Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Skyliner: Cronenberg's Society

It took me a while to make it through Shivers, not because it was scary or too disturbing but because I kept falling asleep through it. When I finally saw the entire movie I leaned back to reflect on what I saw. I already knew what Cronenberg’s stance on sexual promiscuity was and how he is sort of anti-sex but there was something that really struck me about this film. The way that Cronenberg portrayed American society by confining it to an apartment building was brilliant. You can almost view the apartment complex as town on stilts because it has everything. There are a diverse group of people who are all in danger of contracting these parasites and it spreads just like how a normal town would.

However, I want to talk about the beginning of the film. What do we first see when we pop this movie into the player? We are bombarded with slideshow images of this luxurious apartment called the Starliner. Photos upon photos of clean apartments, on-site markets/delis, spacious parks and recreation, beautiful panoramic views of the city and the building’s Olympic sized swimming pool. The voice that is speaking over these photos is a realtor for the building and he is so convincing, mainly because of his clear and persuasive voice. He uses lot of descriptive words to beautifully sugar coat the amenities that come with the Starliner. As an audience member, I feel as though I would want to buy an apartment there when I know that everything is practically bullshit. Everything from the picturesque scenery to the friendly neighbors; its all bullshit.

But what makes this opening even better is that after you are done watching this convincing slideshow, you are thrown into a fight between a mysterious old man and an adolescent girl. The fight is very sexual and you can’t help but feel that this old man wants to ultimately rape her if not kill her for sexual pleasure. While this is going on, we follow a young yuppie couple as they are shown Starliner by a realtor. It’s one of the most meaningful openings to a horror film that I’ve ever seen. It’s so rich in context and it means so much to the film’s theme.

It’s such a perfect ying to Starliner’s yang; the contrasting between a happy picturesque life as opposed to scene of violent sexual assault, which takes place inside the presumed picturesque apartment, funnily enough. Even though this has been analyzed over and over, it’s a perfect visual representation on how Cronenberg views the idea of ‘standard’ living as well as society. Perhaps this is Cronenberg’s way of showing how we are only killing ourselves (not literally) into thinking that we can live in a perfect society. If you think about it, the people who inhabit Starliner are far from perfect despite what they think but once an unstoppable or unexpected agent is introduced… everybody goes made. It’s almost like a psychology lesson. Perhaps the slideshow and the brutal homicide/suicide aren’t that much different. It’s a very interesting idea to think about. It begs the questions: is there such a thing as a perfect standard of living, let alone society? Is it possible that one can live in this perfect society?

Thank you Classic Horror for inspiring me to write this.


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