So what's it like to be David Cronenberg's nephew?
For Aaron Woodley, it meant visiting the set of his uncle's film The Brood as a young boy and being utterly terrified, although he wound up appearing as an extra. But it led to him becoming so upset when watching films that his mother, Denise Cronenberg, a costume designer and long-time collaborator on brother David's films, stopped allowing her son to go to movies.
"I was quite a bit older before I could handle going to a movie theatre again, because it was just too overpowering. Often I would sit in my seat so overwhelmed and terrified that I couldn't breath and would have to be taken out of the theatre," Woodley says.
Jump a few years later. He made an utter about-face as a teenager and became a gore and effects fanatic. He watched An American Werewolf in London around 25 times to study the horror scenes. So is horror in the family blood? "It very well could be genetic," says Woodley, who is now 35, lives in Toronto and is finally seeing his own first feature, the 2003 dark comedy Rhinoceros Eyes, hit theatres. "If there are similarities [with his uncle's work] it would only make sense."
True, there are moments of freakishness in the film, particularly scenes when the lead character scampers comically through the night in a grotesque mask resembling actor Tor Johnson, that 1950s Hollywood character actor and B-movie ghoul. But horror alone isn't really his thing, Woodley says.
And his family connections weren't enough to shelter him from the horror of working in the movie business. After Rhinoceros Eyes was shot and praised at the Toronto International Film Festival, the film's producers, New York-based Madstone, decided to do something unorthodox.
Madstone didn't want to go the festival route and sell the film to distributors in the usual way. Instead, they sent all the film's footage, including the nearly endless hours of outtakes, to film schools around the United States. The idea was to let film students re-edit the film in order to create a groundswell of buzz for the movie. Woodley audible recoils on the telephone at the thought that some of those students re-edits are still out there.
Madstone then went out of business, and the original master copy of the film wound up sitting in the wine cellar of one of the film's producers for years. There was nothing Woodley could do. The film was lost. So he went back to his day job as an animator, and wrote scripts hoping for another project to come along.
Then everything suddenly turned a corner. Distributor Capri Releasing picked up the film. And just as his uncle found new audiences when he moved away from horror, Woodley is moving away from the struggling indie-film scene and toward more commercial movies. His next project with producer Lee Daniels ( Monster's Ball, The Woodsman) is a road-trip film about two brothers travelling across America. It is a star vehicle for none other than Mariah Carey. Carey's first film, remember, was 2001's Glitter, a box-office bomb.
So now the test for Woodley is to avoid the horrors of hype surrounding Carey and any cynics waiting to pounce.