The Horror Honeys: 'Crash': Love in the Dying Moments of the Twentieth Century...

'Crash': Love in the Dying Moments of the Twentieth Century...

A Revenge Honey Erotic Thriller November Review with Linnie

Crash (1996) 

WARNING! The following review will feature sex, nudity, and graphic images, so if you're under 18 or a chump, beat it!

How do you even begin to explain a film like David Cronenberg's Crash to the uninitiated? Crash is a dividing line, teaching viewers what they can and can't handle in an art film. Crash is a film that forces you to ask questions about sexuality, and define your own limits, while posing the question, "Why do you have limits at all?" But most of all, Crash is about people who are broken, made numb by a society so full of images of sexuality and violence that they can't feel anything anymore, so they seek out an avenue that allows them to feel everything at once: pleasure, pain, fear, exhilaration, anxiety, and love. Crash isn't a movie for everyone, but it's a movie about everyone, whether it seems that way or not on the surface.

The Story: Television director James Ballard (James Spader) has recently suffered a terrible car accident that left him horribly injured. After he has mostly recovered, he becomes aware of an underground subculture of car crash victims, some scarred, some injured beyond repair, but all who find that the act of getting in further auto accidents is sexually gratifying. James finds that his connection with these people reignites his relationship with his equally numb wife, Catherine (Deborah Kara Unger), but at what cost?

Crash isn't the easiest film to talk about, because frankly, it takes multiple viewings to fully understand the complexities and terrifying reality of what Cronenberg is trying to tell us. When you've tried every drug, when you've experienced every kind of sexual experience within your imagination, what is left to bring you pleasure, and how far would you go to find it? People who claim this movie is "pointless" or "shallow" clearly don't understand Cronenberg. This man has never filmed a syllable that didn't serve a higher purpose, and Crash is no exception. This is a movie about the end of an era and the beginning of another: Do we ever see movies this brave any more? J.G. Ballard, the author of the novel Crash, knew that we were a society becoming numb. But Cronenberg could sense that the erotic thriller, hell, the TRUE art film, was on its way out, and Crash is a brilliant eulogy to a bravery in film that died in the 90s.

Outside of the deeper meaning behind Crash, it is a film anchored by remarkable performances from a cast of brilliant actors. Spader, Unger, Holly Hunter, Elias Koteas, Rosanna Arquette... they all committed to their roles in this film with a kind of devotion that is beyond imagining. The material in Crash isn't the easiest to watch, no matter how many times you've seen it. Violent accidents, graphic injuries, pansexual experiences; not every actor would be brave enough to star in a movie like this or trust a director as implicitly as they had to trust Cronenberg. But the results are well-worth the spiritual anguish that must have been necessary to be a part of Crash.

Crash is beautiful. It's devastating. It's a movie that defined what made the 90s so dangerous and thrilling in terms of the limits of filmmaking. Crash is a movie that historians will look back on in fifty years and view as both of a perfect artifact of its time, and still somehow incredibly ahead of it. Crash is unbelievably erotic, and yet, not remotely so; its flawed characters clinging to each other in moments of unbearable pain make it more sad than sexual. Even as you try to put it out of your mind, it never leaves you entirely. 

David Cronenberg crafted the ultimate morality tale: one that teaches us morality is only an illusion, held in the eye of the individual. Because what is morality but the way we each choose to live our lives among like-minded individuals? And in Crash, all the players find pleasure in the same pain. So what makes it wrong but our own personal version of morality?

Something to consider the next time you're driving down the highway...

Throughout Erotic Thriller month, we are going to be working on a far more stringent rating scale than usual. That means that if I REALLY like a film, it will probably get a three star rating. If I love a film, four stars. If I want to take a movie behind the middle school and get it pregnant, that's a five star rating right there. So with that in mind, Crash gets:

Erotic Thriller Rating: 5 respectful tips of the hat out of 5

Crash is available via YouTube & DVD
(Though I'd be willing to pay Criterion to do a blu-ray release of this movie)

Have you see Crash? Did it leave an impression on you?
Tell me on Twitter: @linnieloowho