Archive for May, 2011

VIDEODROME, David Cronenberg (1983)

Posted in Directors, Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller with tags , , , , on May 15, 2011 by Toi Brownstone

I’ve just realized it’s been too long since I last reviewed a film of Cronenberg for this blog, one year and a half. Can’t believe time goes so fast.  Been checking and lots of good titles need to be commented, so I’ll have to fill the gaps ASAP.

Few weeks ago felt in the mood of watching Videodrome. It was no longer available in my collection because the criterion edition was my ex’s, thus I found it quite cheap and bought it. I want to have  all his films, the Canadian director is one of my favorites, and love most of his works, thus, little by little, I’ll be investing  few bucks in completing the collection. Right now I think I already have four or five. I’m not in a hurry either.

Videodrome is not an easy film. It took me at least 3 times to start enjoying it, and guess at the 5th time I realized I loved it. With this film, the typical Cronenberg’s couple of fiction and reality, is exploited at its most, really putting the viewer on a tense situation of not being able to identify at which point the film is. That’s why I honestly recommend, before making a final judgment on the film, to give it more than just one chance, in order to get a clearer picture of the story.

Don’t panic! My words might sound a bit discouraging, but I can tell you now, I love Videodrome, and the story is terrific, my intention is to advise you properly, so you don’t miss anything.

Max Renn (James Woods), the president of Civic TV, a trashy station in Toronto, focused on porn and softcore, is seeking desperately for new fresh stuff to offer the audience and increase viewing rates. Definitely new product must be shocking, better if extreme, as to catch people attention.

The answer to his prayers is discovered by Harlan, a sort of IT guy in the company, who also runs an illegal station equipped with a satellite able to intercept signals of broadcasts. He’s found out something Renn is definitely going to love: Videodrome. The show doesn’t follow a plot line and is based on extreme torture and death, recorded in a red-orange horror chamber, seems so realistic, Renn can’t stop looking for more of this amazing material, very addictive.

When participating as a guest on a talk show, Renn meets an attractive psychiatrist specialized in S/M named Nicki Brand (Debbie Harry). Sexual attraction among them appears immediately and eventually they’ll start dating. By chance, Nicki finds out about Videodrome and really the tapes get her really hot, putting into practice her knowledge on S/M with  Renn.

On the other hand, when looking for more information regarding the extreme tapes, Marsha, a long term collaborator and well connected in the porn world, advising him first to forget about Videodrome, addresses him to Professor Brian O’Blivion, the only person able to enlighten on the subject.

The more Renn deepens into Videodrome dark secrets, the more he suffers hallucinations, up to a point he’ll barely recognize reality from delirium.

No doubt the plot is genuine, in fact it’s difficult to summarize the film briefly, there are too many events  and concepts bringing out, impossible to refer to all of them without spoiling.

What it’s compulsory when watching Videodrome is you to stay focused, otherwise it’ll be Greek to you.

Cronenberg deals here, with all his typical resources. Loves playing with insanity and reality, the scientific part is also included, and the bizarre is very important feature here. The combination is a bomb, not so clear at the first glance.

And there’s also the subject of brain manipulation by means of images, something not so far from reality nowadays. We’re slaves to images, we’re bombed with so much information, in order to create an impact on us, more shocking stuff is unconsciously demanded. We get used to everything, we swallow and bear cruelty, roughness, and eventually we reach a point where that doesn’t mean anything, therefore, in order to catch our attention, media is constantly innovating and offering new shit so we get shocked.

Remember the innocence of 50’s horror movies? I remember once, a friend of mine started questioning whether people in those years were treated as idiots, and couldn’t believe audiences were impressed or scared by poor disguised monsters. She thought them to be ridiculous. It was a matter of ignorance and innocence, something I don’t find to laugh so much at. People weren’t familiar to certain contents, and didn’t have as much info as we receive now.

Radically opposite is the current situation. We see blood, murder and execution on a daily basis, we’re not so impressed by bombs, blood or death, it’s just normal. Media tends to focus on morbid contents so we can feel moved or disgusted.

And there it goes the issue of  morality and respect. These concepts have been manipulated and they’re actually vanishing. A corpse is just a corpse, a thing, a piece of chunk yet interesting to fill gaps on the news. I find this sick and disgusting.

Cronenberg creates a sci-fi story, yet he’s able to develop some kind of critic. Dichotomies are in constant movement in Videodrome, and at the end, what’s the conclusion?