In a year of subversive mainstream entertainments (“Land of the Dead”, “Revenge of the Sith”), David Cronenberg’s “A History of Violence” is the best and most insidious — a body-horror masterpiece and razor-sharp American critique couched in the conventions of Hollywood revenge-thriller. With its cheerleader outfits, small-town Midwestern coffee shop locale and grizzly bits of human flesh splayed across the characters’ faces, Cronenberg accomplishes a near impossible mix of glorifying violence at the same time as offering a blistering attack against its uses and effects.
The Village Voice features an illuminating interview with the Canadian auteur (who is probably the smartest director I’ve ever spoken with). I find one response particularly revealing: “In a sense we’re saying that nice little family in that nice little house in that nice little town is supported by blood spilling. Is that inevitable? Is it inevitable and therefore accepted? Should it be accepted in a more conscious way? Or is it avoidable?”