Videodrome (1983) (R)

Let's talk about the "what-the-heck" moment. It was present in "Antichrist" when there was a pair of scissors. It was certainly accounted for all throughout "In the Realm of Senses" particularly when a hard boiled egg made a cameo. Probably the movie filled with the most moments is "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus". But most movies have explained "what-the-heck" moments, usually in the form of a dream of a drug-induced hallucination. In films that don't offer an explanation, they abandon reality which makes a lot of sense when you take another look at "Antichrist". The melting camera angles, the talking animals...reality is abandoned for insanity. And who knows what's going on in Terry Gilliam's film?
What makes "Videodrome" so deadly interesting and also filled with such grotesque imagery is the fact that it achieves the "what-the-heck" moment so often and with such inventive new ways that the result is perhaps nauseating. Still, the film strives for realism which is what makes it incredibly frightening—the visual effects you see are accompanied with the placid acceptance of them.
In interviews about the film, its star James Woods always reference the nightmarish way "Videodrome" is made. Yes, a nightmare would probably be the best way to put it—seeing as everything is so outlandish and freaky that a mind teasing nightmare could be one of the only explanations.
Max Renn (James Woods) is one of the producers of a sleazy TV channel named Civic TV...the one you take to bed. They air the smuttiest shows from soft-core pornography to hard-core violence as a character describes it in the film.
Max doesn't have any qualms about showing this kind of thing. He thinks that it's not influencing people to think a different way. Besides, Civic TV isn't a big television channel, their audience is limited to loyal viewers.
Keen on the idea of bringing something entirely new to the television world, Max seeks out the nastiest shows he can find. What he stumbles across is "Videodrome".
More like a snuff TV show than anything else, Max comes across a pirated video of people getting whipped in a room...that's all. They are stripped down and beaten like prisoners—he thinks it's genius.
Why genius? Because the production value of the show is minimal. There is no plot to "Videodrome", there are no returning characters, just S&M type torture for an hour. He is perplexed and hypnotized by the images.
While giving an interview about his TV station, Max meets the sexy radio star Nicki Brand (Deborah Harry). He starts going out with her, which leads to uncomfortable sex scenes involving needles poked through various parts of the body and cigarette burns on skin. "Videodrome" has already started to take over Max's life.
Nicki is intensely drawn to the allure of "Videodome" and Max's doubts about the show itself don't register.
But this isn't even getting to the weird, not even close.
David Cronenberg is known for invasion of the body type horror films. With "Videodrome" we have the invasion of the body, but I wouldn't consider it a horror film. It's intension is not to scare, but to unsettle...there is a small difference.
"Videodrome" is a scary look at technological dependence, one that remains poignant and frightening today. If we are to trust Cronenberg, TV has the possibility to emasculate us and rape us. It places things inside out body, ideas that can never be truly separated from out flesh again.
In that way, "Videodrome" could be counterproductive because it is a film about how bad film can be. This much is oddly forgivable. Some shots of the movie, as James Woods is walking down the street, shadows cast on his face, reflections in the store-shop windows, are surprisingly the most haunting images of the film.
"Videodrome" isn't for everyone, it's commentary is odd and perhaps not fully thought out; but its impact stretches far beyond its own thoughts.
Once seen it cannot be forgotten.
Long live the new flesh.

Score: ★★★½

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