Videodrome

Videodrome is an engrossing and creepy movie executed in David Cronenberg's inimitable style - bodily orifices opening up in unexpected places, beguiling fusion of mechanic and organic, surreal imagery, very disturbing characters.

Review by SAndman
November 2, 2009

Director and writer:
David Cronenberg

Cast:
James Woods as Max Renn
Deborah Harry as Nicki Brand
Sonja Smits as Bianca O'Blivion
Jack Creley as Brian O'Blivion
Leslie Carlson as Barry Convex

Released: 1983

Brian O'Blivion: Your reality is already half video hallucination. If you're not careful, it will become total hallucination. You'll have to learn to live in a very strange new world.



The basic premise is simple: audiences have become so jaded with television that networks are forced to constantly push back the boundaries of the viewers' expectations. Channel 83 is the hot new thing which stops short of nothing in providing their viewers with the kicks they are deprived of in their everyday lives.

Max Renn, the cynical president of Channel 83, is always on a lookout for raw stuff, the rawer the better. Through his assistant he gets hold of a show which consists solely of a torture of a woman at the hands of two masked men. There is no plot, just the sheer physical torture, which goes on forever.

Renn gets interested and wishing to track down the creators of the show inadvertently sets in motion a whole series of events which will culminate in the discovery that the show is at the center of a conspiracy which involves a vast web of right-wing nuts bent on domination and control.

Worse yet, Renn finds out that the show contains a deadly signal which directly affects the brain of the viewer leading to permanent damage. The signal is broadcast by the Spectacular Optical, a global corporation with ties to the NATO, whose corporate slogan is "Keeping an Eye on the World".

The signal induces hallucinations which ultimately undermine the very foundations of reality, and once the line between real and imaginary is crossed, as Renn comes to learn, nothing is what it seems, not even your own physical self.

James Woods excels as Max Renn, getting across the darker shades of Renn’s character marvelously, Deborah Harris, think Blondie, seems like a logical choice for Nicki Brand, the kinky media personality, whose character, as the plot progresses, takes on a sinister edge. Cronenenberg’s approach is baroque in its passion for detail. This goes especially for his fascination for all things bizarre and gory.

I've always had a penchant for Philip K. Dick's stories and Dali's pictures, so it makes perfect sense that I liked Videodrome. Strange though it may look upon first viewing, Videodrome has a pretty straightforward plot which veers between a psychological thriller and modern allegory, though at its core it is a science fiction movie, which features some of the stock concepts of the genre: visionary technology, shifting nature of reality, interplay between technology and humanity.

Add to that the Marshall McLuhan mass media theory, which is voiced by Professor Brian O'Blivion in the movie, urban legends and a smattering of conspiracy theories, all touched by Cronenberg’s fervent imagination, and the end result is a provocative and at times a rather visceral, though never gut-wrenching, movie.

Besides a deftly handled plot and thrilling score by Howard Shore, it showcases Cronenenberg’s signature body horror, directed with a help of a groundbreaking special effects technology. A good entry point for anyone new to Cronenenberg, even for those faint of heart.



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