Videodrome (1983 Canada)

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Videodrome (1983 Canada)

Post  BoG on Sun Oct 12, 2014 2:07 pm

This benefits from the usual entertaining James Woods performance, in one of his early starring roles. Woods excelled at villains and sleazeballs, but he also lent a slightly sympathetic air to many of his characters, to the point that most audience members relate to him on some level. He's Max, an opportunistic operator of a small television station in Canada. His station specializes in sensationalism, catering to the lowest common denominator. He's looking for the next new thing. He finds it. He's called over to the hidden office of a pirate satellite dish operator and introduced to a bizarre video program called Videodrome. On the surface, it seems like a snuff show, filmed in some red-colored room, but eventually it turns out to be something more... something else...

This is David Cronenberg's continuing fixation with humans morphing their flesh for purposes of achieving some new experience, some new high... or reaching some new level, which suggests evolution as the premise. It's eventually revealed that TV signals - certain ones at least - alter the brains of humans; it suggests that the whole TV industry is responsible for evolving humanity gradually into something else. Of course, some signals are more severe than others. Max rapidly becomes trapped in a new world of hallucinations and/or psychotic episodes, at times involving the grotesque alteration to his body. It's all designed to make the audience uncomfortable and queasy. I also got sick of seeing videotapes in this film, around which much of the plot revolves; I even seemed to get a headache from watching all the TV scenes and the almost constant use of the tapes.

As I wrote at the start, this benefits from the presence and acting of Woods and I'm not sure how interesting this film would be without him, say if Cronenberg used some unknown Canadian actor instead who brought nothing to the role. The film only stays interesting when Woods is there and he is in most of the scenes so that's not a problem. But everything else in this is either boring or repulsive. Even Woods can't help the last act, when his hand has apparently mutated into one melded with a handgun and he becomes an outcast and fugitive. I didn't care for any of the other characters and even found a couple of them to be revolting somehow - but maybe that was the intent. When a film promotes headaches and nausea, however, that may not be a good thing... BoG's Score: 6 out of 10

BEHIND-THE-SCENES with Cronenberg and Woods:
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