Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Huh.  After reading the tagline to this film, I realized that you could substitute the title and tagline for the chorus of Soundgarden's "Superunknown."  You know..."Alive in the videodrome/ first it controls your mind/ and then it destroys your...sooooouuuul!"  Not that that has anything to do with anything.  I was just amusing myself.

Max (James Woods) is the president of a sleazy cable television channel that specializes in soft-core porn and excessive violence.  As glamorous as that life is, Max is always on the lookout for new shows to push the envelope and shock his desensitized viewers.  He's not picky about his sources, either; one day he gets called in to his team's pirate satellite room, where they hijack whatever programming they choose.  Here, Max first witnesses Videodrome.  It's a show where masked men beat/torture someone for hours.  It's brutal.  It's uncomfortable to watch.  It might even show real people really dying.  In fact, it's perfect for Max's channel!  For a while after Videodrome starts airing on Max's channel, things go pretty well for the man.  He makes a television appearance, gets some notoriety, and meets a new girlfriend (Deborah Harry) who enjoys violent/kinky sex.  Personally, I would be frightened by anyone who, in an erotic moment, asked "Wanna try some things?" and pulled out a knife.  I, however, am not James Woods.
"I want to put out my cigarettes on your flesh.  Does that make you horny?"
Around this time, things start to get weird.  Max begins to have hallucinations --- weird, trippy violent ones --- and he can't tell the difference between his visions and reality.  Oh, and he grows some sort of Betamax-sized vagina in his torso.
Basically, the more obsessed Max becomes with Videodrome, the more he learns about it.  The more he learns, the more surreal things get, and it becomes apparent that Max is a pawn in a larger conspiracy.  Just because he's a pawn doesn't make him helpless, though.

While not the strangest film I have ever seen, Videodrome is a weird experience.  James Woods is pretty decent in the lead role, although I found his "roll with the weirdness" attitude a little unbelievable; if I noticed that I had grown a stomach-vagina, I would go to the hospital.  James Woods, on the other hand, uses it as storage for his handgun.  Of course, with all the bizarre things that his character experiences in this movie, a certain amount of desensitization is inevitable, but I would have liked one moment where he appeared genuinely frightened.
Like, maybe when his gun grows into his arm
The rest of the actors are fairly odd.  Deborah Harry maintains lifeless eyes for most of her screen time, but I will admit that she didn't overact in a role that could have been pretty cheesy.  Jack Creley only appeared in the film as video playback, which explains why his delivery was noticeably odd; it fit the script, though, so I guess it's all okay.  The rest of the supporting cast was either mediocre or strange, depending on whether Max is hallucinating at the time.  It's hard to judge their performances due to that, but I think the acting fit the tone of the film.
For instance, no one reacted to this

The fact that Videodrome was written and directed by David Cronenberg should not come as a surprise to anyone familiar with his work.  It's bizarre and gory and has a plot that is designed to mess with your head, which were all his calling cards in the 1980s.
I believe that Cronenberg got exactly the performances he wanted from his cast, and the special effects are pretty cool, even after nearly thirty years.  Early Cronenberg was a master of disgusting (and yet awesome) gore, and the effects his team managed to create are some of the best of their time.
But here's the thing: the story didn't really appeal to me.  None of the characters acted or reacted realistically, so none of them are truly sympathetic.  These people are so far from the norm --- Max wants to air snuff films on cable television, and he's the hero --- that it's difficult to identify with them.  Since the characters aren't particularly likable, the buildup of the plot isn't as compelling as it should be.  Honestly, I found myself bored at times during the first half of the film.  I really enjoyed the hallucinogenic second half, and I like the story in broad terms, but the slow pace early on really hurts Videodrome.  This is definitely worth watching, but I wouldn't call it a classic.

I'm not sure what this says about me, but one of the most disturbing things I saw in this film was this male dancer's outfit.  Seriously, I stopped and rewound because I was laughing over the dialogue.

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