I went into Videodrome with both anticipation and some amount of apprehension, as I have some Cronenberg films I love, but I’m also not really into body horror that much (though my favorite Cronenberg is eXistenZ, and it definitely delves into some of the same territory as Videodrome). And the first thirty minutes or so were kind of rough going, between the literal torture porn that Max, our TV producer lead character, tries to get for his extreme network and the rough sex he has with Nicki Brand (Debbie Harry – very fun to see her in a movie, as I’m a big Blondie fan). If Max hadn’t come across a VERY intriguing conspiracy surrounding Videodrome right about that time, I would’ve been very tempted to quit.
I’m glad I didn’t, as all the mystery surrounding Videodrome (once we stopped actually watching clips from the torture porn show cover) was really interesting – hidden subliminal messages that alter reality for anyone who hears it. From that point on, it becomes increasingly difficult to tell what’s real and what’s hallucination for Max, which is kind of good and bad, actually.
It did keep me quite engaged with the film, but I also kept trying to figure it out, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to ultimately figure it out, or if there is I didn’t see it. It’s more about the waking nightmare, the texture of horror when even your own body can’t be trusted. A lot of these elements were recycled for eXistenZ, which does for video games basically what Videodrome does for video/TV, but I’d need to rewatch eXistenZ to remember exactly what it was that I liked so much about it – it might literally have just been that I hadn’t seen very many weird things at the time and I was captivated by that. Whereas now, I enjoyed the weirdness of Videodrome, but felt like it lost its point toward the end, somewhere about the time it totally lost all sense of the real.
I realize “but what actually happened” is like the least interesting question to have at the end of a movie like this, but that is pretty much where I was. I mean, (spoilers) if the solution was for him to kill himself – did that actually stop Videodrome? Wasn’t it affecting lots more people than just him? Or do we not care about that? Or was all that part of his delusion too? On rewatch, questions like that likely wouldn’t matter to me as much and I’d enjoy it more for the texture and mood. On the other hand, it wasn’t what I’d call a pleasant watch – not that it’s meant to be, but I’d think twice before popping it back in the player.
Stats and stuff…
written and directed by David Cronenberg
starring James Woods, Sonja Smits, Debbie Harry, Peter Dvorsky, Leslie Carlson, Jack Creley
I’m ranking all my Challenge films on Flickchart (as I do all the films I see), a movie-ranking website that asks you to choose your favorite between two movies until it builds a ranked list of your favorites. Just for fun, I will average out the rankings and keep a running tally of whose recommendations rank the highest. When you add a film to Flickchart, it pits it against films already on your chart to see where it should fall. Here’s how Videodrome entered my chart:
Videodrome > Film Socialisme
Videodrome < Dial M for Murder
Videodrome > Apocalypse Now
Videodrome > The Magnificent Ambersons
Videodrome < Brief Encounter
Videodrome < Black Sunday
Videodrome < Jean de Florette
Videodrome < Three Kings
Videodrome < Batman Returns
Videodrome < Freeway
Videodrome < The Tom and Jerry Cartoon Kit
Videodrome > Down Terrace
Final #1153 out of 3693 films on my chart (69%)
It is now my #3 David Cronenberg film, my #9 Body Horror film, my #16 Cyberpunk/Tech Noir, my #8 Media Satire, my #32 Mindbender, my #59 Psychological Thriller, and my #3 film of 1983 (I finally have a top 10 of 1983 – if you include shorts).
Videodrome was recommended by Matthew Thomas, a friend from the Flickcharters group on Facebook.
A few quotes…
Dr. O’Blivion: Television has become the retina of the mind’s eye.
Max: I think Videodrome is what’s next.
Masha: Then God help us.
Masha: It has something you don’t…a philosophy. That’s what makes it dangerous.
Dr. O’Blivion: Television is reality and reality is less than television.
Max: Death to Videodrome. Long live the new flesh.
A few more screenshots…