Directed by David Cronenberg [Other horror films: Shivers (1975), Rabid (1977), The Brood (1979), Scanners (1981), The Dead Zone (1983), The Fly (1986), Dead Ringers (1988), Naked Lunch (1991), eXistenZ (1999), Crimes of the Future (2022)]
David Cronenberg is a director I have a difficult time with. I respect much of the work I’ve seen from him, and Videodrome is no exception, but few of his movies are films I’d actually call enjoyable, and again, Videodrome is no exception.
It’s not for lack of trying, either – I’ve now seen Videodrome something like four, perhaps five, times. I’ve consistently not loved it, and though many of the visual elements are great, and certainly some of the ideas within the movie are worthy of praise, as a whole package, this movie feels more like a mess.
To be fair, much of this is due to the fact that I simply don’t understand exactly what’s going on. “Long live the New Flesh” is a fun saying and all, but what exactly is the “new flesh,” and how does Bianca O’Blivion’s “new flesh” differ from Barry Convex’s “new flesh”? Brian O’Blivion is interesting, no doubt, and I found his appearance on the talk show quite amusing, but his philosophical ramblings, devoid of any practicality, wasn’t my idea of a good time.
Certainly, science fiction that challenges the viewer with new and sometimes befuddling concepts isn’t something that need be a problem. Much like Triangle, though, I just don’t get exactly what’s going on in this movie (and especially toward the end, which I guess isn’t really the end for Woods’ character, just the end of his arc in his current flesh?), and when a movie has great special effects but a troublingly confusing story, that’s a bit of an issue for me.
Like I said, this isn’t something I went into blind – it’s a movie that I’ve seen multiple times. I was actually hoping for a bit more enlightenment this time around, since before now, I’ve not seen this one in quite a long time. Nothing doing, though, which, while that might be a shortcoming on a personal level, I can’t pretend that doesn’t impact my views on the film.
I don’t have that much to say about the performances. I think that James Woods is decent here (and during the talk-show about violence on television, I tended to agree with everything he was laying out), though not really a stand-out performance. Debbie Harry played one of the more interesting characters (for the screen-time she had), and I certainly wouldn’t have minded learning more about Jack Creley’s Brian O’Blivion, but others fell somewhat flat, such as Sonja Smits and Peter Dvorsky. Overall, there wasn’t much to be amazed by as far as the actors and actresses go, but that’s not really a big issue, as that’s not really what this movie was going for.
What it was going for, or at least by far the most memorable thing about the film, was the special effects, which were pretty solid throughout. Obviously there are some very striking scenes (such as a head going into a television screen, and a man poking his hand into a slit in his stomach), and it’s certainly impressive, but I can’t say that it necessarily made up for any of the perceived issues I had with the story.
In many ways, Videodrome is a cult classic that just never did it for me. I certainly respect the film, but like many of the Cronenberg movies I’ve seen (The Brood being the first that comes to mind), the focus on body horror just doesn’t appeal to me. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that the only Cronenberg movie I actually enjoyed was Shivers, also known as They Come From Within, though of course that may change once I finally get around to watching Rabid or Scanners.
Videodrome is a movie that’s worth checking out if you’re a fan of classic horror or science fiction, and especially if you enjoy off-the-wall movies that make you think. It’s just not something I’ve ever really liked, and as such, have to throw it a below average rating, no matter how much that damns me in the eyes of some.
This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss Videodrome.