Schofield soon realized that he is not alone. A small cadre of movie-mad buffs and artists have harnessed the power of generative AI tools to reimagine classic films — or create entirely new ones — from some of the world’s most recognized names. In December, creator Johnny Darrell went viral for Jodorowsky’s Tron, a reimagining of the classic movie under the eye of avant-garde filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky. Inspired by Darrell, Tacoma, Washington–based Rob Sheridan, the former art director for Nine Inch Nails, used AI to create Jodorowsky’s Frasier.
Sheridan, 42, calls this AI-enabled movement “The New Unreal.” Practitioners include a New Zealand–based illustrator creating a space Western on Instagram and a sculptor from Austin, Texas, making faux retro sci-fi TV shows. Another creator from India is using AI image generators to create their own rich seam of Southeast Asian–flavored sci-fi.
“We’ve started to see this technology as something like a dream engine,” Sheridan said, “tapping into a kind of warped visual consciousness to explore things that never were, or never will be, or never could be. They hit you in a strange way, because they feel very plausible.”
Schofield said he doesn’t know why his Cronenberg rework caught fire so quickly. He had posted multiple prior experiments to Imgur, Reddit, and Twitter, all of which only got between 50 and 100 likes. “The intention wasn’t to create clickbait, but I think it turned into that,” he said. “A lot of people were reposting it and saying, This is terrible. This guy doesn’t understand Cronenberg at all.” Every time they did that, it spread further and instigated another wave of criticism, which instigated another, and another, and another.
Schoefield said that his tweet’s text — simply “David Cronenberg’s Galaxy of Flesh (1985)” — could have given off the wrong impression that he was trying to hoodwink Twitter. “There’s no real intent behind this title beyond, Oh yeah, this looks like this could be that,” he said. “But it seemed to really set off people, and I think someone like Cronenberg is maybe famous enough to have a fanbase.
“There’s a lot of people who have opinions on what Cronenberg’s aesthetics are and what they aren’t,” he continued, “and what a poor interpretation of his style is.” He fears that people think he’s trying to reduce Cronenberg’s oeuvre to mere body horror.
The frames themselves were generated by giving Midjourney the prompt of a “DVD screengrab” of different scenes from the movie The Empire Strikes Back. “Then it was like: Everything made of skin and joints, tendons, nerves, umbilical cords, stomachs, arteries,” Schoefield added.
Getting the image generator to make gore was challenging — as was getting the Cronenberg style. “You can’t even type ‘Cronenberg’ into Midjourney,” Schofield said. (Sheridan thinks this is because of him: He made a series of Cronenberg-inspired images of the Met Gala in May, and soon after, the term “Cronenberg” was banned from the tool.)