Film Review: Videodrome (1983)

Release Date: February 4th, 1983
Directed by: David Cronenberg
Written by: David Cronenberg
Music by: Howard Shore
Cast: James Woods, Sonja Smits, Deborah Harry, Peter Dvorsky, Les Carlson, Jack Creley, Lynne Gorman

Filmplan International, Guardian Trust Company, Canadian Film Development Corporation, Universal Pictures, 87 Minutes, 89 Minutes (uncut)

Review:

“The battle for the mind of North America will be fought in the video arena: the Videodrome. The television screen is the retina of the mind’s eye. Therefore, the television screen is part of the physical structure of the brain. Therefore, whatever appears on the television screen emerges as raw experience for those who watch it. Therefore, television is reality, and reality is less than television.” – Brian O’Blivion

Some movies can be batshit crazy but then there are a select few that go beyond that. Videodrome is one of these films, as it is a complete and absolute mindfuck.

This is also a David Cronenberg film from his early days, so intense, disturbing body horror should be expected and in that regard, this movie does not disappoint and it boasts some incredible special effects even though the film had a fairly scant budget.

Overall, this and The Fly are just about tied for being my favorite Cronenberg film. However, this one takes a slight edge, simply because its contents have stuck with me more over the years. At an early age, it penetrated my psyche and it’s roamed around in my head ever since. Maybe I have one of those Videodrome caused brain tumors and it’s just been growing very slowly for decades?

Anyway, the plot of the film follows a television producer who is always on the hunt for fucked up content to air on his cable channel. This was made during the early days of cable and like the early days of the Internet, shit was like the Wild West. This also takes place in Canada, so I’m not sure what restrictions they had, as they weren’t under the rule of the FCC like cable channels in the United States.

On his quest to find fucked up content, the exec is introduced to a show called Videodrome. The show is devoid of plot and doesn’t seem to have much purpose other than being torture porn for some sickos that want to watch captive people go through horrific physical pain.

We do find out that there is a big conspiracy afoot and that the creators behind the show have a sinister agenda. It is up to this exec to try and stop them but his exposure to the show creates strange changes in his mind and body. It’s hard to decipher what is real and what is a hallucination and ultimately, it is never really clear and it makes the movie one hell of a crazy ride.

The linchpin that holds all of this together is James Woods, who plays the exec. His performance is convincing, authentic and so believable that you don’t find yourself questioning the insane developments within the film. You just go along with him on his personal, unique trip through sensory hell.

Cronenberg did a stupendous job in creating a world that feels both foreign and familiar. But beyond that, the mastery of the special effects he employed and dreamed up is uncanny and impressive. The melting, morphing television scene is still one of the greatest effects sequences I’ve ever seen on film. Even knowing as much as I do about practical effects, it’s a moment that still baffles me and I almost don’t want to know the magic trick.

Videodrome is a classic and a real gem of its era. It achieved cult status and deservedly so. However, I feel like it’s now being lost to the sands of time, as younger generations don’t seem to care about anything predating the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The world is currently in a sad state in regards to mainstream art and this film just reminds me of a time when filmmakers overcame challenges, didn’t give a fuck about the censors or the Hollywood system and just made whatever the fuck they wanted to make.

Videodrome makes me yearn for a long overdue filmmaking renaissance.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: other David Cronenberg films of the ’70s and ’80s.