David Cronenberg’s Videodrome

David Cronenberg’s Videodrome is a film I had slept on since I was a teenager and saw it it ominously leering off the shelf of Blockbuster with stark, gooey VHS cover art that promised a nearly sentient looking narrative and atmospheric horror experience that perhaps I wasn’t ready for, because I always passed it by. I’m kind of glad I waited until now to see it because I was fully able to appreciate what a rich, textured, detailed and seemingly impenetrable but inexplicably profound piece of art it is, not to mention just a gorgeously gonzo exercise in some of the absolute fucking BEST practical effects I’ve ever seen in cinema. James Woods is Max Renn, a freewheeling television producer whose time slot is dedicated to violence and scum because, as he cavalierly rationalizes it, that’s what people want to see. One day he discovers a mysterious scrambled signal broadcasting a show just about violence, murder and torture, a show that seems to be a bit too close to the real thing. His search for the origin and producer of this bizarre output takes him on a horrifying cosmic journey of mind-melding, body mutilating chaos as the signal begins to change both his external anatomy and internal mindscape. He hooks up with fellow TV host Nicki Brand (the great Debbie Harry) whose own dark impulses for boundary pushing S&M only further add to his unsettling environment. The plot is a dense, surreal and difficult spiral of reality shattering techno-horror, spectacularly splattery special effects and an editing process that aims to disorient while also keeping the viewer mesmerically rapt to the screen to see how it all plays out. There’s an undercurrent of warning regarding the psychological implications of technology and pornography that feels eerily ahead of its time, a commentary on the hypnotic and dangerous application of VR (WAY ahead of its time) and all sorts of elements woven together for a totally immersive, beautifully retro-futuristic experience. It also just knows how to have a blast at the simple level of being a visually effective horror film and believe me when I tell you that these FX are for the ages and might never be topped; from torso invading genitalia chasms to glistening prosthetic weaponry crudely fashioned onto human limbs to a TV set that lives, breathes and gives birth to roiling deformities behind the screen that serves to remind us of the worrying self awareness and startling agency we project onto and bestow unto technology. One of the finest horror films I’ve ever seen.

-Nate Hill

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