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Crimes of the Future marks the major feature return for filmmaker David Cronenberg since 2014’s Maps to the Stars. However, his comeback to disturbing body horror doesn’t quite live up to the hype generated at the Cannes Film Festival premiere. A tremendous cast aside, Crimes of the Future is disconnected from its own meaning.

‘Crimes of the Future’ puts David Cronenberg back into body horror

'Crimes of the Future' Viggo Mortensen as Saul Tenser wearing all black and a hood, walking by a building
Viggo Mortensen as Saul Tenser | NEON

In a futuristic society, humans started to adapt to a synthetic environment. New transformations and mutations changed the way society functions. However, Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) and his partner, Caprice (Léa Seydoux), take advantage of such advances for use in their performance artistry.

Crimes of the Future finds Caprice and Saul publicly showcasing the metamorphosis of his organs in a way never seen before. Their avant-garde performances draw crowds who gush over their work. However, their art is about to take a major step in a new direction when they meet a father (Scott Speedman) who is grieving over the death of his son.

Writer/director David Cronenberg is full of meaning about openness

Crimes of the Future begins with a young, strange child who won’t stop eating strange objects. His mother’s tolerance is hanging on by a thread. However, the boy’s death ultimately puts a whole array of character motivations in motion that is about to change everything. However, Cronenberg asks the audience to remain open, as the theme of openness threads throughout the movie. This holds true for the characters in a physical, surgical, and emotional sense that is rather palpable.

Saul and Caprice blend artistry and surgery into one act. Crimes of the Future puts heavy emphasis on the subject of performance art intended to disturb and open your mind. However, messages blend into the various performances, with the phrase “Body is reality” at the forefront of one particular act. Cronenberg taps into the obvious dialogue surrounding beauty but doesn’t really do enough with it.

Crimes of the Future taps into physical and emotional pain, as well as what it means for this futuristic society. Saul is constantly dealing with complications regarding his pain centers and difficulty digesting. He requires surreal furniture to help him adjust. This is a world where pain is an entirely different concept from how modern society perceives it. There’s pleasure to gain from it and human nature innately drives them to it, as well as the trailer’s famous quote – “surgery is the new sex.”

‘Crimes of the Future’ is not the new sex

'Crimes of the Future' Viggo Mortensen as Saul Tensen and Léa Seydoux as Caprice embracing each other with Viggo looking upside down on the ground
L-R: Viggo Mortensen as Saul Tensen and Léa Seydoux as Caprice | NEON

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Cronenberg’s latest certainly treads between horror and sci-fi, but it doesn’t take itself very seriously. There’s a dark comedic element threaded throughout the movie. Crimes of the Future often earns its laughs out of purely awkward social encounters that inspire uncomfortable laughs. However, nobody sees a Cronenberg without expecting to feel out of sorts.

Nevertheless, all of this talk of walkouts at the Cannes Film Festival is hyperbole. Crimes of the Future has more than enough body horror to satisfy fans of the sub-genre, but Cronenberg feels like he’s holding back here both narratively and graphically. This world doesn’t feel entirely developed and the characters don’t really give the audience a reason to care.

Mortensen and Seydoux deliver delicious performances that double down on the Cronenberg atmosphere, but Seydoux is the true knockout here. She often carries the film’s weight on her shoulders, offering much more to the character than what’s on the page. Meanwhile, Kristen Stewart gives a bit of a strange performance with an interesting cadence, but she somehow manages to make it work here.

Crimes of the Future offers some truly surreal moments of body horror that are incredibly captivating. However, it has weak worldbuilding and consistently seems to be holding back. There’s an abundance of otherworldly things going on, but it doesn’t add up to a very compelling story. Crimes of the Future certainly is not the new sex.

Crimes of the Future slices into theaters on June 3.

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