Director David Cronenberg returns to the body-horror genre—and the results are shockingly dull and shlocky.

Cronenberg had a nice creative renaissance between 2002-2007, when he made films with deeper, dramatic tendencies like A History of Violence and Eastern Promises. Those films hearkened back to the dramatic brilliance of his masterpiece, 1983’s The Dead Zone, a film that relied more upon drama than the gross-outs of his earlier “body horror” films (Rabid, Scanners). After the relatively tame The Dead Zone, he released the ultimate body-horror film with The Fly, and has since had dalliances in body horror (Existenz, Dead Ringers), alternating with his more dramatic efforts. Crimes of the Future is absolute proof he should’ve left body horror behind for good.

Viggo Mortensen, who also starred in Violence and Promises, plays Saul, a performance artist who allows public surgeries on himself for entertainment purposes. He and his partner, Caprice (Lea Seydoux), do it not only for money; they also do it for pleasure off stage, because this is a Cronenberg film, and body horror must join hands with eroticism at some point. Alas, Mortensen and Seydoux have never been duller in a movie.

There’s a bunch of nonsense about growing new organs, weird chairs that mess with you while you are eating, undercover antics and people eating plastic. The first half of the film is just dull, while the second half gets goofy beyond forgiveness.

The film almost comes off as some sort of parody, but it winds up being rather boring. The performances are stagnant, including an unusually bad performance by Kristen Stewart as a nervous type who wants to be operated on in public, just like her hero. None of it makes much sense, and very little of it is entertaining.

Cronenberg operates best in the slightly twisted drama realm. The time and place for his effectiveness in the body horror genre has passed: He’s trying to reclaim former glory here, and he misses the mark.

Crimes of the Future is now streaming on various digital sources.

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