It’s difficult to pinpoint which of David Cronenberg’s films had the biggest impact on me as a teenager growing up in the UK.
The head explosion in Scanners was obviously something I watched on videocassette repeatedly and The Fly definitely wrecked my world, but I think it was Videodrome, with its subversive mix of horror, sex and snuff that confused, disgusted and enthralled me in equal measure.
As a teen, I was obsessed with Rick Baker’s grisly FX and nightmare dream sequences, but as I grew older, it was the story that ultimately drew me in. Max Renn (Woods), a late night, low rent cable TV channel president, searches the world for salacious entertainment to broadcast during the witching hour.
Introduced to a pirate station that broadcasts ultra-realistic S&M and torture, he becomes obsessed with finding its creators. His search leads him through the seedy underbelly of pay-per-view freaks and weirdos.
When taken to task on a talk show regarding his channel’s tawdry programming, he uses the opportunity to flirt outrageously with shrink and radio DJ Nicki Brand (Harry). Once back at his place, he urges her to watch Videodrome as it will help “get her stimulated.” What neither of them realizes is that the show causes paranoia, hallucinations and tumors, which, if broadcast, would destroy degenerates the world over (imagine a world without Beyond Fest).
The film is an incredible exploration of television and its far-reaching impact on its viewers (and their minds). Oddly prophetic, it predicted a bleak future of mind-numbing reality shows that have dumbed down culture over the last 20 years and foresaw mass desensitization as a result of overexposure to onscreen violence that, two decades before, would never have been broadcast.
An absolutely fascinating film to watch now, with all that has happened in the realm of media and entertainment over the last thirty years, Videodrome is as powerful and profound as it was when it was first released (maybe even more so). Long live the new flesh.
Director: David Cronenberg
Egyptian Theatre: Hulu Screen