This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
QueerHorrorDad’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
First, I would like to say it was such a treat to see a new Cronenberg film in theaters. My first new one in theaters. I would also like to say I am very biased when it comes to his work but it makes sense. His admittedly biggest creative inspiration is Philip K. Dick, who is also my favorite author. I was not aware but I could feel the miasma of the similarities in their work (and see how PKD influenced Cronenberg from the get-go of his career) and thus, I was bound to be a fan. It’s like it was in my DNA.
Which leads me to my actual thoughts on the movie. A cursory glance at this film may leave some with the notion that this film is only about sex and surgery. But what it says about human nature, the darkest parts of ourselves even when faced with world-altering truths is much more interesting. It is about so much. Humans evolving to be able to consume plastics. A result of our damage to the environment, another step in Cronenberg’s journey to meld man and machine while also commenting on how social media is a lens through which we understand our changing world, though we may not always be doing it for the right reasons. If you step back, the metaphor encompasses more. When you think about a government organization designed to monitor changes to humans that would make them “more” than what they are and trying to exact authority over a thing of which they grasp very little, it becomes rather…trans.
Like I said, I am biased about Cronenberg. His body horror speaks to me on the level that it resonates with my transness. His exploration of the body, his desire and fear of it and above all else, the tangibility and finite nature of it. There is a quiet vulnerability to his work that draws me to him, seeking connection and understanding. Never quite having the answers but always looking for them. To me, another layer of this film is about human evolution regarding aspects that would make us thrive, and the people trying to stop it want to keep us in the past based on some quasi-noble idea of “the good old days” of human existence. But they’re wrong. On a practical level, humans being able to consume plastic is a path to survival. On an emotional level, it is accepting of people born differently. The technicians in the film revere the SARK machine and at first you believe it is innocent and even playful. But once you know they are radicals trying to quash human evolution, they become a metaphor for something I find terrifying and abhorrent: gender critical people.
Once it is revealed that the SARK machine was once an autopsy machine, their almost worship of it makes sense in the light of wishing death to human evolution, to change. Our protagonist is cutting up his body thinking that will be the solution to why he feels “wrong” and the technicians encourage it. But all he has to do is accept his newness and he is shown to finally be free of that discomfort, finally understanding himself. The radicals against progress are sexualizing the idea of maintaining the old ways. Sex sells, and it is seen as exciting and new when it is just repackaging old ideas as trendy and fun. That’s how it seems enticing, but when you uncover their true motives, the horror sets in and grows.
The autopsy gave this new movement of plastic eaters a hurdle, a temporary setback to an inevitable future. And there will be more autopsies, more evidence, truer evidence of the inevitability of progress. There will be those trying to hold us back, to maintain old ideas. We must resist stagnation. We must progress.
There is definitely an argument to be made that this film is about trans ecofeminism and hailing a new future of change and understanding. Cronenberg, I love you. Thank you for this film.