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"Long live the new flesh!"
Backlash0072 October 2001
Videodrome is truly a surreal experience. I do not want to include too much information as that would spoil the film for "virgin" viewers. If you are familiar with Cronenberg's work, you may have an inkling of what you're in for. Videodrome can drive one to the brink of madness, and then tell you you've been there for an hour and a half. From scene to scene you can't tell what's real and what is in James Wood's imagination. It's utter insanity, but it's great at the same time. This film is a good companion piece with Cronenberg's Existenze. When you can wrap the audience up in your movie, you have accomplished something few have. And David Cronenberg seems to do that time and again. Cronenberg is not for the faint of heart, definitely.
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Long live the new flesh!
mentalcritic4 August 2006
David Cronenberg has turned out a lot of films that range from the bizarre to the slightly less bizarre to the stupefying. I used to think that his update of The Fly was his masterwork, as it certainly is an improvement over the original in every sense of the word. Videodrome, however, is entirely his idea, and what an idea it is. Filmed at a time when VHS and Betamax were still at war for market share, and television was still beholden to some standard of public service, it is hard to imagine what the public of 1983 made of Videodrome. Twenty-three years on, it looks so prophetic that it is truly a wonder Sony or Toshiba are not employing Cronenberg to attempt to anticipate consumer reaction to their consumer format ideas. Shot in a Lynchian shoot-first, work-out-story-later manner, it is testament to Cronenberg's skills as a storyteller that the 'drome works as well as it does. It is also testament to the film's accuracy that in this era of so-called reality television, nobody in a remake-crazed system is trying to remake Videodrome.

Of course, in a film with a theme as speculative as Videodrome, one needs to have a reliable performer. Just like you cannot portray someone going mad with fear a la The Fly if your actor is not up to snuff, one cannot portray a weird conspiracy without an actor of James Woods' calibre. Everything that occurs on the screen from about thirty minutes in is utterly unbelievable, but we buy it because James is so good at selling it to us. His disbelief graduating into terror graduating into acceptance is the rock upon which Videodrome rests, and the respect he gained from me in my recent viewing of Once Upon A Time In America went through the atmosphere during Videodrome. So many films are made with a singular star as its entire focus. Sylvester Stallone made a few, but Woods demonstrates he is more than up to the challenge here. The James Woods of the 1980s and the James Woods post 1990 are really two different people, or so one might think after seeing a film from both groups.

The support cast are mostly adequate, with Deborah Harry demonstrating she could have been an actor. Not that she does anything particularly brilliant here, but she also manages to keep her part of the illusion solid. Sonja Smits helps twist the plot beyond its already unrecognisable shape as the daughter of one of the conspirators in the Videodrome experiment. While these two are secondary to Woods, they also add so much to the story that its hard to imagine the film without them. The world was changing in ways none could have imagined at the time, and as Harry's musical career was left in the cold as a result, her image in this film is iconic of an era. Jack Creley is puzzling as a guru tied into the conspiracy who appears only in video. To cut a long story short, Woods is a pinball, while Harry, Smits, and Creley are the bumpers off which he bounces. In that task, they do a brilliant job, and they are far from the only ones. Videodrome contains a literal cavalcade of actors one wishes they could see more of, just based on their moments here.

The summary in a previous comment says it best: "I don't think I could provide spoilers if I wanted to". I could tell you everything that happens in Videodrome, and it still will not even slightly prepare you for the utter bizarreness to be beheld. The imagery is both disgusting and strangely compelling, the story is beyond odd, and the references to the "new flesh" that pop up like skin cancer cells in the final reels are a mantra that will haunt the viewer long after the film is over. The constant images of videotapes and televisions flexing out to either imitate organic material or swallow the hero whole. It is the ultimate contradiction, that I can find this film so utterly compelling yet so utterly repulsive. There is an unofficial motto among defense lawyers: "if you cannot convince them, confuse them". Videodrome, thanks to its surreal imagery and story that could only be inspired by divergent thought, is both convincing and confusing. Such is the ultimate achievement in storytelling.

Fortunately, the question of whether one can separate their perception of reality from the fantasy they see depicted on a video source has been answered already. It isn't really even a question that needs asking here, as it has long been answered by film. No, Videodrome is about something more, although exactly what that is could be anything David Cronenberg desires. I chose to see it as an example of one man getting so wrapped up in his ideas or fantasies that they utterly distort his reality, an idea subtly hinted at when one character describes his hallucinations causing him a brain tumour rather than the other way around. The new flesh is the idea that drives a given machine, always mutating and altering itself. However you choose to interpret the story of Videodrome, I think the consensus we can all come to is that it is just plain odd. Most of us will never really see the things shown in Videodrome if we take a mix of heroin, crack, and LSD then wash it down with drain cleaner.

It is mostly for these reasons that I gave Videodrome a ten out of ten. You have not stretched your imagination far enough if you are completely repulsed by its imagery. Do yourself a favour and see it now. Long live the new flesh.
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Careful, it bites.
douglasp28 May 2001
Warning: Spoilers
I love this movie! When I first saw it in 1983, I had no idea what it was about. Back then, we didn't have words like "virtual reality" and "cyberspace," at least not in every day usage but the concepts were beginning to filter in due the popularity of video games.

But what we didn't know then, and what we couldn't have guessed were the dangers in even the concept of a "virtual reality." Once one starts down that line of reasoning nothing can ever be taken for granted. What Philip K. Dick warned us about in the 1960's was brought to the screen in the 1980's by David Cronenberg.

When television prophet, Dr. Brian Oblivion, opines "television is reality. And reality is less then television" he is heralding in our current age where the line between fantasy and reality is almost fails to exist.

Videodrome is the story of war for the mind. On the one side, representing control is Barry Convex, who wishes to shape the world by controlling what people see. Convex is a glasses salesmen who essentially tells us he is the Devil in using the words of Lorenzo de Medici, "love comes in at the eye" and "the eye is the window to the soul" as his formula for control: First you tempt with the forbidden fruit, then, when your victim has bitten, you take their soul. This is done via the organ of the eye because the mind will take as fact whatever the eye shows it. This is why it is so essential today for the faculty of critical thinking to become damaged via such institutions as the public school system and television.

Unfortunately, the opposing side does not seem to offer freedom, but some other sort of control. A kind of confusing, chaotic and recursive control. Dr. Brian Oblivion, the inventor and first victim of Videodrome is murdered by Convex prior to the movie, and now exists only in the virtual world of video tape. For 1983, this was the best way to convey the virtual world, as only kids played video games and most computers barely did 64K of memory. The bad thing about using videotape to represent the virtual world was that tape does not convey the fluidity of the convention.

But I digress, for Oblivion, freedom seems to be some sort of unending recursive loop, the kind you get when you hold two mirrors in front of each other. The Oblivion side does seem to be trying to help, at least, as the Doctor's daughter, Bianca Oblivion runs the Cathode Ray Mission, that tries to "patch" the indigent back into society by serving them a generous supply of orange juice along with their TV.

One of the reasons it is difficult to tell who the good guys are, or even if there are any good guys, is that the story is told through the eyes of Max Renn and Max is cynical little man, played expertly by James Woods, whose only concern is taking his porn cable channel to the next level and maybe getting Nicki Brand into bed. Max allows himself to become a pawn in this war and by the end of the movie it becomes clear that Max has left his humanity behind.

Sex and violence form the back drop of the movie, especially perverted sex. At least twice, Max is offered "nice" sex to show on his cable channel and both times he turns it down. The importance of perverted sex and perverted violence as a plot point is that it opens certain neural receptors in the nervous system that allows the videodrome signal to get in. The bad guys in the movie, Convex and Renn's video pirate, Harlen, both moralize against this perverted sex and use it as a hook to get Max "infected" with the videodrome signal. "Why would anybody watch such a thing" one of the bad guys preaches to Max. This was particularly effective when I first saw the movie at the age of eighteen. I wondered if the videodrome signal was encoded in the movie.

I believe Videodrome will go down in history as the first of virtual reality movies and is still one of the best. It not only predicted the chaos of our current time, but also the lone nut assassin epidemic that happens with increasing frequency, but as the model for Dr. Oblivion, Marshall McLuhan, said: ESP is old hat when effect precedes cause.

Videodrome remains one of the best offerings from Cronenberg but is not for everyone.
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I just can't cope with the freaky stuff.
jay4stein79-113 November 2004
Well, Mr. Convex, too bad for you... Videodrome, David Cronenberg's first masterpiece, tells the tale of one Max Renn. Played with expert sleaziness by James Woods, Renn oversees a low-rent, exploitative cable network, which specializes in showing increasingly violent and pornographic shows. When he stumbles upon the satellite transmission of "Videodrome" - a realistic S&M/Torture show from Pittsburgh - Renn believes that he's discovered the next wave. Then come the hallucinations... maybe dead bodies, cancer guns, stomach-vulvas, etc. Reality bends and, perhaps, Videodrome has taken over...

In every respect, Videodrome is a great film, managing to repulse and intrigue simultaneously. It is horrific and contains numerous science-fiction motifs, but, unlike the horror and special effects driven pictures of today, Videodrome, to quote the film, has a philosophy. Videodrome is not about mind-controlling cable shows; it is about our un-healthy consumption of visual media. I may not agree with Cronenberg's vision of our relationship with TV, but it is never less than interesting. It's refreshing to see a movie about more than itself; it seems that, since the 1980s, these types of films have become increasingly rare and that's a shame. Maybe it's only nostalgia, but the era when films like Videodrome and Dawn of the Dead were being made by major studios and released to huge audiences seems like a Golden Age to my mind.

Here's to hoping those days will return. What's truly brilliant about Videodrome, beyond its decision to base itself upon an idea, is its seamless blending of the characters' realities and their hallucinations. After the forty-five minute mark, what actually happens becomes lost as we enter deeper and deeper in the the tortured psyche of Max Renn. It is impossible, by the end of the movie, to know what actually happened. Unlike a movie like Donnie Darko, which left me puzzled and irritable, I accept the puzzlement of Videodrome because an explanation would have lessened the film's visceral impact. The open-endedness of the narrative melds perfectly with a film that revels in the hallucination/reality divide. If the characters cannot comprehend what is actually happening, why should we?

As mentioned, every element of this film works. There are amazing set-pieces (throbbing televisions and gurgling video cassettes) and moments of beautiful photography (the shots of Renn approaching the harbor for instance). The acting, even by Debbie Harry in her first starring role, is excellent. James Woods, in particular, excels. He has always been one of my favorite actors and brings to Renn a level of sleaziness that perhaps could have been achieved by only him or Harry Dean Stanton.

This is Cronenberg's first masterpiece (sorry, I'm not too keen on his earlier work, as it doesn't meld his ideas and venereal/technological horror as well) and started a string of absolutely brilliant films. For me, it's also his greatest masterpiece; it's (forgive me for using this word) postmodern vision is spell-binding and the story is, I think, his most imaginative to date. As his career went forward, Cronenberg became more and more respectable and, I think, that hurt his work slightly. In Videodrome, he is at the top of his form and working with his most amazing cast. The movie is an acquired taste and will not appeal to everyone, but I highly recommend it and think you should all watch it with an open mind.
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You may never look at your television the same way...
Nightman858 March 2007
This surreal, mind-bending thriller is quite possibly the strangest and most provocative film that cult director David Cronenberg has ever made.

Manager of a cable television station stumbles across a mysterious, sadistic program that begins to induce horrific visions for our hero. But what does it all mean?

Videodrome is a film that has long divided critics and audiences alike. Andy Worhol declared Videodrome the Clockwork Orange (1971) of the 80's, yet Roger Ebert called it one of the LEAST entertaining movies ever. Well, that's Ebert for ya. I however adore this film and gladly hail it as one of the most unique psychological thrillers ever! Videodrome is a film that was quite ahead of it's time when it came out. Most of Cronenberg's films have some kind of warning to society and with Videodrome the warning is about the power and influence of the media upon the human mind.

The story is both engaging and haunting. Cronenberg's direction is slickly-done as always giving this film an atmosphere of dread and mystery. The special FX, courtesy of makeup master Rick Baker, are stunningly good. Who could ever forget the scene where Max loses his gun... inside his stomach.

The cast is good, James Woods does a dynamic performance, as does attractive supporting stars Sonja Smitts and Deborah Harry.

Videodrome is a film quite unlike any other. For those who enjoy good mind-trip cinema, it is a must-see. One of Cronenberg's finest films.

*** 1/2 out of ****
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A highly creepy and original movie
peterwood5 September 2003
James Woods plays a scuzzy, low-life TV producer (the kind of character he plays exceptionally well and that you've come to love from prior performances in films like 'Salvador') who gets hooked on watching a pirate snuff film channel, but soon he discovers everything is not as it seems to be and that the transmission wasn't broadcast at all but actually a tape which brainwashes him into acts of self mutilation on his body, soon he is finds that he can hardly even control himself or his body.

A great first half with terrific performances from the three leads, steps up a gear or two in the second half. A highly creepy and original movie that just gets weirder and weirder! Highly recommended. Peter.
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"Videodrome" - Cronenberg takes on the media
dee.reid22 September 2005
It takes the slightest peeks at his career to figure out David Cronenberg ("The Fly," "Dead Ringers," "Naked Lunch," "The Dead Zone," the upcoming "A History of Violence") is a director who is not to be toyed with. I forgot to add in his 1983 horror movie "Videodrome," and there is a reason for that, which I'll talk about later. His works provoke intelligent thought, and terrify those who can't comprehend it. His films stimulate, offend, and move those who care to watch them with an open mind.

Allow me to (try) explain. I won't bother to go into detail about the plot. A sleazy, lowlife TV producer named Max Renn (James Woods) rapidly becomes obsessed with an unusual television signal, which in turn begins to warp his perceptions of reality. Get it? Nah, of course you don't. You're not going to let a one-sentence plot description and, if you own the Criterion Collection DVD, the three essays included deter you from watching it, are you?

You're also not going to let scenes of grisly torture, unspeakable violence, murder, "flesh guns," human VCRs, exploding cancer-deaths (poor Leslie Carlson as Barry Convex), pulsating video cassettes, Deborah Harry in S&M and morphing televisions turn you away, are you? What's more, you're not going to let Woods's effectively "wooden" performance here (his sticking his face into a "living" television) turn you away either?

I won't even try to pretend I understood what was going through Cronenberg's mind when he wrote and directed this picture. I also won't pretend I understood the essays included with the DVD (and I don't think the writers did either). It's warped, it's perverted, it's depraved, and it's insanely intriguing and fascinating. The masses are frightened by "Videodrome" and with good reason. "Videodrome" is Cronenberg's dastardly take on mass-media consumption during a time when television was afraid... afraid to be real. Media violence had not yet become a major issue in America and hypocritical politicians weren't condemning it. But keep in mind this film was made in '83, years before the mind-blowing reality-morphing of "The Matrix" (1999).

There's a little more that I think I can get away with in describing the plot, and Renn eventually traces the signal to Pittsburgh, and is introduced to the station's enigmatic programmer Brian O'Blivion (Jack Creley) and his daughter Bianca (Sonja Smits). He learns of the bizarre nature surrounding Videodrome, and the fate of those of who watch it. As he becomes more and more obsessed, he finds it nearly impossible to turn it off, or turn away. Then those mutations and hallucinations Cronenberg is famous for start happening and when that does, things become nasty and the queasy may want to keep a finger on the fast-forward button. It's no secret Cronenberg loves torturing his protagonists and here, the "new flesh" wants to live long and Woods has the nice warm body perfect for it - he becomes a literal media assassin with a vaginal slit in his stomach that doubles as a programmable VCR and also has a handgun fused to his wrist - he's a virtual slave to Videodrome.

Lastly, the eerie, driving score by Howard Shore swells up during the film's most intense and surreal moments, the most lovely being Woods's lovemaking with his television. I always watch Cronenberg films at least partially for Shore's music. Now I know why Cronenberg selects him for his soundtracks.

"Videodrome," I think, has a lot more relevance today than it did 22 years ago. It's more visceral than gross, is quite brilliant, and doesn't spare us graphic violence and gore. It's alive, it's "Videodrome."

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"Network" + "Brazil" + "Clockwork Orange" = "Videodrome"?
culwin10 January 1999
Wow! My favorite actor and my favorite singer in the same movie! Deborah Harry (of Blondie fame) gives a great non-blonde performance as an "emotionally energized" radio show host, and James Woods is a scummy business-minded owner of a seedy TV station.

Like "Brazil" or "Twelve Monkeys" this movie will make you think, and even though there isn't really much violence or horror, your mind will fill in the parts that aren't there. The ability of a movie to do this makes it a must-see alone. You constantly ask yourself "is this real?" just as the main character is asking the same thing.

One thing about this movie is that they never really answer a lot of things. As we watch the main character go in and out of reality, the audience is never quite sure what is really happening either. They never tell us. They never truly explain who is behind Videodrome, or even what happens to James Woods. If you didn't like the ending of Network or Twelve Monkeys, then you won't like the lack of explanation here either.

Lots of underlying messages here too, involving television, pornography, and technology - all of which are more significant today than in 1983. Note common themes such as the head in a box. Excellently made film, the only thing that would have made it better is more story.
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David Cronenberg's "Videodrome".
Captain_Couth13 October 2004
Videodrome (1983) was a bizarre film that David Cronenberg made before he become a "director-for-hire" for his next couple of films. He takes a cerebral look at the ever popular fad of pirate satellite feeds and small-time t.v. channels. It was during this time that video tapes and satellite t.v. were becoming popular. Cronenberg decided to uses these and make a very strange and clinically sexually film. As with all of his films the sex seems mechanical, neither stimulating or sensual.

James Woods stars as the part owner of a small t.v. station who pirates satellite feeds and scours the world for erotic film and programming that he could use for his station. That is until one day he stumbles across a video feed that he wished he never had. He slowly becomes addicted to the perverse violence and sex that he witnesses on the tapes. But soon his life and those around him will be changed forever. Debra Harry co-stars as Woods love interest who slowly enjoys the tapes, more so than Woods.

Videodrome is a film that has to be seen to be believed. Yes, it's one of those films that has built up a following over the years and a reputation. This is one of the films that deserves it. However I must warn you that this is a Cronenberg film so thinking will be necessary when viewing it. The effects and visuals are quite the show. Croneneberg keeps his theme from the past films such as Shivers, Rabid and Scanners. We must welcome the new flesh!

Highly recommended.

This film is available in an R-rated and Unrated versions. For full enjoyment please watch the unrated director's cut. If you watch the R-rated version not only will you miss out on all of the cool visuals and effects but you'll be pretty much confused
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schlock value
mjneu5913 January 2011
Media manipulation and mind control are the subjects of shock-master David Cronenberg's bizarre satirical fantasy, and his treatment of the well-worn topic is unorthodox, to say the least. James Woods (in a typically intense performance) stars as a cable TV pornographer who stumbles upon the mysterious transmission of a hardcore S&M program, exposure to which can cause wild hallucinations and horrifying physical mutations. So begins his evolution into 'the new flesh', a creature that can be programmed much like any videocassette recorder, but with far more disgusting visceral detail. Probably the only person to whom any of this makes sense is Cronenberg himself, who shies away from a tidy resolution by letting the plot degenerate into an exhibition of messy special effects. Whatever topical message the film might have had is beside the point: the only real reason to recommend it is for the gratuitous thrill of watching bodies erupt into putrescence.
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Pretty inaccessible but still interesting and engaging
bob the moo7 November 2006
Max Renn runs a small cable station that specialises in providing what other, bigger stations don't – softcore pornography and hard violence. Tapping into illegal pirate broadcasts via satellite, Max sees a show that seems to be a hypnotic mix of S&M, torture, murder and other unsavoury acts that look very real. Intrigued and convinced he has seen the future for his network, Max tracks down the signal to be coming from Pittsburgh and does some digging to find out who is responsible for it. However as his fascination becomes an obsession his hallucinations start to get more real and more extreme.

Although it is pretty hard to get inside and to understand (much of it does not make a lot of sense), Videodrome is probably more relevant today than it was in the early eighties if only because the issue of the effects of sexual and/or violent "entertainment" continues to be debated and explored. This theme is explored with a certain amount of graphic disgust from Cronenberg as he takes Max, exposes him to graphic television violence and sees the affect it has on his mind and his body. As a commentary on the social impact of mass media it is hardly the clearest or most accessible of things but it is interesting and engaging nonetheless. As writer he could have made his message clearer and a lot less convoluted but I suppose he should be commended for delivering this in his own unique style but the downside is that the mass audience will feel excluded from the story.

As director though he makes it quite engrossing even if it isn't clear what the message is. The imaginative body horror stuff is very well done and the effects as impressive as the twisted creative forces behind it. The cast also buy into it well, even if the show does mainly belong to Woods. He is totally convincing which is a feat you need to believe is very hard to pull off in this sort of film! The rest of the cast are more in the world of the film (as opposed to drawn into it) and the result is that their performances tend to be more out and out weird – point in case Harry who is disturbingly vapid as the hollow S&M thrill seeker of the piece. Likewise Smits, Carlson, Creley and others are more about the world than giving performances so-called.

Overall though, this is an interesting and imaginative film. It doesn't make a lot of sense but it is enjoyable to try and apply what is happening to work out a meaning within it while watching it. The effects are good, although the horror might have meant more to me if I understand all of it better but regardless it is certainly an experience that is worth having at some point.
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A movie milestone of sci fi surrealism!
Infofreak22 January 2002
I first saw 'Videodrome' around '84 or '85 and it impressed the hell out of me. I thought then that it was ahead of its time, and after watching it again a few days ago (and there have been many, many viewings in between) I STILL think it is. In fact it gets more and more contemporary and relevant as each year goes by. Cronenberg went on to adapt difficult cult novels by William Burroughs and J.G. Ballard, which wouldn't have surprised any of his fans, as ideas from both writers, and the late Philip K. Dick have pervaded his work from 'Shivers' to 'eXistenZ'. (Probably even before that going by descriptions of early efforts like 'Crimes Of The Future' which I unfortunately haven't had the opportunity to see.) But Cronenberg, unlike say the Wachowski brothers, isn't just repackaging science fiction ideas for a new generation of movie goers, he is a genuine original.

'Videodrome' still knocks me out every time I watch it. This innovative mix of science fiction, sex, violence, surrealism and horror has lost none of its punch over the years. I have enjoyed most of Cronenberg's movies, and think he is one of the most underrated directors currently working, but 'Videodrome' still seems his purest and least compromised work, and the movie that most successfully and memorably represents his vision. Simply one of the greatest and most important movies ever made.
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Xploitedyouth11 March 2006
David Cronenberg is an acquired taste which I have not quite acquired. That isn't to say I don't admire his films, as movies like NAKED LUNCH, CRASH and SCANNERS have proved memorable and bold. His work, however, is almost frustratingly obtuse, punctuated by grisly, bizarre and perverse imagery that can turn the most hardened of stomachs. VIDEODROME is no exception. Starting as a satire on man's fascination and obsession with television, it evolves rapidly into a hallucinogenic mind-warp that left me scratching my head more often then picking my brain. Cronenberg trademarks, like phallic and vaginal imagery, kinky heroines and sleazy heroes, are all here in graphic display, but their portrayal alternates between oddly beautiful to fetishistic and obscene. Obviously, this is all part of the plan, and like I said before, I admire much of it. It's when the film lowers itself to pseudo-psychobabble and heavy-handed contemporary mysticism that I lose focus, and the entire film just rates as a large question mark.
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Version 0 of eXistenZ
kolodnyiy8 January 2001
I had the "bad luck" to watch eXistenZ well before i set my eyes upon this work of director David Cronenberg. Bad luck, as eXistenZ basically consists of the same ingredients as Videodrome, and kind of spoils the subliminal story line of Videodrome. I guess it's impossible to see Videodrome and eXistenZ as separate movies, as they both handle a subject that obviously intrigues David Cronenburg. Where eXistenZ had so much more to it, for Videodrome, the subject is really the only good thing about it.

To me it seems Videodrome suffers from a lack of enthusiasm from both director and actors. The flat acting of pretty much everybody, but especially James Woods, turn the characters from potentially mysterious into plain geeks. There's Deborah Harry, who moans herself halfway through this movie (be it in bed or in the torture room), as a kinky radio-presenter and there's a strange TV-program saleswoman dressed like a Bulgarian fortune teller. Also, a number of outbursts of violence in this movie are either witnessed by zombie-like bystanders or are just ways to force the movie through some big holes in the script. With these facts, the unexpected plot twists become highly incredible.

Maybe Videodrome made some impact in the time it was released, but nowadays the idea that a video-tape embodies evil is somewhat outdated. Cronenberg was a bit smarter when adapting the story for eXistenZ (can't help but mentioning it), as it tells of an electronic device which may just as well never be invented, and therefore will give the movie more longevity than Videodrome.

Videodrome would be a must-see for Cronenberg die-hards, as it shows him making an early attempt at making a movie that shows a world, switching between reality and hallucination, on the brink of revolution. He finally succeeded in this with eXistenZ, which is a much better attempt in telling the Videodrome story.
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Dated Which Means It's Less Shocking But Still Remains A Bleak , Depressing , Nihilistic Mindbending Thriller
Theo Robertson12 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
The early 1980s was a different era in some ways and in some ways it was the same as today . Comparing it to 2012 is like looking at a parallel universe . The Daily Mail and other right wing tabloids would be concerned about the moral health of Great Britain and nothing disgusted the rags more than the advent of the video recorder . Every murder and violent crime committed in the last quarter of the 20th Century was souly caused by people watching video nasties . Interesting to remember that two of the most popular shows on British television in the 1980s were JIM'LL FIX IT and THAT'S LIFE when both Jimmy Savile and Esther Rantzen were great role models to the great British public

VIDEODROME captures the spirit of these times . For many years people would debate if there was even such a thing as a " snuff movie " but with the advent of the internet the urban myth of the snuff movie has been dispelled . Jihadist scum proudly post videos of violent murders of both infidels and heretics alike and if we're talking moral corruption both worthless nobodies and big name celebrities happily download images and videos of children being , raped , abused and mutilated for their own sexual enjoyment

In other words this makes VIDEODROME a rather dated film but one that remains prophetic . It is in effect a film that predates the likes of THE LAWNMOWER MAN , TOTAL RECALL , INCEPTION and all these other mind bending thrillers featuring virtual reality but with a much smaller budget than the films that followed it

Cronenberg makes up for the lack of budget by concentrating on performances and a brooding atmosphere . The criminally underrated James Woods is an actor you'll either love or hate and gives his usual intense over caffinated edgy performance and if he read out his shopping list I'd still find it a compelling experience . He has a great sexual chemistry with Debbie Harry but how difficult is it not to have sexual chemistry with the lead singer of Blondie ?

It says a lot about a film when you have no idea what is going on and can't explain the plot but you're still hypnotised by it . Even more so this is the anti-thesis of the feel good movie . Sado-masochism features as does self mutilation , psychosis and murder and the film ends bleakly with the suicide of the anti-hero . It's this shocking , depressing nihilism that makes VIDEODROME so memorable. The Cronenberg remake of THE FLY might be his most enjoyable film but perhaps VIDEODROME is his best movie
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Such a bizarre and twisted movie
phoenix_kim30 July 2009
First off I have to say that I love 80s horror and other strange movies and I was eager to see Videodrome. However I found it difficult to get into and whilst James Wood gave a good performance, I felt that the other actors did not.

I didn't enjoy it not because of its strange atmosphere and disturbing imagery, but because I found it dull and uninteresting. The mix of reality and hallucinations to drive the story onwards was executed well to begin with but fell into pure nonsense later on.

I tried to enjoy it but towards the end I just sat there speechless. I don't mind subtle messages or themes which the director tries to express in a movie but if anything that I watched meant anything...well it involved looking much too deep for a normal viewing.

There's also an ending that will leave you thinking, "Why did I watch this?" I feel that this is one to avoid: 3/10.
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Great Concept, but Degenerates Into Stupidity & Gory Effects
Jakealope2 April 2011
It had a great concept, a sleazy cable channel operator, Max Renn, always on the prowl for more sleaze, finds this mysterious cable channel full of pointless sex and violence, which turns him and his degenerate girlfriend on. Then throw in some Marshall MacLuhan professor type who communicates to the world via video cassettes and runs a mission where society's outcasts are rehabilitated by letting them watch TV in their own cubicles. There is lots of messaging about bad media addictions and a polluted TV culture, But this Videodrome pirate channel is more than just a new low of non-stop sex and violence, it reprograms the TV addict's body to do things like grow a VCR tape slot in the stomach and have wild violent hallucinations. Here is where it gets the Cronenberg gore special efx touch which eventually undoes the movie.

In one scene, after the changed Max fights back against the Videodrome people with the help of the professor's daughter, his old technical wizard attempts to reprogram him by sticking a new pulsating lifelike VCR tape in his stomach slot. Just like the Thing, his hand goes into Max's stomach but instead of Max's whatever is inside him just chomping the tech's hand off, it turns the tech's hand into some sort of grenade that causes the tech to explode, blowing a few precut cinder blocks loose. Then Max goes on some more gory revenge scenes and it ends up really dumb in the end.

So Cronenberg takes a good concept and theme and essentially does little better than what his fictitious cable channel did, feed us some gore and R light sex under the guise of exploring the dark side of the media. This is why I never regarding the director as anything more than a clever shock jock with little artistic or social vision. But in Canada, he is still a hero, small country I guess.
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The Television Screen Is the Retina of the Mind's Eye
claudio_carvalho22 August 2006
The president of the Civic TV - channel 83, Max Renn (James Wood), is always looking for new cheap and erotic movies for his cable television. When his employee Harlan (Peter Dvorsky) decodes a pirate video broadcast showing torture, murder and mutilation called Videodrome, Max becomes obsessed to get these movies for his channel. He contacts his supplier Masha (Lynne Gorman) and asks her to find the responsible for the transmission. A couple of days later, Masha tells that Videodrome is real, actually snuff movies. Max's sadomasochist girlfriend Nicki Brand (Deborah Harry) decides to travel to Pittsburgh to have an audition to the show. Max investigates further, and through a video of the expert Professor Brian O'Blivion (Jack Creley), he learns that that TV screen would be the retina of the mind's eye, being part of the brain, and Videodrome transmission creates a brain tumor in the viewer, changing the reality in video hallucination.

"Videodrome", in my point of view, is a prophetic movie of David Cronenberg. The first time I saw this movie was in 1985 or 1986, when video-clubs where novelty in Brazil, and the local price of a videocassette was more than US$ 650.00. In that occasion, I recall that I was visually impressed with this gore, weird and bizarre movie. Twenty-three years later, I have just seen it on DVD and I realize the vision of this great director. He was able to foresee the importance of television for mankind, influencing people with sublimated messages, manipulating audiences and becoming very powerful, and how violence on screen can generate violence. I particularly like the following quotes: "The television screen is the retina of the mind's eye" and "Television is reality, and reality is less than television." Last but not the least, Brazil is not located in Central America, but in South America. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): "Videodrome – A Síndrome do Vídeo" ("Videodrome – The Syndrome of the Video")
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Overrated & tepid
austelwx26 December 2016
"Videodrome" has a lot of small elements with potential, but it never develops any of them into a worthwhile payoff. Some viewers might be dazzled if it's their first time ever seeing a movie that isn't 100% Hollywood clichés, but if you want a memorable story, good characters, or a powerful experience, Videodrome will be a waste of time. Even if we set aside characters & story, this film simply fails to be exciting or fun unless you are very easily impressed. Given this flick's overblown reputation, I guess there are a lot of easily-impressed people out there.

Many people consider this film shocking and dark, but it simply isn't! All the "gory" or "twisted" scenes are either lightweight or silly- looking. James Woods discovers a secret TV broadcast of torture scenes called Videodrome. The characters never shut up about how twisted & violent these scenes are, but they look like every amateur torture scene from a zero-budget movie. It's just some guy lightly smacking a toy "whip" against a woman's ribs, & then she vaguely flinches in the wrong direction. There are also some incredibly boring "S&M" scenes which had me laughing because they were so dull & tame, yet Cronenberg gave them huge dramatic emphasis like they were totally edgy.

People also LOVE to call this film "prescient," but the social commentary just amounts to clichés about how TV controls people & can be a propaganda tool. These ideas had already been around for decades. If anything, the film's themes are downright conservative, especially with its almost 1950s-esque fear of sex & violence!

Sure, the film belabors some "creepy" imagery, but all of this is frankly cartoonish & wacky instead of disturbing. You'll find more disturbing imagery in an episode of Ren & Stimpy.

Returning to plot and characters: This movie halfway develops LOTS of ideas, then just fails to deliver on anything. The plot starts off as social commentary, then forgets about this completely. James Woods has a friend named Masha who gets just enough screen time to feel tedious, then abruptly disappears from the story. The film heads in a surreal, otherworldly direction, then has a clichéd third act where James Woods just has to kill some paper-thin bad guy who wants to rule the world.

James Woods as Max Renn does an OK job in the lead role, but his character never develops; calling him 2-dimensional feels like an overstatement. Max' buddy Harlan is quirky, but the actor fails ridiculously any time he has to emote. The women in the film are HORRIBLY directed: every single one of them is stilted & unnatural. Sonja Smitts and Debbie Harry share the gimmick of talking... really... REALLLLLY... slowly, because Cronenberg thought this sounded dramatic. It doesn't. Neither of them ever emote, unless you count the same exact head-bobbling movement Cronenberg (that creative genius) had them do. This is a huge problem when they both have such important characters with heavy screen time!

The film has a villain who is never threatening, compelling, or interesting. He is supposed to be a powerful corporate executive, but he has NONE of the strength or charisma such a man would need. He acts more like a manager at a shoe store or something. This is also a problem, since we're supposed to take him seriously as a threat.

And then there are minor characters like Masha, played by Lynne Gorman. Gorman talks and talks for way too long, and she never acts. She just says her lines in a ridiculous vaguely foreign-y accent. This might have sounded cool and dramatic in the '50s, but in the '80s it's just plain stupid and laughable.

When I saw all these shoddy details piling up, I only hoped that Videodrome would end on a comedic note, with a self-aware punchline recognizing how stupid it was. Perhaps the whole thing would be a satire on the scifi trends of the '80s! But no, the film ends with no irony, no energy, nothing to make its 90-minute runtime worthwhile to anyone who isn't easily-impressed.
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Maybe I Just Don't Get It
jacobconnelly-476818 August 2019
I can't deny that Videodrome has a great concept. It's a winner. James Woods and Debbie Harry make a great on screen team and the special effects are gooey, gross, and disturbing. So, why can't I enjoy this movie?

It starts off well with a local TV programmer who stumbles upon a series of hardcore, sexually changed torture films that he picks up on a satellite. He records them and feels like they'd be a great fit for his sleazy porn channel, but the more he researches the creator of these videos, the more his reality turns into rubber and he finds himself living in a nightmare.

One could say Videodrome is like a thinking person's version of Ringu (or The Ring) and was ahead of its time. There's the mysterious video tape, the search for its creator and origin, and the lead character's life turning into a waking nightmare, but Videodrome stops being interesting 45 minutes in, but keeps going and going without much point. Yes, there are some great special effects in the final act, but you can never figure out why you're seeing what you're seeing and they don't feel like they're there to serve the plot or characters. It feels like Cronenberg showed up to set with an hour's worth of legitimate material and made up the last stretch of the film as he went along.

There's a lot to admire and enjoy in Videodrome, but a lot of it is very frustrating.
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A brief history of Cronenberg
tieman6420 May 2009
Warning: Spoilers
In the late 60s, Canadian director David Cronenberg directed "Stereo" and "Crimes of the Future". "Stereo" took place in the hilariously named Academy of Erotic Enquiry whilst "Crimes" took place in a dermatological clinic called The House of Skin. Both films simply consist of scientists observing groups of patients, Cronenberg's camera examining the effects of various experiments on human flesh. In "Stereo", we watch as scientists create a race of super-humans who bond together in polymorphous sexual relationships. In "Crimes", we watch as a plague caused by beauty products wipes out all sexually reproductive women. In an evolutionary response to their now defeminized world, some men grow reproductive organs outside their bodies, while others become paedophiles who prey on little girls.

An obsession with youth, the sexualization of kids, the castration of modern man, the temporality of the flesh, the quest for beauty killing the sexually mature...are all pretty heavy themes for such a young film-maker.

Understanding that his interests were far too esoteric for mainstream cinema, Cronenberg set out to make several low budget horror films. "Shivers" and "Rabid" are essentially about a mutant penis (Shivers) and vagina (Rabid) assaulting citizens and converting them into carnal beings. "Shivers", which takes place in a giant building called "The Starline Hotel", was seen by screenwriter Dan Obannon (a fellow Canadian) and would prove a huge influence on Ridley Scott's "Alien".

Cronenberg then filmed "Brood", a nice little horror flick which centres around a divorced couple. Here, scientists encourage man to manifest his emotions as physical symptoms. One patient develops lymphatic cancer as a manifestation of his self-hatred while another gives birth to mutated children who act our her violent emotions. Whatever the flaws of these pictures, they all contain a couple genuinely spooky scenes and a strong, singular vision.

Cronenberg followed "Brood" up with "Scanners", a hastily written and filmed flick about an underground war between a cult of telepaths and the clinic which created them. With its shotgun battles, trench coats, night scenes and fast pace, the film plays like a schlocky version of James Cameron's (another Canadian) "Terminator".

This is where the "first phase" of Cronenberg's filmography ends. Up until this point all his films centred around subjects at the mercy of scientific experiments. As a result, they're all cold and impersonal films told from the perspective of the virus/contagion. Cronenberg's next six flicks, however, focus on the subject's personal struggles with their own self inflicted "diseases". And so we have "Videodrome", "The Dead Zone", "The Fly", "Dead Ringers", "Naked Lunch" and "M Butterfly", all character studies which empathise with the victim (or infected host) and introduce a sense of humanity previously unseen in Cronenberg's filmography.

"Videodrome", the precursor to "Existenz", is about the president of a sleazy television company who stumbles across a pirate TV station which broadcasts a zero-budget torture program (today the pirate footage now resembles Abu Ghraib). What follows is one of Cronenberg's greatest films, "Videodrome" dealing with the escalation of plot-less sex and violence, a world in which the boundaries between reality and fantasy bleed, a provoking satire on media censorship and a Marshall McLuhan influenced merger between flesh and technology (media as bodily extensions, and the notion of discarnate man and virtual identities).

After "Videodrome" failed, cash-wise, Cronenberg sold out with "The Dead Zone" and "The Fly", two mainstream pictures which raked it quite a lot of cash. "The Dead Zone" is a fairly shallow look at the life of a psychic man, whilst "The Fly", despite a cute romantic tale at its core, is simply an excuse for Cronenberg to catalogue the disintegration of human flesh (and a Cartesian mind/body war in which the flesh wins).

Then came one of Cronenberg's most assured flicks, a little seen masterpiece called "Dead Ringers". Beautifully shot by Peter Suschitzky (cinematographer on "Empire Strikes Back"), "Dead Ringers" centres on a pair of twin gynaecologists, one of whom falls in love with a woman who has a mutation which results in her having 3 vaginal openings. The film treats the twins as a single organism and the woman as a mutation which must be excised. She is rejected by the dominant twin's immune system, but is accepted by the weaker. This twin develops such a hunger for the mutation that he spirals into addiction when she is removed, resulting in the other twin having to develop special gynaecological tools to symbolically sever their connection. It's a weird but genuinely moving picture.

Cronenberg then made "Naked Lunch", a film about the hallucinogenic mind-space of author William Burroughs. Aesthetically the film is a failure, Lynch, "A Scanner Darkly" and "Fear and Loathing" covering similar psychedelic ground in a much more confident manner. "M Butterfly", Cronenberg's next film, was equally muddled, allegorizing Imperial conquest as the domination and gender transformation of women.

Cronenberg then entered his third and most confident phase, his pictures becoming icy cool and tightly structured. And so we have "Crash", less a film about fetishes than the aggressive escalation of on screen sex and violence, the film's cast (who all play film-makers) engaging in accelerated acts of titillation, all hoping to bridge what desire's lack.

Then came "Spider", "Existenz", "History of Violence" and "Eastern Promises", three masterful films which examined the elusive nature of reality, desire, depth-less simulations (West and East as genre/national simulation) and personal displacement (displacement from country, law, body and gender). These later films, grossly misunderstood, will be talked about in depth with later essays. Suffice to say, with his "third phase", Cronenberg has learnt to masquerade Kubrickean levels of complexity within seemingly mainstream, genre pictures.

6.9/10 – (M Butterfly, Dead Zone, Naked Lunch), 7/10 – (Rabid, Shivers), 7.9/10 – (The Fly, Scanners, The Brood), 8/10 – (Spider, Crash), 8.5 - (History of Violence, Dead Ringers), 8.9/10 – (Existenz, Videodrome), 9/10 - (Eastern Promises)
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Us and Slits
tedg21 August 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

Does anyone still doubt that Cronenberg is a genius of organic metaphors for self-reference?

The raw stuff of his films consists of two components: remarkably organic sexually-inspired objects and deeply self-referential folds. Here, the film is about perverted film and the two (our film and his film) are mixed helter skelter.

I like this project (and the similar one about games) because it is so unconstrained. It seems to have been made up as they went along and ideas appeared. This is Godard done right in my mind because it is as cerebral, but more rooted in cinema. Also it has the uncanny ability to blur just where we fit in. As viewers of course, but we also get entangled in the folds. Are we guilty? Is the very act of seeing that we are guilty what conveys our guilt? Is this sex or a futuresex?

Is it too late?

As a matter of technique, it is genius to caste Deborah Harry. She does part Bardot in `Contempt,` part `Repulsion` with movies, part the `Fight Club` to come.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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Too bizarre
wolfbeast9 February 2009
A lot of people seem to like this movie, and I guess an equal lot hate it. Unfortunately for the filmmakers, I'm part of the latter.

The movie, overall, is too surreal and bizarre to pass. Perhaps if you are in a certain state of mind and/or enjoy psychoactive substances, you can enjoy this movie, but otherwise, it will probably just leave you with a sense of "I have no idea what is going on" and "That makes no sense" - even if you keep your wits about you it seems to veer off on tangents and loses cohesion regularly, and from the start.

Maybe for the cult lovers who like spending afternoons at movie houses watching obscure films, it will be interesting (if they manage to make sense of, or rather, are able to absorb the bizarre sequence of events).

Of course it includes all the "obligatory" elements a movie like this is supposed to have to keep the interest of the already more limited crowd this was aimed for, but even those seem forced, and don't seem to be included but for the sheer fact that it's customary. It doesn't add anything to the movie.

All in all, too bizarre and outlandish for its own good.
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A freaky horrorshow with deeper meaning
Flagrant-Baronessa29 July 2006
I saw Videodrome at the 2005 Stockholm film festival and as we were sitting in the audience waiting for the show to begin, director David Cronenberg walks in and starts presenting the film. He tells us that it is about people's reaction to media violence and a look at how media catalyzes violence in society. I'm glad he told me, because none of this is really apparent in the film. In fact, I would probably have found Videdrome totally unwatchable had Cronenberg not clarified its message and thereby given me something--a purpose--to hold onto as I watched it

So while I'm desperately clinging onto this purpose, we get follow likably sleazy TV cable programmer Max Renn (James Woods) as he discovers a frequency on the television transmission that shows a forbidden show, Videodrome. This show appears to be airing from Malaysia and features some pretty messed up torture games that people either find sexual and else gratifying, I don't know, but all the viewers are mesmerized by its content and it ends up changing them. Things start to get real weird for Max as he is turned into some kind of pawn for Videodrome and he is torn between the forces that want to control the show, and the show itself.

The plot outline of Videodrome is every bit as weird on screen as it sounds on page. It's often strangely entertaining, and I believe that is what Cronenberg wants to highlight -- the kind of perverse fascination that people have with television violence and gore. It is also about television broadcasters constantly on the edge, pushing for new daring concepts to shock the audience with. Because it is so ridiculously (I don't want to say 'gratuitously' - as I think it had a point) gory, I sat crouched behind my friend for the main part of the film, burying my head in her shoulder and feeling really woozy when Cronenberg carved out freak-overload in the form of James Woods PIERCING Debbie Harry (That's right, "Blondie") with a rusty needle. Sick.

Ultimately, and no disrespect to Mr. Cronenberg, there is just no way in hell ordinary people could have gotten its message without having read several explanations, reviews and discussions to identify it first. At first viewing, Videodrome appears to be a complete mess of gore, violence and perversions -- a wacky, nonsensical horror flick with low-budget visual effects. It is meant as a dark parable for the media/TV age as well as an allegory for the nature of horror films -- but this is nearly impossible to tell.

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More is less ............................
merklekranz5 June 2011
Interesting concept of media control, spirals out of control, losing momentum with each passing minute. Woods is his usual smarmy self, and Deborah Harry adds the kink factor but not much more. Eventually "Videodrome" turns into a dog and pony show for Cronenberg's special effects. If you are looking for viewing thrills, I suggest you look elsewhere, because the gross and grotesque on display here have little meaning other than to be gross and grotesque. When I watched this 25 years ago I was not impressed, and seeing it now has regrettably not altered my opinion. Not acceptable as entertainment. Not recommended. - MERK
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