31 Days of Halloween #16 – Videodrome by David Cronenberg
So I’ve reviewed a lot of horror comedies, monster movies and slasher flicks, but Videodrome (1983) is a straight-up horror film meant to mess with your head. It’s got hallucinations and strange, cyberpunk images meant to weird everybody out, the audience included. Videodrome draws you in with a claustrophobic focus on James Woods, who plays Max. Often, he’s the only person in the strange scenes, and the camera focuses on him and his reactions. I can tell you this much, Woods fears all mass media, you can read it all over his face. He’s almost stunned and entranced by the images he’s shown.
The videodrome TV show is another take on the infectious nature of media, sorta like what Halloween III tried to do, but actually effective. When there’s nobody around, characters in the movie seem willing to submit to just about anything and Woods dives in headfirst (literally) into the lust and depravity. Videodrome has the most obvious allegory in the history of cinema and I might be giving it too much credit for conveying some sort of higher message, because what works a lot better than the allegory, is the general creepiness and tone of the movie.
I think a grotesque is a good way to describe Videodrome. It has an aura of foreboding and creepiness like I mentioned, but the horror elements push it into a different territory, something gross like in The Thing but more esoteric than anything I’ve seen. An esoteric horror film? Is that even a thing? As Cronenberg said himself, his films deal with how society’s elements of repression and order break down. Woods later explaind that the movie shows the de-evolution from the normal into the “abyss of horror” and strangeness, which works really well. I have to agree, the slide into strangeness works. It’s not abrupt, but slow and scary. Good stuff.
David Cronenberg’s usual use of shocking effects is on full display in this movie. There are at least a couple of scenes I can think of which use strange effects to emphasize that slide from normal into strangeness. Max grows a mouth where his stomach should be and it eats his gun. He seemingly snaps out of his hallucination, and everything’s fine, no mark on him, but he can’t find his gun anywhere. Did it really happen? Did his gun really disappear inside him? He turns over all the couch cushions looking for it, which means he can’t accept the inevitable conclusion, that he’s experiencing something strange, weird, and unexplained. Thanks David Cronenberg.
Overall, this is a good movie. It’s experimental and it’s gross, but that’s what David Cronenberg is all about. Some of it is strange and funny, and I can’t really explain that feeling very well. The effects are quite good and probably not up to today’s standards, but this movie must have been really weird back in the day. If you’ve ever heard David Cronenberg speak, he’s a really smart and intelligent man, truly well-spoken and philsophical, not the kind of guy who does gross horror movies. Some of that intelligence finds its way into all of his movies, Videodrome included.
31 Days of Halloween 2016
31. Young Frankenstein (1974)
30. Jason X (2001)
29. Cloverfield (2008)
28. The Monster Squad (1987)
27. Bad Moon (1996)
26. The Haunting (1963)
25. Splinter (2008)
24. Frenzy (1972)
23. Aggression Scale (2012)
22. The Exorcist III
21. At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul (1963)
20. Silver Bullet (1985)
19. Joy Ride (2001)
18. Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
The Funhouse (1981) by Tobe Hooper Shin Godzilla (2016)
16. Videodrome (1983) – This post
15. Re-Animator (1985)
14. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
13. Cube (1997)
12. Evil Dead
11. Day of the Dead (1985)
10. Tales of Halloween (2015)
9. They Live (1988)
8. The Innocents (1961)
7. Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
6. Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)
5. I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle (1990)
4. Hatchet (2006)
3. The Little Shop of Horrors (1960)
2. Halloween II
1. Silence of the Lambs