105 Must See Films

105 Must See Films: Naked Lunch (1991)


Starring: Peter Weller, Judy Davis

Director: David Cronenberg

So, this is a film by the body horror king, David Cronenberg, starring the guy who played Robocop, and based on the writing of a book by a beat poet. It’s an odd one.

William S Burroughs wrote a book called Naked Lunch, and this film is kind of hallucinatory trip through his writing of the book and aspects of the book itself. It follows a man who has given up writing and taking drugs with his friends, and has taken up working as an exterminator. But when his yellow bug killing powder runs out, his friends admit that his wife has been using it to get high. He ends up trying the drug himself, accidentally shooting his wife, and is told by a giant cockroach that he’s actually an undercover agent, and it sent to a mythical African province called Interzone, where he meets his wife’s doppelganger and his new friend, a typewriter that is also a giant cockroach which talks.

It’s a must see because: it’s one of those films that you’d never see being made today. It’s unusual, both in tone, plot and subject. Set in the mid fifties, all the beat poets are rather dead pan, whilst the other characters are cartoon like, the cops and doctors and everyone else. It’s hard to tell whether the whole thing is meant to be occurring in a drug induced hallucination or whether it’s all real and literal, and perhaps that  is the best part of the film.

Being a Cronenberg film, it also has quite a lot of cockroach and bug related grossness. It feels kind of like a horror in that respect, though IMDb has it listed as a drama. I’m not sure entirely how to categorise it. I did really like the way the main character was really unaffected by anything that occurred, much like in Robocop, he’s a wooden, introverted man. He’s kind of different, separate from the world and his emotions. It’s interesting. I don’t mean to say that he’s a wooden actor, Peter Weller is very good, I mean that he’s very internalised, depersonalised.

But, that said, I didn’t entirely get this film, what it was all about, what it all meant on a larger level. The bugs design, as well as the weird characters are amazing effects, I was impressed. But why are they there, and so prominently, in the sense of creating meaning? I’d love to hear what you all think of it if you’ve seen it or you end up watching it.

See It If: you’re a Cronenberg fan or like gross out type horror, it’s a weird film. Def not a date night flick…


8 thoughts on “105 Must See Films: Naked Lunch (1991)”

  1. I have not seen this one, but I love Peter Weller as an actor. He always seems to pop up somewhere, either in Tv series (24, and the highly underrated Odessey 5), as well as a variety of different movies. It’s great to see you review so many different movies, and as always it was a fun post to read. Keep up the good work 😀

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, he really is. As I said, he played the leadrole in a forgotten tv show called Odyssey 5. It told the story of the crew of a space shuttle, who were the only survivors of the human race, when Earth got destroyed. They were given the opportunity to travel back in time and save Earth. It was a great show, with a terrific role from Weller, but unfortunately it got cancelled. It is well worth checking out though 😀

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Weller also presented Engineering An Empire, a series on the History Channel (you’ll find it on youtube). And he’s as enthusiastic there as he is withdrawn here in Naked Lunch. He’s also a history prof at some university now (Syracuse I think) so he knows the material.

      Liked by 1 person

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