Videodrome

Director: David Cronenberg
Written by: David Cronenberg
Cast: James Woods, Sonja Smits, Deborah Harry, Peter Dvorsky

Year / Country: 1983, Canada
Running Time: 84 mins.

In David Cronenberg’s Videodrome, shabby network TV-producer Max Renn (James Woods) is searching for the ultimate shock-TV experience to serve his buccaneers. When his tech-man Harlan breaks into a secret cult-network show called ‘Videodrome’ he finds what he is looking for. A series of snuff videos that are very grotesque, realistic and brutal. Not meant for public consumption. But, as Max puts it, his channel is too small to be considered public.

Max justifies his occupation with economics. His network is small and can only survive by giving the audience something they can’t get anywhere else, hence his interest in Videodrome. When Max participates in a television debate about the ethics of his work, he meets the girl Nicki with whom he hooks up afterwards. She turns out to be pretty much a masochist, who wants to audition for Videodrome herself. Then Max finds out that the show – that is all about torture, mutilation and murder – is real.

When Max goes to speak to television guru Brian O’Blivion, he starts having hallucinations. And very soon the lines between reality and video begin to fade. It goes deep. What we learn along with Max is that reality is pure perception. According to O’Blivion, Videodrome will eventually evolve the human brain so that it will be able to control hallucinations and change the human reality entirely.

Master of body horror David Cronenberg sets up this creepy movie perfectly. The prospect of an unleashed hallucination machine is pretty much terrifying, especially after seeing what Max sees. Max has to watch his own body mutate when a videocassette inserter appears in his belly. This can be used by the creators of Videodrome to insert hallucinations in the form of pulsating VHS-cassettes. The flesh transformations are made very gruesomely by FX-wizard Rick Baker. A frightening exploration of the mind of those who like extreme stuff. A movie that was ahead of its time and is still powerful today in both style and message.

Rating:

Biography: David Cronenberg (1943, Toronto), also known as the King of Venereal Horror or the Baron of Blood, grew up in Toronto. His father was a journalist and his mother a piano player. Cronenberg graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in literature after switching from the science department. He then turned to filmmaking and reached a cult status with a few early horror features including Shivers and Rabid. He rapidly became a very popular genre filmmaker and eventually a true auteur, making profound statements on modern humanity and ever-changing society.

Filmography (a selection): Transfer (1966, short) / Stereo (1969) / Shivers (1975) / Rabid (1977) / Fast Company (1979) / The Brood (1979) / Scanners (1981) / The Dead Zone (1983) / The Fly (1986) / Dead Ringers (1988) / Naked Lunch (1991) / Crash (1996) / eXistenZ (1999) / Spider (2002) / A History of Violence (2005) / Eastern Promises (2007) / A Dangerous Method (2011) / Cosmopolis (2012) / Crimes of the Future (2022)

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