(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.