Videodrome (1983) * Hidden Gem *

Blondie loves the new Flesh! Everyone loves the new Flesh!!!
Blondie loves the new Flesh! Everyone loves the new Flesh!!!

Genre: Horror Mystery Fantasy Thriller (Canada, USA)

Starring: James Woods (The Virgin Suicides John Carpenter's Vampires), Deborah Harry (My Life Without MeTales from the Darkside: The Movie)

Directed By: David Cronenberg (Eastern PromiseseXistenZ)

Overview: When a local television station owner discovers a show featuring torture and murder, his obsession with getting it on his station may well cause his downward spiral into madness.

Feel free to click here to skip the spoiler bit at the beginning.

Videodrome certainly succeeds is showing us a man's downfall, but it does so by leaving us in the role of the viewer and not as a participant. What begins as a storytelling style where we learn at the same pace as our hero ends with drastic changes in the final act. Rather than following Max Renn down the rabbit hole, we instead are forced to watch as he descends alone. Did Cronenberg intend to leave us in the dark about Max's mental state? When we begin following our victim/anti-hero, we come to learn of his hallucinations as he does. The scene where he hides a pistol in his stomach fold then wonders if it's really there when he 'snaps out of it' shows that he knows as little about it as we do. The perspective is undoubtedly his. Yet as soon as he's given the first 'program tape', everything changes. The gap between Max and us widens. Rather than including the audience in Max Renn's trip, showing us his purpose and drive, our close connection to him fades into erratic murders.

If Cronenberg's goal was to carry us to a point that we could not possibly understand without we, ourselves 'taking part in Videodrome', then his storytelling style should have been more third person, more 'true, knowledgeable observer', since we're left to becoming a mere spectator in the end - which works with the overall theme, though is an unfair lesson to teach an audience whose role was as 'first person' as could be - until the end.

However, if this was on purpose, Max as nothing more than a shadow assassin completely driven by his programming, then we have in Videodrome a nice little brain-spill, something even more terrifying since Max would see, as we did, someone outside of himself controlling him, moving in an unknowable fashion.

The more I write on the subject, the more I imagine this was intentional. I find it hard to believe that such a well laid-out and conceived plot could have an ending that was nothing more than mayhem meant to drive the audience to confusion.

You know it's not so much about the gore as it is about the General Tao's Chicken they used as guts
You know it's not so much about the gore as it is about the General Tao's Chicken they used as guts

In my experience so far, there's two sides to Cronenberg's directing career: the 'Eastern Promises, History of Violence, The Fly Hollywoody' stuff, and the 'Naked Lunch, eXistenZ, Videodrome Weird Altered States' stuff which could easily be compared to David Lynch's work, but Cronenberg is far more about the ultra-over the top latex splatter gore - and I mean, how can you go wrong with that? Either way, I'd definitely bet those two have hung out a couple times.

Being the weirdo that I am, I prefer out-there, make-you-think, crazy line of films, and Videodrome is certainly right up my right-brained alley. With just enough juicy goo, with just enough rough sex, with just enough fantasy/reality shift that this film pushes the envelope of art while staying just close enough to the mainstream to have made enough money in theatres for Cronenberg to get another job, Videodrome certainly isn't for everyone. Those of you out there who never liked the Buñuel/Dali, who were never fans of lucid dream type films, well this really might not be your bag (unless you love Troma-class gore).

For the rest of you, you may find it to be a little too eXistenZ, but still fresh. No harm in watching the film that shot Cronenberg's career into high gear.

We've all done it. the difference is the TV's making out back
We've all done it. the difference is the TV's making out back

Performance: 7 Cinematography: 8 Script: 9 Plot: 8 Mood: 8

Overall Rating: 80% (Kill The Radio Star! Long Live The New Flesh!)
Aftertaste:

Videodrome is one of the 1001 Films I'm Glad I Saw Before I Died. What I liked most about it was the writing, the way the film bore its way into my brain and made me write an interpretive piece about what it really all meant. It's rare. I've been at this for a while now and straightforward is not the sort of thing that makes me ponder. I love coming back to the screwed up oddities like this. It's fun for the Cortex.

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