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Overall Rating

Awesome: 22.22%
Worth A Look48.15%
Average: 11.11%
Pretty Bad: 3.7%
Total Crap: 14.81%

1 review, 21 user ratings

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Naked Lunch
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Justin Helmer

"Bring on the deviants!"
4 stars

Here’s another one for the ‘movies nobody thought would ever get made’ pile. David Cronenberg is a creepy old fucker, as anyone familiar with his catalog over the years will tell you. So perhaps it was kismet that he, of all people would pick up this cult novel by one of the creepiest old fuckers around. While it’s not a ‘faithful’ adaptation of William S. Burroughs' novel, it is true in it’s imaginations. Welcome to the world of Naked Lunch, watch out for the typewriters or you may get more than you bargained for.

The fact that this book, let alone the movie exists at all is remarkable. When he wrote it, Burroughs had sequestered himself in Tangiers. The material was coming in furious blasts of stream of consciousness, and as soon as he finished the section he was working on he would set it aside. The story at that point had no form, and it was actually two other writers from the beat generation who came in to collate the wildly divergent material. Yep, if you enjoyed Naked Lunch thank Jack Kerouac, and Allen Ginsburg (Both have avatars in the movie as well.) they were the ones who pushed Burroughs aside and finished his work.

So the movie comes along, a mixture of biographical material and incidences from the book coming together to make one of the most intellectually frustrating films this side of Prospero’s Books. What Cronenberg succeeds in doing, is to match Burroughs remarkably sardonic tone. Nothing is ever played for laughs; rather it’s that queasy amusement you get from being pushed just outside of your comfort zone.

Peter Weller plays William Lee, Burroughs’ surrogate. He is an exterminator who finds himself drawn into a world of hookah smoke, and intrigue in an imaginary land called Interzone. Drugs, did I mention the drugs? For Burroughs it was heroin, in the world of Naked Lunch Lee’s wife shoots up the powder that he uses to kill insects. And she gets him hooked on it to. Insects mmmnnn the insects, have you ever looked at a bug and just marveled at the total lack of any sort of emotion there? You will.

The dramatic centerpiece here is an incident from the author’s life that seems too over the top to be real. Bill gets himself into some trouble, when his William Tell act goes wrong. The whole ‘William Tell’ incident is real. It happened to Burroughs, and one would guess that he spent the rest of his life dealing with the consequences. This is the moment that finally drives Lee to Interzone, or just out of reality depending on how you read the movie. Once there he sets himself up as a writer, only he’s not doing the writing…his typewriter is. The talking bug shaped typewriter with the beetle wings, and the vaginal opening on it’s back.

This only scratches the surface of what’s going on, I haven’t even told you about the Mugwumps or the nefarious Dr. Benway (a gleefully demonic Roy Schider) This is also where the movie starts to fall apart. There is so much here that it becomes this amorphous mass of weirdness that can at times become tiresome. I found myself wishing for just one ordinary mundane character, but like Jim Morrison said people are strange when you’re a stranger.

This cast all get high marks for bravery if nothing else. Peter Weller is just unassuming enough to slip seamlessly into the invisible mantle of the junky. Judy Davis brings a touch of pathos to the role of Bill Lee’s bug poison addled wife. Ian Holm and Julian Sands are outstanding as two of the more memorable denizens of Interzone. Nothing is real. Everything is permitted. Did I ever tell you the one about the guy who taught his asshole to talk?

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originally posted: 10/09/02 14:46:59
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User Comments

5/21/11 brian The fingers of maggots will work with you now. So? 2 stars
5/22/10 Dane Youssef James Bond gone mad. Gone Cronenberg. Avante-garde surrealism. 4 stars
9/11/09 karamashi A totally freak out but wonderfully grotesque. 4 stars
3/01/08 Ivana Mann Surrealist masterpiece that rivals the films of Bunuel.A bad acid a good way! 5 stars
12/09/06 Indrid Cold You would think a movie so weird would have a hard time being boring, but it manages to be. 3 stars
5/22/06 K.Sear Good stuff but not his best. 4 stars
11/16/05 Jake Entertainingly weird! 4 stars
9/03/05 Billy Jack You're likely more conservative than you think if you don't dig this. 5 stars
6/16/05 Heta Hema My IQ is well into the 160's, and I thought this bit of celluloid stank. 1 stars
2/18/05 Naka What the fuck? No, seriously, what the fuck? 1 stars
6/01/04 LIAM JACKSON This film is a masterpiece because it is unique. those who slam it have an I.Q. below 70. 5 stars
1/21/04 Sadiq Muhammed you have to see it to belive it. 5 stars
10/14/03 ks for die-hard burroughs fans this is great... otherwise, it's probably a bit too "out there" 5 stars
8/08/03 3man The most bizarre movie I have ever seen. 4 stars
2/08/03 Noemi You have to see it to believe it... Crazy shit.. 4 stars
10/09/02 Charles Tatum Oh, like anyone really knows what this film means 3 stars
4/02/02 Vitality1 This movie made me literally physically sick. The birdcage scene is the WORST!! 1 stars
9/30/01 Mohammad J. A bad movie that is definitely worth a look. 4 stars
8/04/01 sarah This movie made no sense, it was bizarre & I actually fell asleep! worst than 1 star 1 stars
7/27/00 Aaron van de Sande The weirdest, creepiest movie you will ever see. Need more comment spa 5 stars
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  02-Dec-1991 (R)



Directed by
  David Cronenberg

Written by
  David Cronenberg

  Peter Weller
  Judy Davis
  Ian Holm
  Julian Sands
  Roy Scheider

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