This review is part of the Around the World in May-ty Days challenge that Cinefessions is taking part in throughout the month of May. The challenge originated on Letterboxd thanks to a user named Berken. Find out more, including how to follow along, via this list on Letterboxd.
David Cronenberg is undoubtedly an intelligent filmmaker. He makes smart horror/sci-fi films that require the viewer’s full attention, all while adding in some of the most incredible gore effects you’ll ever see. If I told you that I understood Videodrome completely, I’d be lying. Even though it is a bit dense, and the overall message of the movie isn’t easy to pin down, I do know that I enjoyed the hell out of it.
James Woods plays Max Renn, a cable TV programmer who specializes in softcore porn and hardcore violence. He stumbles upon this program thanks to his pirating partner entitled Videodrome. There is no plot at all, just 30-60 minutes of violent torture and eventual murder. Renn is fascinated by the idea, and wants to find out more about the production. Nothing is as it seems, though, and his search for Videodrome becomes one massive hallucinatory nightmare filled with violent sex, mutating body parts, and more secrets than you can shake a stick at.
Cronenberg takes the viewer on an incredible visual journey with Videodrome. It is easy to see why Cronenberg was chosen to helm The Fly remake because the special effects in this movie are out of control. This is the type of movie that created gorehounds (such as myself), and it’s both beautiful and disgusting all at the same time. The effects, which are essential to the plot because they help drive and motivate the hallucinations (which are, themselves, and essential element to the movie), help make the movie realistic, and, in turn, frightening. This is, without a doubt, a statement on the television and video age of the 1980s, and the way Cronenberg weaves everything together via the use of videocassettes is incredible.
James Woods, who is younger here than I am used to seeing, plays this sleazy TV executive really well. He uses his charming looks to lead the woman in the film, while at the same time displaying a bit of naiveté that is needed to go on this journey that Videodrome attempts to take him on. Deborah Harry is just as seductive and sexy as she needs to be to pull of the character of Nicki, a masochistic sex symbol. The pair have a great sexual chemistry that helps drive the film in the first act.
Cronenberg isn’t making movies for the average audience, or even the average horror fanatic. In fact, there is nothing average about what Cronenberg does, and that makes him special. Between Videodrome and The Fly, Cronenberg may have one of the best eyes for practical effects out there (the work in this is on the same level as Rob Bottin’s work with John Carpenter in The Thing, which came out the year prior, and is one my favorite films of all-time thanks, in large part, to the incredible practical effects). This movie demands repeat viewings to fully grasp the entirety of its social message, which is surely just as relevant now as it was in 1983, probably even more so. I can’t wait to revisit this movie again in the future. Videodrome, though dense, is absolutely recommended.