(David Cronenberg, 1983)

Classic subversive Cronenberg, full of perversions, horror and twisted dreamscapes. His fans consider this among his best. But I’m not sure if I’m really a fan. James Woods gives another fearless performance, but his supporting cast and the cryptic sci-fi script leaves me cold and disengaged.

Spoilers/synopsis after the jump.

Nothing in Videodrome resembles reality, but it taps into something at humanity’s core. Woods, a sleazy TV exec, finds himself obsessed with a show that features torture and sex, bordering on snuff TV. Cronenberg’s message here is clear – what is it about taboo that intrigues us, and threatens to overwhelm those of us that get trapped in its allure? However, he delves even further, exploring the dangerous side of television culture, about how it’s based on manipulation and potential addiction. However, Cronenberg’s unique vision requires that you realize this by watching Woods envelop his head in a bulging TV screen (above), or insert a VHS tape directly into a clearly vagina-like opening in his belly.

It almost appears when Cronenberg is in doubt, he veers toward the grotesque, something he shares with David Lynch. Perhaps it’s a function of his chosen genre of sci-fi horror; maybe it’s his outsider, Canadian background that propels him towards the unusual. As I write this, I know for a fact I’d enjoy this more on a second viewing. But initially, his visuals and ideas are sometimes so shocking and raw that the movie seems really calculated and again, cold.

This is partly my reaction to other 80s sci-fi classics – I hated Blade Runner when I finally saw it 25 years too late. Do I expect more because these films are so highly regarded? Am I jaded by 21st century sensibilities? Not sure, but for now, Videodrome gets a healthy, but not great 3.0/5.0.


Posted on August 30, 2008, in Film log and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. You weren’t alone in disliking “Blade Runner” back in 1982. I remember the reviews being mixed-to-bad, including a 1.5/4 rating from Leonard Maltin.

    I absolutely loved it back then, though.

    Have you revisited “The Thing” recently. That’s one that holds up extremely well in my opinion.

  2. Yeah, I have watched them recently, both versions (1951 and 1982). And you’ll be shocked to know that I gave both movies got the same decent, but far from great 3.0/5.0.

    Maybe it’s just sci-fi in general for me. Maybe I’ve got a blind spot.

  3. Maybe it is a genre thing.

    I thought the original “Thing” was kinda silly, but love Carpenter’s remake, even though neither I nor my mother were quite sure what to make of it back in 1982 when I was 13.

  4. I have the exact opposite problem with sci-fi as a genre—I’m too easy on it! I think I share this problem with Roger Ebert, from what I’ve noticed in his reviews.

    I will absolutely grant the fact that Blade Runner is not a great (or even very well done, in some respects) movie, but I still loved it then and love it now.

    My most recent past life must have been as a 12-year-old boy in 1955, because I apparently will happily watch anything with a spaceship (or a dystopian future!) in it.

    I mean, sh*t, I own “The Arrival’! (The aliens’ legs bend backward at the knee! That’s so cool!)

    (NB: None of this enthusiasm applies to the unmitigated suckfests that were the three “Star Wars” prequels.)

  5. Shit, this topic looks like it should be a whole post, if I only knew quite how to create it.

    See, throw an indie comedy at me full of depressed losers (Sideways, Little Miss Sunshine) and I melt like butter. I continue to defend Juno, even though I’m almost positive the stars aligned to actually make that movie not a complete embarrassment. Great World of Sound might have made my best of 2007 list.

    I think I have Sundance Syndrome, and I fully expect to go ga-ga for Burn After Reading, since I even thought the Coens’ remake of The Ladykillers wasn’t without its charms.

    Ultimately, I need to watch more sci-fi. It’s just never my first choice, especially when I’ve got Lost in Translation just begging to be rewatched.

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