Cyberpunk Review » Videodrome

February 14, 2006

Videodrome

Year: 1983

Directed by: David Cronenberg

Written by: David Cronenberg

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Medium

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High

Key Cast Members:

  • Max Renn: James Woods
  • Nicki Brand: Deborah Harry
  • Bianca O’Blivion: Sonja Smits
  • Harlan: Peter Dvorsky
  • Rating: 7 out of 10

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    Overview: Videodrome, another interesting flick from mind-fuck horror master, David Cronenberg, provides us an interesting commentary on the effects of total immersion into a mass-media culture. Filmed for a paltry 6 million, this movie generated significant buzz upon release as one of the weirder movies ever made. Unfortunately, its FX don’t age well, and maybe I’ve seen just a few too many weird movies to consider Videodrome all that strange now. But if you’re in the mood for a strange cyberpunk horror, this is one to consider.

     

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    The Story: Max Renn (played wonderfully by James Woods), a sleazy two-bit cable TV executive is always on the lookout for shows that pass the bounds of human decency. One day while scanning the satellite feed, his engineer stumbles upon an S&M, broadcast from a strange production company called Videodrome. Not only are the subjects beaten, they may even be involved in creating a snuff film. Curiosity gets the better of Max, and he becomes obsessed with finding the broadcast.

     

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    Along with his pain and pleasure girlfriend (played by Blondie’s Deborah Harry), Max finds the broadcast, and is then shocked to learn that his girlfriend has left to become a star on Videodrome. In pursuing her, and in wanting to experience Videodrome for himself, Max becomes captivated by the Videodrome signal. The wall between reality and fantasy dissolves and Max becomes a pawn in a plot to broadcast Videodrome’s subliminally controlling signal to millions.

     

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    Cyberpunk Musings: If we strip out the bizarre and magical horror stuff, Videodrome’s message is that total immersion into mass media dehumanizes us. It excites us into a state of hyper-violence and deviant sexual desires. Videodrome’s desire to create the “new flesh,” in movie terms is the merging of human consciousness with mass media. In a more post-human sense, Cronenberg seems to be saying that humanity itself is becoming lost as society slips further and further into this new mass-media culture. By feeding our deviant unconscious desires that have been surfaced by addiction to mass media, in effect, our humanity and individualism is lost.

     

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    The Bottom Line: Even though the effects seem dated, Videodrome is still a pretty weird head trip. The characters are by no means deep, but the acting is good enough to keep you entertained in places where the story falters. I will say the as a whole, the cinematography wasn’t the greatest – there were significant lighting issues, and very little imagination in camera angle placements. But whether you watch this movie purely for the horror or the philosophy, the ideas are interesting enough to keep you entertained even with the FX start to falter. I’m torn between giving this film a 7 star rating or an 8 star rating – for now I’ll give it 7 stars until someone provides a good enough argument to merit changing it.

     

    ~See movies similar to this one~

    Tags: cyberpunk movie review Videodrome

    This post has been filed under Horror, 7 Star Movies, Good low-budget movies, VR Movies, Cyberpunk movies from 1980-1989 by SFAM.

    Comments

    August 1, 2006

    DannyV said:

    Ah, Videodrome. This is a cool flick. ery weird and very thoughtful. It’s not the best cyberpunk movie by any means, but it is pretty fun, and James Woods is always a treat. he does the sniveling asshole bit better than any actor ever. And Debbie Harry is just freaky, she has such an incredible capacity to unnerve you in every movie she’s in.

    SFAM said:

    Hi DannyV, its amazing how many people I’ve run into that were blown away by this movie. I don’t think its aged particularly well, but it certainly was hot stuff way back when. And yeah, Debra Harry can definitely do freaky!

    October 3, 2006

    br79 said:

    Videodrome is the name of a video rental shop in Atlanta Georgia, with a lot of indie/cult flicks, guess when you name yer shop after this flick, you would have to.

    http://atlanta.citysearch.com/profile/2997770/

    April 1, 2007

    DN-38416 said:

    Ah, a true cyberpunk headtrip of a film, the kind of movie that burns its way into your subconcious (the best kind of film, in my opinion). A film that can not only inspire tons of in-depth post-viewing thought, but is a gold mine of memorable lines (from the mini-catchphrase “long live the new flesh”, “I live in a highly excitied state of overstimulation”, or pretty much any line by Brian O’blivion)

    Your review noted:

    “Videodrome’s desire to create the “new flesh,” in movie terms is the merging of human consciousness with mass media. In a more post-human sense, Cronenberg seems to be saying that humanity itself is becoming lost as society slips further and further into this new mass-media culture. By feeding our deviant unconscious desires that have been surfaced by addiction to mass media, in effect, our humanity and individualism is lost.”

    But I wonder if this apparent loss of “humanity and individualism” that you say the idea of the New Flesh seems to be suggesting isn’t something, instead, that Cronenberg actually endorses, in a way. Perhaps he’s suggesting that our ability to explore our deviant nature, whether coerced or sought out, might actually be a doorway to the collective unconscious. Perhaps there is more humanity by losing oneself in the “Plasma Pool” to quote “The Fly”.

    From “The Fly”:
    “You only know societies straight line about the flesh. You can’t penetrate beyond societies sick grey fear of the flesh… I’m not just talking about sex and penetration, I’m talking about penetration beyond the veil of the flesh. A deep penetrating dive into the plasma pool.”

    Admittedly, in both movies the hero effectively “dies”… and these are horror movies, so it’s hard to see their actions as something Cronenberg advocates. But I also don’t feel he is warning us about this “penetration beyond the veil.” Instead, I’d argue that he is indicating this is a foregone conclusion in terms of human evolution.

    In interviews Cronenberg has been asked whether he thinks there should be limits to medical and scientific exploration, and he’s basically indicated, and I’m paraphrasing here, that it is not something that can actually be limited… and so, no, he doesn’t see a benefit in attempting to do so.

    April 24, 2007

    a said:

    THIS COMMENT CONTAINS SPOILERS

    Marshall McLuhan says something like “the establishment is using the new media to give an old message”, and he also says that each medium is an extension of human physiology (”electric circuitry [is] an extension of the central nervous system” - The Medium is the Massage, pg. 40.) While he doesn’t use the word, he implies that new media are a form of transhumanisation. Cronenberg basically repeats that. The Videodrome signal (Barry Convex) represents the “old message” (”we’ve gotta be pure to survive the tough times”, or whatever Harlan says when he uncovers himself), while the “new flesh” (O’Blivion) represents the “new message” - a society based on information and nomadic values (pornography is one of them), and the ultimate extension of human physiology: its destruction. I think the film is rather sympathetic to O’Blivion, although of course Cronenberg chooses to distance himself from the possible effects of total transhumanisation.

    END OF SPOILERS

    April 27, 2007

    SFAM said:

    Hi a, terrific post! I absolutely agree with the transhumanism linkage.

    June 6, 2007

    randomrob said:

    A great old film, and also a look at an interesting time.. ie- when cable tv was NEW and had to fight to keep itself alive…. not unlike what tv journalism is going thru now …

    Cronenberg had a knack for exploring themes open-endedly in his films, and often leaving alot of questions… I don’t think he ever had a full answer. I always felt watching ‘Videodrome’ that the signal was cancer and the visions were hallucinations, that is, not seeing into an extended reality at all… and that O’Blivions message was to transcend the body and become video simulation, not unlike cyberspace.

    I like yr ideas about ‘old’ & ‘new’ messages, A, BTW. I agree.

    August 22, 2007

    l1zrdking said:

    I only wish I could have seen this movie at its prime. I’m enjoying it now, but I can only imagine what experience it would have been back then, especially to see this on the big screen in all of its goodness!

    It’s defiantly dated as far as most everything about it, but as I sit here with a headache from hell, watchin this movie, one cant help but to identify.

    LONG LIVE THE NEW FLESH!

    March 24, 2010

    Stephen said:

    Excellent movie, alongside my thoughts regarding Orwell’s 1984!

    December 27, 2010

    capnsid said:

    One can’t help but want to offer Barry Convex bottle of Bayer and a pack of Rolaids. Long live the NEW FLESH!

    January 7, 2011

    deadmovies said:

    I\m going to buy this movie

    July 20, 2011

    Vampyre Mike said:

    The message was interesting, the visuals and effects are super dated. I would give it a 6.. decent but not great or even very good.

    March 8, 2012

    birdday143 said:

    Rick Baker is the frickin man! Whoever said this film’s fx are dated do not know what good fx are. I would take awesome make up and mechanical props over CGI any day. I’m hoping they dont screw up the remake like so many others have done using CGI instead of makeup. The hallucinatory narrative is awesome but the vaginal slit and the flesh gun are golden!

    November 2, 2012

    Rosa Tinyteeth said:

    I’d rate this at 10 stars. The bad guys were the extra creepy and prurient Harlan and Barry Convex. “We’ve analyzed your hallucinations,” and “We’re gonna keep using you until you’re all gone.” The prototype image intensifier which became the videodrome signal was well done. “I’d stick around but I can’t stand freaky stuff.” But the really cool thing was what really happened? I was mostly video hallucination. Did Harlan’s hand really turn into a stick grenade that exploded? What happened to him. He died, for sure, but how? Did Convex’s brain really start crawling out of his head after he was gunned down. Do people really gurgle like that into the mic after being shot in the forehead. After watching this scene I’m tempted to say that they indeed can. Jack Creely was also in Dr.Strangelove, btw. And Convex, Les Carlson was in A Christmas Story.

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