If I had to describe Videodrome, I'd say it was a cryptic, surrealistic nightmare based in biotechnology, social commentary (which is actually more relevant now!), and oh so much psychosexuality. The movie is stacked full with bizarre sequences and conversations, and even though you might not get it at first, you can't help but be entertained by the sheer weirdness of it all. Despite the crazy practical effects and gruesome images, Videodrome has alot to offer in the way of story and message. It warns of possible violation of our own individuality and perception of the world through the media we consume and its format. It also brings up really interesting philosophical ideas on how we see reality and what defines the phrase "real life".
From the first viewing, the imagery will stick with you and make you want to watch it again, in which case the story and ideas will start to soak in more completely and soon you'll find yourself assimilated into the collective of fans of Videodrome...or at least that was my situation.
LONG LIVE THE NEW FLESH!!!
Something just felt a bit off throughout the movie, and I don't think it was intentional. The way that the hallucinations came and went felt very unnatural and not so much in a disorienting way, but more of an issue with how the movie was edited...
And so I give props to Cronenberg for making a fright-fest incomparable to his peers, but that doesn't mean I necessarily like "Videodrome." It's too abstractly unpleasant for me to arrantly recommend it, since most will likely have a similar reaction. But it does what it sets out to do quite smashingly, which is to devise a television satire more reflective of a macabre tale of terror than, to be outrageously broad, "Network." Whether you venerate it all or not is up to fate, and I just so happen to be one of the few who feels the need to take a hot shower and watch a couple hours worth of '90s sitcoms after viewing, just to get the unshakable feeling of abhorrence off me.
It stars James Woods as Max Renn, a TV producer who runs CIVIC-TV, an underground Canadian station that specializes in the spotlighting of softcore pornography and brutal depictions of staged violence. Well-aware of audience fascination regarding such horrors, Renn is conscious that his consumers are on the brink of tiring of the same old standardized faux taboos. So his world lights up when he accidentally discovers "Videodrome," a plotless television program from Asia that looks and feels like snuff, torture and murder its most prevalent features. It must be phony, Renn tells himself, but in the context of a David Cronenberg film, we know that this mostly likely isn't the case. But Renn, being too optimistic in a profession that should be cutthroat, foresees the program as being the future of frowzy television.
Before making the final decision as to whether he should air the program or not, though, Renn makes the regrettable mistake of becoming addicted to the series, which ends up being much more sinister than he might have at first believed. As it turns out, the feed is coming from a mysterious location in Pittsburgh, and has, similarly to the supernatural tape in "Ringu," dramatic physical and mental impact on the viewer. Shortly after his introduction to "Videodrome," Renn begins having bizarre hallucinations, ranging from images of his TV coming to life to his stomach disfiguring into something reminiscent of a VCR. Things only grow more grotesque the more Renn delves into the situation.
"Videodrome's" plot thickens as it wears on, covering the devastations of governmental conspiracy, media dependency, and forthrightly strange malice, and their blending together leaves us distinctly uneasy. Never frightened, but aflutter, a feeling of all-powerful danger following our every move, unable to be stopped. Enigma is key to the fears of the film, and the more erratic it gets, the more violent it gets, the more tremulous we become. It isn't hair-raising in varying bursts akin to "Halloween" or "Suspiria"; "Videodrome" has an incessant rumbling of disquiet lingering throughout every scene.
But I hesitate to say that I felt anything but disgust during the entirety of "Videodrome." Watching it again sounds about as appealing as only eating undercooked meat for a week, and I wouldn't want to inflict such pain onto myself or my readers. My experiences with Cronenberg have been nothing less than uneven over the years; I love his spectacularly screwy "eXistentZ," like his take on the gangster movie, "Eastern Promises," and actively loathe his widely praised "Dead Ringers." For once, "Videodrome" carries the feeling of indifference that I so desperately try to avoid when watching movies. I hold it in high regard, its craftsmanship, performances, and imagery intriguingly unwonted. But when reflecting upon a movie, one question always stands out as being most potent: did I like it? No. But there's a lot to admire.
The thematic of this post-modern masterpiece is once again the classic Cronenberg obsession with the ways technology completely transforms the human body and soul (and vice versa). Do not mind the cheesy trailer (80s) and don't miss the opportunity to enter the Cronenberg universe in it's most complete form. Long live the new flesh!
The film features scenes of extreme visual hallucinations caused by a fictitious video cassette program called Videodrome.
Basically the main character Max Renn (James Woods) is the CEO of a small Toronto television station that specialises in broadcasting sensationalist/soft porn/horror output.
Renn comes across a new show idea called Videodrome based on illegally viewed output from a supposedly foreign country but is eventually revealed to be orifinating from Pittsburgh.
Viewing the sadistic Videodrome program causes a cycle of hallucinations and brain injury.
Renn succombs to these. In order to escape the 'spell' of Videodrome he must turn into an assassin. Killing his colleagues and the people behind Videodrome. (Are you keeping up?)
The film features some awesome special effects from make up specialist Rick Baker (Star Wars Episode IV and Planet of the Apes).
If the Conservative Canadians were shicked by Cronenburgs debut feature in 1975 then this must quite literally blow their torsos open!