Director – David Cronenberg
Cast – James Woods, Sonja Smits, Deborah Harry, Peter Dvorsky, Leslie Carlson, Jack Creley, Lynne Gorman
Release Year – 1983
Reviewed by John of the Dead
Known as the “King of Venereal Horror”, director David Cronenberg is a name we horror buffs whisper in our sleep. Those who have only recently heard of this iconic director may only be familiar with his recent flicks, such as Eastern Promises and the critically acclaimed A History of Violence. Of course, what do you know…he got his start and claim to fame with the HORROR genre. Heh. Cronenberg was quite active during the late 70s and all of the 80s, putting out eight horror flicks in that span(all positive films, with 5 of them highly rated). Three years before he gave us his version of The Fly in 1986, one of horror’s finest, he gave us an interesting take on the horror genre with Videodrome.
Videodrome stars James Woods as Max Renn, a seedy television programmer who works mainly in the areas of sex, bondage, and exploitation. While searching for something new and shocking to appease his now sexually calloused viewers and co-owners, Max comes across a transmission referred to as Videodrome. After viewing Videodrome he becomes obsessed with finding it’s source, all while suffering from extreme hallucinations involving sex and murder. Soon enough he gets too close to Videodrome and realizes that it is not simply a series of snuff films, but a global conspiracy aimed at controlling it’s growing number of viewers.
“LONG LIVE THE NEW FLESH!” indeed, Mr. Cronenberg. Videodrome plays off the love of the human population’s love for television, and the ever growing need to be entertained. Some are fine with watching the same redundant nonsense on television, I however, am not. I fall into the category of those in this film who need that break from everyday life and like to see shocking things(I have my limits guys/girls) as a way of escape and excitement. I am sure there are many others out there who feel the exact same way as I do, and for all of you who meet that criteria, this film was made for you. Without giving too much away, Max Penn’s need to satisfy the minds of his lowly cohorts(Me? You?) opened the door to how dangerous mass media can be, especially when focused on violence. How often do you really see horror films based on this material? Probably not very often, and right now I can only think of The Signal as being a film somewhat like this, although 24 years too late and not as good.
Cronenberg’s direction in this film is as great as it usually is and definitely has his “feel”. To me the film took a little while to really get going and actually had me confused at times with the definition and explanation of “Videodrome”, but that only intrigued me even more. Of course, Cronenberg stayed true to his nature and threw in some pretty sweet gore towards the end of the film, which really sealed the deal for me because most of the film did not have the carnage he usually employs in his films. One thing this film DID have, which is always synonymous with anything Cronenberg, was the use of sex. Max Penn’s seductive girlfriend provides great conflict with her love of bondage and sexual torture, only re-enforcing Videodrome’s effect on him. Genius.
Overall, this is a great horror film with a unique subject sure to please the minds of those who want something “different” in the horror realm. Recommended to all to view at least once, and especially recommended to fans of Cronenberg’s work.