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October 1, 2011

695. Videodrome
Written and directed by David Cronenberg
USA, 1983
IMDB | allrovi

Reviewed by Rachel
First viewing


Max Renn (James Woods) is the CEO of a small, dodgy cable TV station that specializes in explosive material such as gratuitous violence and softcore pornography. The network is on the lookout for something new and sensational to boost their falling ratings until, using his pirate satellite dish, Max’s colleague comes across Videodrome; a supposedly staged snuff programme from Malaysia in which someone is filmed being savagely beaten to death. Max finds himself in great danger as he delves deeper into Videodrome and finds that it’s far more sinister than he anticipated.

Essential Scene:

Max has been given a videotape by way of “meeting” Videodrome’s creator, Brian O’Blivion (Jack Creley), for the first time. As he views the tape, Max uses a gun to scratch at a vertical scar on his stomach.

Brian O’Blivion: I think that massive doses of Videodrome signal will ultimately create a new outgrowth of the human brain, which will produce and control hallucination to the point that it will change human reality. After all, there is nothing real outside our perception of reality, is there? [Laughs] You can see that, can’t you?

The TV turns itself off. Max looks down at his scar, which has now turned into a gaping, pulsating hole. Max sticks his hand inside the orifice while still holding the gun; he digs in so deeply that his hand is no longer visible.

Max struggles to remove the hand that is lodged in his torso. When he finally pulls his hand free, he is no longer holding the gun. Panicked, he looks back at his stomach to see that the wound has disappeared, and his long, vertical scar has returned.


One horror genre that I’ve always found very effective is the psychological thriller, as the fear of becoming unbalanced is one that we can all relate to. However, Cronenberg has always gone that bit further and created a sort of body horror; a physical, fleshly amalgamation of guts, blood and gore. This is disgusting and disturbing but also very clever.

Cronenberg is utilising something that, in reality, can cause a lot of trauma; the human body itself. It can be terrifying when a body is doing something we cannot control, and it is equally as terrifying when we see parts of it that we are not normally meant to see. Cronenberg bombards us with both of these aspects without resorting to the horror staple of having a weapon-wielding homicidal maniac being the cause of the gore — and if a person is the cause, the method of murder is much more complex than that.

While this concept is used well in Videodrome, and I admire it purely for that feat as it was made before CGI, I found that the film itself was a little muddled. I was intrigued until the feel seemed to completely change halfway through. It was the equivalent of a hardcore version of Network turning into an early prototype for The Matrix. Not such a bad thing for many potential viewers, but not entirely to my taste.

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