Sunday 6 January 2019

Movie Review: Videodrome (1983)

A science fiction gorefest, Videodrome delves into the world of media consumption and mind control.

In Toronto, Max Renn (James Woods) is a scrappy television executive running a low-rated television channel specializing in softcore pornography and violence, and always on the lookout for more shocking content. His assistant Harlan (Peter Dvorsky) monitors global satellite transmissions to find the next big thing, and stumbles on an illicit porn-and-torture broadcast named Videodrome featuring young naked women being flogged. Harlan traces the signal origin to Pittsburgh.

Max is hooked on the visceral and titillating Videodrome content, and shares it with his kinky girlfriend Nicki (Debbie Harry), sending her over the edge of seeking pain with her pleasure. He becomes obsessed with finding out more, a search that leads him to Bianca O'Blivion (Sonja Smits), the daughter of reclusive self-proclaimed media guru Brian O'Blivion. Max also meets the mysterious Barry Convex (Leslie Carlson), who operates the Spectacular Optical Corporation, an eyeglasses front company.

From the twisted mind of writer and director David Cronenberg, Videodrome is a pinnacle of weird horror. Emerging at the height of the video cassette recorder boom and with the television channel universe starting to mushroom, the film ponders the implications and opportunities of insatiable appetite for unconstrained media. Incredibly, in ways Cronenberg would never have imagined, the film only became more relevant when the online world exponentially multiplied media availability.

The furtive Videodrome raw images sink their teeth into Max's brain, causing unseen damage. Soon he is hallucinating and unable to resist the lure of seeing what is on the next tape. He literally sticks his head into the welcoming television set to get swallowed up. His torso opens to create a cavity for tapes to be inserted straight into his soul. Content and consumer become one: he is what he sees, his actions programmed by what he consumes.

Cronenberg delivers his bleak vision of media as a subverted weapon with an abundance of organic and slimy gore, the special effects crew doing a superlative job of creating a nightmare where hallucinations meld with reality and Max starts to live in a surreal and bloody zone not of his making. All around him Cronenberg creates a wretched world of creeping media influence, including Bianca running a depressing maze-like shelter for vagrants to do nothing but watch individual television sets.

The final act of Videodrome spirals a bit out of control and into abstract assassination territory with Max reduced to a manipulated pawn by the new media creators, and talk of the "new flesh" leaping into directions Cronenberg chooses not to expound on. Nevertheless, the weirdness quotient never drops, and Videodrome opens numerous avenues for still pertinent debate.

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1 comment:

  1. Oh I need to give this another look. It has been so long.


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