★★★

Crimes of the Future is a sci-fi film directed by David Cronenberg (The Fly, A History of Violence) and stars Viggo Mortensen, Lea Seydoux, Kristen Stewart, and Scott Speedman.

In the future, the human species has continued to adapt and evolve. The earth has also changed, having been ravaged by some unnamed environmental (or manmade) disasters. In this place, humans have begun to mutate due to Accelerated Evolution Syndrome. Saul Tenser (Mortensen) and his partner Caprice (Seydoux) are performance artists, showcasing his mutations in front of an audience. But while he and Caprice are beloved, fewer people are showing up to their performances. He is then propositioned with a unique and shocking performance concept. Will he take it?

Despite the timely and modern theme, the screenplay for Crimes of the Future is nearly two decades old. That makes more sense considering this film harkens back to Cronenberg’s roots. In the same way that The Fly made audiences cringe, this film will also have audiences wriggling in their seats. Crimes of the Future is the perfect reminder that he is and always will be a forefather in body horror.

Part exploitative, part arthouse film, the movie is a little hard to pinpoint. While the body horror is there, it isn’t necessarily a horror film. It is exploitative science fiction. Leave it to Cronenberg to create his own niche. The concept, environment, cinematography, and special effects are brilliant, and the script is surprisingly funny. Audiences may find themselves snickering and cringing at the same time.

Mortensen’s portrayal of Saul is great. He is in pain. He is conflicted. He is physically transforming before your eyes. Kristen Stewart’s Timlin is aptly named. She is timid, softspoken, and becomes quite enamored with Saul. Stewart’s purposefully meek performance is an interesting and endearing take on the awkward character. Seydoux’s Caprice is a conundrum. She is hailed as a wonderful artist, yet she yearns for more.

The fault in the movie is that there aren’t enough stakes to create tension. Yes, Saul is in pain, but at times he comes off as indifferent toward death. Yes, there is a subculture and a government at odds, but the audience rarely sees them interact. Viewers are at the edge of their seats because of the imagery on the screen, but are they also there because each character has skin in the game?

Crimes of the Future isn’t for the faint of heart, but fans of Cronenberg’s earlier work (The Fly, Scanners, and Videodrome) will rejoice in the visceral visuals.