Director:David Cronenberg .
Starring: James Woods, Debbie Harry, David Cronenberg, David Dvorsky, Leslie Carlson, Julie Khaner. Canada. 1h 29m.
Having watched Videodrome at quite a young age the film fascinated me for all the wrong reasons, pulsating VHS tapes, clips of dodgy torture rooms and people morphing into guns and machines really lit my young mind on fire, this was something that really carried on through my teens while lapping up underground comic books and really came to life when I discovered tales of the dark web and Tetsuo Iron Man (1989) which hit home this idea of bio mechanics along with my love of Giger’s artwork but nothing was quite on that level of bizarre as Videodrome, covering so many aspects of the darker side of the human psyche it’s science fiction body horror touches on some worrying habits and disgusting practices but all in such a way that it’s almost too clever for it’s own good.
James Woods takes centre stage as Max, as the CEO of a small UHF television station specialising in sensationalist programming he’s constantly displeased with his current line up which is mostly soft core, while looking for ways to boost the station, he stumbles on a bizarre broadcast featuring extreme violence and torture which he believes is staged and wants the show known as Videodrome for his station as he perceives it as something that everyone wants to see. While searching for the source of the broadcast, he employs his cameraman Harlan, to record the shows for him, eventually he deduces that the show is being transmitted from Malaysia, and soon Max orders that Harlan to broadcast the show unlicensed via his network. The more Max watches Videodrome the more he begins to hallucinates the world around him, mechanical items become soft and fluid, pulsating with life and breathing, but this is only the beginning.
While appearing on a talk show he meets Nicki Brand (Harry), a psychiatrist and radio host, and Professor Oblivion a pop-culture analyst and philosopher who only appears on television via a television screen from a remote location, the group talk about a future where television supplant real life and the Max’s choice of violence is touched on which seems to have an effect on Nicki, who Max starts to date and almost instantly introduces her to Videodrome, which has a similar affect on her when they starts acting out the scenes of the show together. Their blossoming sadomasochistic relationship is soon put on hold when Nicki she leaves to audition for Videodrome, Max’s obsession intensifies as he desires to find the source, without his Nicki to share the pleasures of pain with he turns to Masha, a soft core pornographer who tracks down more information about the show, but her complicated explanation of it being real and at the face of a political movement forces him to see Professor Oblivion for more answers, but the world around he starts to change and morph much like his hallucinations as he gets closer to Videodrome.
The immensity of subjects that this film touches on is unreal, sex, violence, drugs, addiction, suicide, the media coming to live, the media taking over, broadcasting more than just pictures Videodrome is almost a method of mass hypnotism, but with some very disturbing after effects, one more notable is when Max is intently watching the show and when he looks down his body had a opening in it, later on he learns that it’s to receive tapes, as if he’s a living video machine,but it’s never really answered if he’s there to play or record.
There are some brilliant side characters in the movie especially Masha, I love her aged decadence it helps the movie become a little more ageless. Together there’s a big divide in people who are experiencing videodrome and those who are in control of videodrome, they act like a secret society, their members are devious and incredibly shifty.
Death to Videodrome! Long Live the New Flesh!
The film feels really claustrophobic and as Max starts to unwind the complicated world around Videodrome his own reality starts to twist and bend that becomes its own twisted nightmare without any limits, Cronenberg manages to capture some trippy results with simple and very effective techniques that melts down in a mess of violence sex and death.
It’s not the first time that a director has looked at TV or recorded media carrying a hidden message, virus or being haunted, but this manages to capture the idea of an ultra reality presence taking over our reality like the Matrix (1999), a recording being used a beacon to control people like Halloween III Season of the Witch (1982) and at times it’s so easy to see if coming through the screen much like Sadako from the Ring (1998), but while each of these films only focuses on one aspect of this modern phenomena, the forerunner really went to town.
As a psychological horror it works, but also with the amount of pretty dames, guns and sleuthing for me it also feels like a techno surrealist film noir. At times it can be a little confusing but it’s not supposed to be a walk in the park, it feels as if the concept it just so profound that even Cronenberg is still fleshing it out as it’s trying to describe the ideas.
R – Ring (1998),Virus (1999), Tetsuo : The Iron Man (1989) Stereo (1969) Existenz (1999)
L – Body Horrors, Video killed the Radio Star,
5s – James Woods, Debbie Harry, David Cronenberg