Back when David Cronenberg was known as ‘the Baron of blood’ or Dave ‘Deprave’ Cronenberg and before he was awarded France’s Legion of Honour or lunched with Tom Cruise, he infected the imagination of cinema audiences with Videodrome (1982). Provocative, prophetic and even philosophical, Videodrome blends Cronenberg’s predilection for the perverse with Marshall Mcluhan’s musings on media to create a cautionary Sci-Fi / Horror film that brings new meaning to the expression, “television will rot your brain.”
Videodrome follows Max Renn (James Woods), a sleazy underground cable TV programmer in Toronto, as he stumbles onto the transmission of “Videodrome,” a show consisting of “just torture and murder. No plot, no characters.” Max thinks he has found “what’s next,” something his desensitized audience has been craving and something that will “break through.” After hooking up with the kinky Nicki Brand (Blondie’s Deborah Harry), Max begins to experience violent and sexual hallucinations resulting in mind-bending (and blowing) special effects by Academy Award winner Rick Baker. Television screens pulsate like organs while videotapes bulge and breathe as if alive. In an attempt to locate the source of “Videodrome,” Max discovers its transmissions are encoded with a signal that induces a brain tumor, eventually transforming the viewer’s reality into video hallucination. The signal was originally intended to be the next stage in human evolution as a technological being by its inventor, media prophet Brian O’Blivion (Jeck Creley), a parody of Mcluhan. Instead, Barry Convex (Les Carlson) has hijacked the signal and plans to launch it through Max’s cable channel as a mind-controlling device.
Exploding bodies, exploding television sets, a vaginal torso slit and a transmogrified pistol-hand all contribute to the ensuing imagery as Max descends into extreme hallucinations of mutation and murder, drawing the film to a viscera drenched conclusion.
Though at times convoluted and uneven, Videodrome is a prescient parable about the intrusive and identity-threatening force of the media, specifically television, and the dangerously desensitizing effects of overexposure to sex and violence. Forecasting society’s sadistic bloodlust for violence as electronic entertainment, predicting the reality TV craze, and inspiring/influencing countless films including The Matrix (1999) and The Ring (2002), Videodrome remains as relevant today as it was in 1982. It is unfortunate Cronenberg does not return to this kind of thoughtful, edgy filmmaking and instead pursues a proposed blockbuster starring Tom Cruise and Denzel Washington.
The original trailer- one of the most random and also one of the best trailers ever: