Report: Cronenberg and BODY/MIND/CHANGE Implant FANGORIA; Video and Diary
Recently, the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto played host to a massive artifact exhibit and screening series charting the stem to stern legacy of legendary Canadian horror and strange cinema guru David Cronenberg. FANGORIA got in on the act by sculpting our own FANGORIA Legends tribute magazine to the man, co-produced with TIFF and still on sale in our store HERE.
And though the dust settled on David Cronenberg: EVOLUTION some weeks ago, there was still one more bizarre twist to the narrative: BMC LABS.
Toronto writer, actor and newly minted FANGORIA scribe Amy Seidman went down to the Lightbox, ostensibly as part of an interactive Cronenberg-themed experiment. And though it was staged… Amy didn’t really grasp that.
It’s hard to explain, so we’ll let Amy try to do so. And scroll below to see the wild video document of the strange encounter…
IMPLANTED AT BMC LABS
What’s the easiest way to scare the daylights out of a somewhat gullible journo, and make her the envy of every cinephile at the same time? All you have to do is send her to be a lab rat at BMC Labs. That’s “Body/Mind/Change”. Got it? I didn’t, at first.
It started with a forwarded email from Fango EIC Chris Alexander: “We’re good to go with Amy Seidman standing in for me! She’s writing for us now, and is good rep for Fango.”
As usual, I’m blinded by flattery, and certain I could have run a marathon on the adrenaline I’d accumulated from the rapid-fire email exchange that had positioned me in this current Cronenberg project. However, at the end of the day, I had to admit to myself that I really had no idea what I was walking into. So secret was this project that even I wasn’t given any further information beforehand. It was all hush-hush. Therein lies the rub.
Prior to my arrival on the “set,” my knowledge of the Cronenberg project I have been nominated for was limited to: “It’s a bioport implanted in your neck a la ExistenZ.”
“There will be some role playing.”
“Wear your hair up and wear a shirt that has your neck exposed.”
That’s it. That’s all. Not much to go on. Here’s how it played out…
• 5:00 P.M. Monday, January 27
The taxi I’ve ordered comes to a stop on a low snowbank not far from my front door.
“I’m going to the TIFF Lightbox.” I give him the address.
“It’s rush hour,” he says, “also lots of accidents because of the cold, but I know a secret route that will get us there fast.” Secret route to a secret project. Hm.
“What movie are you going to see?”
“I’m not going to a movie.”
“Oh, okay, what are you going to do?”
“I don’t really know.”
I don’t really know—today’s theme. Maybe I should have blocked out Stanley Milgram’s famous 1963 psych experiment focusing on obedience to authority, and maybe I shouldn’t have stayed up all night watching Cronenberg films alone in the dark. Maybe.
• 5:30 PM.
I’m in BMC Lab for a Cronenbergian psych experiment intended to bring to life and expand on some of the concepts from his disturbing film world. Think EXISTENZ meets VIDEODROME.
I’m greeted, or more given a once-over by a young Asian gentleman, an older white gentleman with grey hair and glasses, and a 30-ish friendly-faced woman. All are wearing knee-length lab coats. I’m guided into an elaborate and immaculately clean labaratory where I’m asked to sign waivers with emergency contact numbers etc. That done, I’m questioned about my alcohol intake, drug use, eating habits, and job with the added heartstopper: “Would you be able to take a couple of days off work if you have a negative reaction to the experiment?”
I explain that my last drink excursion was Friday night. Tsk-tsks and disapproval are shared among those attending me, and furious note-taking ensues. I almost feel like a student in trouble with the principal. They continue their pronounced negative reaction. I go along with the gag despite their assurances that it’s not a gag.
There are seven “scientists” now in immaculate white lab coats, and three lab coated still and video cameramen. A youngish bespectacled guy mics me, and then Doctor Lee does a filmed interview with me. I’m asked about my understanding of the experiment I’m about to participate in. The process which narrowed down the guinea pigs to the “chosen few,” including me, is explained.
While I continue to believe I’m being punked, a little wariness is creeping in. A staff member asks me to change into surgery scrubs behind a green screen, and with every new instruction I’m given I feel like I’m handing over a piece of my life to total strangers for reasons yet to be revealed. Now, actual fear is taking over. The implant moment presents itself. They say that it will be like a small surgical procedure; 30 minutes, tops. They hope that I’m not planning to drive home, and advise me against drinking for at least four days. I’m now stressed, so all I can think about is a stiff sweet drink.
Anna, Dr. Lee’s assistant tells me that if my blood type is not compatible with it, there is a chance that the pod may not take, and that it may ooze. I shoot her a look of fear so obvious she softly laughs and tries to assure me everything will be okay. I am directed to an operating table, and asked to lie very still on my stomach. There is a hole cut out at the head of the table for me to sink my face into, and a camera and blinding bright light stare straight up at me. That’s in addition to the lighting and cameras that already surround.
I’m asked to breathe and try and feel two extreme states of emotion: 1. Immense pain (they want it to translate to my face ). “Think of a situation where you felt extreme pain or fear.” I’m in that situation at that very moment. This situation happening right now is what I am thinking of. That done, voices from all directions call on me to relax, and now they’re counting out numbers….my immense pain started at 72 and went to 75 or 77.
“Now Amy, think of a situation where you felt immense, extreme pleasure.” Honestly, the setup is so convincing that at this point I’m not as certain as I was initially that I was being played. I’m completely numb with fear. Understandably, trying to feel a moment of extreme pleasure is the furthest thing from my current state of mind. Accordingly, I’m told that my response was extremely low and therefore no need to call out numbers. A nearby voice asks me if I’m okay. My response is nervous laughter, which apparently brings up my pleasure receptors.
Now the big moment has arrived. A hand, which I believe belongs to Doctor Lee, firmly grips my neck, and puts something very cold on it. “If it feels wet, please tell me,” he says, “but it’s only supposed to feel numb and cold.” It felt wet, but more like an ice cube than anything else. “That’s what we want,” he announces to all, and assures me that everything is going fine and it will soon be over. I felt some pressure on my neck and something slimy moving around. “I don’t like the placement,” he whispers, and moves the whatever-it-is around. It felt like scraping fingernails but it stopped abruptly. “Please take, please take,” he says over and over. “It’s not taking yet.” And then: “Aaah.”
The whatever has taken, and he relaxes his pressure on my neck. I’m told that right now, “it won’t appear as anything but after about four days it will look like visible bumps.” The implanted pod will grow as it settles in my body and learns to read and understand my internal dialogue and brain activity, and will process and communicate the information to an external receptor which is needed to enhance my emotional state. After an unstated period of time, whenever I feel an enhanced emotion I will be able to see these bumps on a minor scale. Finally, an odd relief comes over me. Whatever happened is now finished. I’m sitting up, asked if I feel dizzy, my eyes are checked, and given a bottle of water. A day later I’m still confused, and feeling my neck for the implant. I don’t think I want to take part in any more shit-your-pants psych experiments. Ever,
I’ll let the video fill in the blanks…