VIDEODROME directed by David Cronenberg (Canada, 1983)
David Cronberg is commonly regarded as (delete as appropriate) sick / inspired/ depraved /visionary /crazy. It’s probably safest to say he can be all of these things.
Videodrome is widely regarded as a defining work of his early, low-budget period.
Like the majority of Sci-Fi yarns for TV or cinema in the 70s & 80s, technological progress is represented in terms of large unwieldly machinery with a plethora of flashing lights and switches. So while Cronenberg’s virtual reality is clunkier than the mobile gadgetry we now take for granted, the movie’s concepts do not seen so dated.
His depiction of mankind enthralled by, and quite literally absorbed in, the TV screen looks an accurate summation of how our image-dominated culture craves harder and more extreme replications of the real world.
Maverick TV producer Max Renn (James Woods) wants something tougher and more disturbing than soft porn and simulated violence his channels currently broadcast. His search for more sensational, audience-grabbing material leads him into the sleazy world of S & M and snuff movies. His surreal hallucinations come to mirror the violence and degradation he is exposed to.
Cronenberg’s so called ‘body horror’ movies revel in the gory detail which makes them off -putting to the casual viewer but it is the psychological distortions which are more disturbing than the graphic blood and guts detail.
His films are part of, and in many ways define, the sub-genre of Mindfuck movies in which nightmare worlds are a little too close for comfort to everyday life.
The increasingly imbedded technologies of the modern world mean that the notion of brains becoming rewired by computers is no longer the stuff of fantasy.
As time goes by, Cronenberg’s dark visions look more and more like social realism. Now that’s scary!