By John Smith
Videodrome. How can a title as mysterious as that not get you curious as to what this movie is about. I’m not here to talk about the title, of course. I’m here to talk about the movie behind that title. David Cronenberg is a name that resonates throughout modern film with movies like Scanners, The Fly, and Eastern Promises. This 1983 film, however, is what has stood the test of time and has quite possibly become even more relevant in this modern day and age. This is Videodrome.
In this film, James Woods plays Max Renn, a sleazy cable television producer who runs CIVIC-TV, a channel that specializes in giving the people what they really want, which seems mostly to be softcore pornography. One day, Renn and one of his technicians stumbles across a program called Videodrome, a program with no story just violence, and is being picked up by their pirate satellite. Upon repeated viewings of Videodrome, in attempt to put it on CIVIC-TV, Max begins to feel terrible and hallucinate the most bizarre things. This prompts him to investigate the origins of Videodrome, and what he finds is pretty unreal.
Now, being a film made for audiences in 1983, there are obvious differences in the technology they use in the movie and the technology we use today. In fact, if you really think about it, it’s pretty startling how fast our technology has evolved from the VCRs, Betamax tapes, and the videocassettes that are in Videodrome. Yet, the warnings about media and technology that take over Videodrome have a great resonance considering the advancements that have become intrinsic even to toddlers today. It has everything to do with everything.
The fact that the Videodrome program is literally about nothing except torture and murder is more important now than it’s ever been. With the internet and the amount of things that are shown on tv everyday by the news and cable television, it’s no surprise that America is more desensitized now than it’s ever been. That is the most interesting thing that Cronenberg is trying to say with this movie, and he really hit the nail on the head. Like it or not, violence is entertainment.
Ok, so that’s a little bleak and unnerving. Videodrome isn’t just a movie that makes you sit and brood over your life and society, especially if you’re into those really cool horror special effects of the 1980s, this one is right up there with The Thing.
Special effects artist Rick Baker is to thank for this. Before working on this film, his most impressive credential is working for George Lucas on Star Wars. While Videodrome is nowhere near the same level as Star Wars in terms of pop culture, his work on Videodrome is just as impressive. With tapes, dressers, and television screens bulging out, stomachs opening up, and disintegrating bodies, Baker really brings this film to life with some crazy prosthetic make up and clever uses of practical design. It’s really cool to look at, and it’s something that wouldn’t have been the same if it was done with modern CGI.
Bottom line, Videodrome is a startlingly cool sci-fi horror that really encapsulates the 1980s and even modern times. Even if the messages don’t sit well with you, just the whole concept is cool enough. It’s definitely one that shouldn’t be missed.
John Smith is a film student at Temple University with an interest in screenwriting. I do appreciate the classics and take the time to see as many as I can, but I will probably be more interested in a horror film that’s been dug out of the deepest hole in film history.
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