Videodrome (1983) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna
Thumbs neither up nor down. This is a must-see film for those of you whose preferences include the phrase "the weirder the better". The rest of you will find watching it to be an experience roughly tantamount to a conversation with your insane, institutionalized uncle.
Tuna's notes in yellow:
Videodrome (1983) is a Sci Fi fantasy effort from David Cronenberg.
James Woods stars as the owner of a
small cable company which caters to fringe markets with hardcore and
softcore porn and the like. He is searching for a new, edgier
product to boost subscriptions, and in that process he decodes a
very strange underground show called Videodrome, which features
extreme torture, and no plot. He wants it for his station, and sets
about trying to get it. His girlfriend, Deborah Harry sees a short
tape at his house, and decides she wants to be a contestant on the
show. Up to this point, the film is relatively normal and
|The makeup effects were excellent, as well as some of the other special effects, but it was the story that left me cold. Genre lovers enjoy this one, but I would not suggest it to anyone else.||
Scoop's note in white:
One of the great mysteries of life is financial logic underpinning the continued career of David Cronenberg. Since 1988, he has made six movies, and the highest grossing one pulled in a whopping $3.1 million at the US box office. How does he keep getting financing? Are his movies a front for the CIA?
He's the ultimate cult director, in that he can be described in one pithy, if exaggerated, sentence: "about twelve people in the world like his movies, but those twelve REALLY like them." Those cultists who praise his work often use terms like "unique" and "original" and "creative". Those epithets are accurate enough, but are not really "positive" words, but rather "descriptive" words. The same three words also apply to the thought process of Charles Manson, for example.
Yes, Cronenberg is an original thinker, and every once in a while I find myself fascinated by one of his creepy, semi-coherent films. The first time I watched Crash, I hated the damned thing, but when I watched it again I felt that my criticism had been based on trying to relate his characters and situations to human behavior. That assumption tells you more about me than about Cronenberg. Those characters looked human, so I jumped to a conclusion that they were. Crash actually makes sense if you just view it as an alternate reality - a hypothesis about how the human race might have developed if things had just been a tiny bit different. Once one makes that leap of faith, the film has a certain creepy fascination, because it seems to say "this is not the way we were, but the way we barely had enough sense not to be". If you can buy into that academic exercise, you can come to the conclusion that you "get it" - that the behavior pictured in the film is inside of us, lurking somewhere in our chromosomes, unused and dormant, but there nonetheless.
Most people do not go to a movie to be engaged in an academic exercise, but there are those who do, and they find Cronenberg engaging. For most of us, who took Introduction to Philosophy only because it was required, a little of that kind of crap goes a long way, and Cronenberg has been hammering away at the same themes for thirty years, to the point where he's not only weird and incoherent now, but hackneyed as well. A deadly combination!
The thing I find most difficult about Cronenberg's films is that they are aloof intellectualizations devoid of sympathetic characters. He is completely lacking in warmth, and one never cares about anybody in a Cronenberg film. One can distinguish the protagonist from the antagonist only because one is slightly less creepy. There is nothing wrong with that fact, per se. It is his considered choice. But it is far easier to draw an audience into an intellectual approach to a situation if the situation involves a multi-dimensional character that the audience really likes. Cronenberg never wants to devote the time to establish that setting, ala Stephen King. He just digs right in with the weird shit.
Videodrome is supposed to be about how the media influence our thought processes. Cronenberg takes ideas with some grounding in psychology and gives them corporeal avatars. TV doesn't just plant ideas inside of us, it plants them in the convenient form of mind-control tumors and other such tinfoil hat concepts. Once those mind-control devices have been implanted, we can no longer distinguish between illusion and reality, between real memories and implanted memories.
In the hands of a great director, this could be very powerful stuff. In the hands of Cronenberg, the fact that the film doesn't need to make sense means that it won't. Since the story is seen through the eyes of a man who can't determine objective reality, Cronenberg's narrative is free to depart completely from coherence.
The BBC summed it up eloquently:
You all know the old cliché about the fine line between genius and insanity. What you may not have thought through is that neither geniuses nor lunatics realize when they are crossing that line. Cronenberg seems to be telling us in this film that we are allowing the media to control and destroy people's minds. He's certainly correct. He has one of those minds which has been controlled and destroyed. If you stop and think about it, the very existence of David Cronenberg proves his own central hypothesis. The character played by James Woods in this film, who is eventually living in kind of a permanent media-fueled LSD trip, is Cronenberg himself. He is a walking, breathing, self-fulfilling prophecy.
On the other hand, the fact that his hypothesis
is essentially correct doesn't necessarily make Cronenberg's films worth watching. He has a
strong cult following, but many genre fans like this film simply
because they like weird films. If you like weird films, without
regard to whether they are any good or not, and without regard for
entertainment value, you will find plenty of
weirdness "right here on our shew".
If you dislike "weird for the sake of weird", or if you need your weirdness to be at least minimally coherent, stay away.
Return to the Movie House home page