I didn't go to see this movie in the theater 'cause I thought I would be too grossed out by it. I'm not a big fan of doctors that poke around INSIDE your sex organs, anus, and other body cavities. A movie about two insane identical twin gynecologists directed by the goremeister himself, David Cronenberg, didn't strike me as my cup of bile. I finally broke down and rented Dead Ringers on video, and boy was I shocked -- not at the movie -- but by how much I loved it! Jeremy Irons, who plays both of Elliot and Beverly Mantle, does an incredible acting job, as does Genevieve Bujold in one of her all too numerous "kick me" roles.
The story, loosely based on a true story, concerns the twin doctors and their creepy relationship. One twin, Elliot, is suave, worldly, a lady's man, while Bev is awkward, misanthropic, and teetering on the edge of sanity. They are brilliant doctors who have made many innovations in the field of gynecology. They both start sleeping with Genevieve (she thinks it's only one of them) and the resultant perverted triangle triggers their undoing. As the closed system of their relationship runs away towards insanity and death, the film touches on many Cronenberg themes: the battle between body and mind, the social and sexual mutations of our modern world, and the invasion of technology into our flesh. At one point, Beverly (the first twin over the edge) gives a chillingly paranoid rap about how the insides of women are not what they used to be. The instruments of gynecological science (many of which were designed by the twins) are working just fine, it's the people that need to change to conform to the tools. One perpetual motif of the film is a series of grotesque instruments that Bev designs for parts of the mutating female anatomy.
While this movie is highly disturbing, and not recommended for everyone, Cronenberg did not resort to his usual ishy-squishy organic horror tactics. This movie makes you squirm through psychological terror, impending madness, and by the threat of its ideas and images, not by outright violence. This could represent a maturation of Cronenberg's film-making style. I certainly hope so, since I usually love the concepts of his movies, but am a little embarrassed by his childish revelling in blood and kaka.
Directed by David Cronenberg
graphic: director D. Cronenberg
Here is the TEXT POPUP for Dead Ringers:
The term "biological horror" refers to the fact that my films are very body conscious. They're conscious of existence as a living organism. This is different from other science fiction or horror films that are very psychologically or supernaturally oriented. In that sense, those films are very "disembodied." I've never been religious in any external sense -- in that I though there was a god or some universal cosmic that was imposed upon human beings. I really have always felt, first very unconsciously and then quite consciously, that we have created our own universe and therefore, what's wrong with it also comes from within us. My worldview is therefore human-centered as opposed to centered outside of humanity. I think that leads you, if you're doing horror, to think that it should also be human-centered. I believe that you always carry with you the seeds of your own destruction and that they can erupt at any time. You cannot escape from that and I find that fact very scary.