Have I mentioned that David Cronenberg is a weird dude? Because David Cronenberg is a weird, weird dude. One need only watch Naked Lunch or his 1986 remake of The Fly to see that (both films that made the list), but, and I mentioned this in my review of The Fly, one can focus too much on the weirdness and ignore the fact that Cronenberg can still tell a heck of a story. It was apparent in The Fly, but it’s even more apparent in his earlier film, Videodrome. This is probably the most straightforward Cronenberg has been or will be until the last decade or so, but the signature Cronenberg creepy-weirdness is still here. It just brings out a far more squeamish side of us than I think we’d necessarily like.
James Woods is Max Renn, a hotshot head programmer for a cable TV station, looking for the next big thing. His pirate broadcaster, Harlan, may have it in Videodrome, a mysterious transmission he’s picked up from apparently Malaysia, that features incredibly realistic snuff programming set in an odd orange-ish room. Max watches the programming, a few times, and pretty swiftly starts having odd hallucinations that frighten him enough to try and track down the people behind the mystery that is Videodrome. I use the word mystery as that is what the film is principally framed as; we don’t know what is up with Videodrome, and most of the film is devoted to finding the answer. Of course, things are a little more muddled than a simple whodunnit, as they should be, but Cronenberg has much more to say about the state of television and the future of the medium than that; indeed, one can look into such an angle on this film for a good long while and still find new things on occasion. I, however, rarely take into account such underlying subtext and message delivery; I’m more about how openly entertaining a film is, and this was pretty damn entertaining. Once the weirdness kicks in, you almost want to recoil, but are strangely fascinated by what is transpiring on screen; Wikipedia’s classification of this as a “body horror” film is rightfully deserved. The effects may not be perfectly seamless, or completely impenetrable as to how they accomplished what they did, but they are certainly visceral, and that’s the impact Cronenberg wants the film to have on you.
As much as I liked The Fly, I didn’t know what to expect from Videodrome, so, in my natural effort of self-protection, I went into it expecting another weird-fest from Cronenberg. I came out the other end pretty damn pleased with what I had seen. It made me cringe a few times with the visual effects, but overall, this was a nice, solid mystery/thriller that knew how to tell an entertaining story. This might actually be my new favorite Cronenberg film, of the ones I’ve seen, and definitely of the ones on the list (the new addition Dead Ringers notwithstanding). I would definitely want someone looking to get into Cronenberg’s work to start off with this one; it’s got enough of his signature weirdness to give people a taste of what’s to come, but it’s still incredibly accessible to a mainstream crowd. And with Cronenberg, that’s about the best you can hope for.
Arbitrary Rating: 9/10