After getting into a serious car accident, a TV director discovers an underground sub-culture of scarred, omnisexual car-crash victims who use car accidents and the raw sexual energy they produce to try to rejuvenate his sex life with his wife.

Editing: Ronald Sanders
Howard Shore

Cast: James Spader, Holly Hunter, Elias Koteas, Deborah Kara Unger, Rosanna Arquette, Peter MacNeil

Directors: David Cronenberg
Writers: David Cronenberg, J.G Ballard (based on the novel by)
Cinematography: Peter Suschitzky

Having never watched David Cronenberg’s 1996 film, Crash before it was an experience like no other. I’m not sure I could say I enjoyed the film, but I do think it’s an excellent film. To a degree, its highly explicit sexual material is tame compared to what movies since have done, but I can understand why and how it was a source of controversy at the time of release. It’s not the kind of movie you want to be caught watching in public. 

James Ballard (James Spader) and his wife Catherine (Deborah Kara Unger) engage in extra-marital sex in search of ways to feel again and help connect. Although their past and marriage aren’t explored outside what little hints we get onscreen, they obviously have a strong trust and bond in one another but are two highly sexual people struggling to scratch one another’s itch. Before the events of Crash, it’s easy to imagine the two having tried numerous kinks. As the film begins, we see Catherine bent over a plane, caressing its metallic surface as a man grabs her from behind. However, the camera never moves to the man and instead stays with Catherine and the plane: the sex object in this scene. It’s a set-up for what will come, and this films exploration of technology, metal and carnage. 

When James gets into a car accident with Helen (Holly Hunter), the two strikes up a connection before she introduces him to Vaughan (Elias Koteas) and Gabrielle (Rosanna Arquette), two others involved in car wrecks and obsessed with chasing the ultimate climax from within the confines of a metal wreck.

On paper, the plot of Crash can sound dark but ultimately silly. There’s a scene where our cast watch crash test dummy videos and Helen gets off like she’s watching a porno. But what makes this film so good is the direction from Cronenberg, the stalwart commitment of the cast, and the source material from author J.G Ballard


  • David Croneberg Introduction

  • The Croneberg Challenge 2020 interview with Cinematographer Peter Suschitzky

  • Mechanical Animals 2020 interview with Director Jeremy Thomas

  • The Shore Thing 2020 interview with Composer Howard Shore

  • License to Drive 2020 interview with Casting Director Deidre Bowen

  • Original Electronic Press Kit

  • Theatrical Trailer

In their fantastical ways, everyone in Crash seems real, even if we as the audience barely see a scene without them in a sex scene. It’s not that these characters aren’t leading lives outside of their nights; James works as a film producer, Catherine mentions flying lessons — but their lives, what matters, becomes engulfed by what becomes a car/sex cult. Vaughan delivers the long lines of dialogue as he monologues about celebrity car crashes before performing them for an audience with no care for the safety of himself or the other drivers. At night Vaughan lounges in his Cadillac and screeches between cars as a night terror seeking either an accidental crash or to find the perfect moment to send himself off into a blaze of glory and finally achieve climax. 

There are plenty of scenes in Crash that are made to make the audience squirm, and it’s an uncomfortable movie at nearly every minute. The performances from the cast are all delivered with a certain cadence, and the whispers and silent stares portray them as lost, damaged, and in search of something they won’t find. Crash has outstanding cinematography from Peter Suschitzky that perfectly elevates the chrome and dark settings and the many close-ups of the cast. The original score from Howard Shore is also fundamental in setting the tone for most of the movie, especially in the long scenes with no dialogue. 

I don’t have a DVD release of Crash to compare this recent remaster, but the film looked stunning on my TV. Given that a lot of the movie occurs at night, I don’t think it would have looked anywhere near as good on DVD. The 5.1 soundtrack is a star here, with the original score and sound mixing marrying perfectly to elevate each scene. 

What’s on the extra’s here is a little lightweight compared to past releases I could see upon a Google search. However, a lot of it is more recent material, including several 2020 interviews. There’s no commentary at all, though, which is a bit odd. I love the artwork on the Beyond Genres #14 cover with a car leaving a bloody trail in the road. 

Crash isn’t a film for everyone, but there’s a unique exploration here like none other. I’m not sure I can quite wrap my head around all of the symbolism and themes just yet, but there’s nothing wrong with having something to think about later. 

Film Score

Blu-ray Score