal with that as best as we see fit.

Crimes of the Future (2022) is Recommended If You Like: Classic David Cronenberg (He’s back, baby!)

Grade: 4 out of 5 Organs