Videodrome (1983)

A man inserts his head into a television screen on the cover of the movie Videodrome
Cover art for the Criterion Collection release of the a 1983 movie Videodrome, directed by David Cronenberg.
About the movie
  • Director: David Cronenberg
  • Starring: James Woods, Debbie Harry
  • Yes or no?: Yes
  • Links: on Letterboxd, IMDb page
Other reviews:

I am definitely not someone who seeks out this body horror stuff. I would actively avoid it, honestly. But while watching this I realized I really like Titane, which is similar in the shock factor with the body.

I had the privilege to see this in a gorgeous 4k restoration, which did a lot to make this bearable for me. The special effects were cool and definitely pretty great for 1983, but the 4k helped in making them obviously effects, which I have to think look much more shocking in standard definition.

I was surprised in looking at the filmography of David Cronenberg that I had seen several of his movies. None of them were of the sort that you would expect some sort of supernatural body disfiguring, but they did include some disturbing stuff. The fight scene in the bath house in Eastern Promises is really difficult to watch. Burt that didn’t really compare to my reaction when I saw the gun go into Max’s abdomen, or when it became part of his hand. That stuff is weird, and not exactly what I’m looking for.

I did notice the close-up looks at the skin effects. They look like the exact same effects used when Arnold cuts his eye out in The Terminator. A quick search did not turn up a connection (very, very quick search) but I plan to keep looking. Again, I was helped along by the 4k rendering these effects as obvious. I needed that.

Debbie Harry was weird as hell, but ultimately a real treat to watch. I can only imagine how she was received at the time, especially with a movie that appears to have been made to appeal to a certain audience anyway. Her character was exactly what I expected to get from her being in the movie, so excellent work making the 80s (maybe even some 70s throwback) a character in itself in a way.

James Woods was good but could have been any number of other actors. I think that may be James Wood’s thing. I don’t find anything uniquely appealing about the guy, so he was a wash to me.

Overall, this is obviously a movie that appeals to a certain type om move fan, and I’m not sure I’m that fan. I like id. I thought it was weird enough to keep me interested and find out what happens, but I would probably not generally recommend this. You’d have to indicate to me some level of understanding of me (don’t want anyone to think certain things about me) and of movies before I suggested this one. I’ll probably wait a while before watching again. Maybe I’ll take in a few more of Cronenberg’s first.

  • Was this some sort of moral panic in the ’80s? I seem to remember some snippet of a news report about “snuff films” when I was a kid.
  • I probably didn’t fully get this, but is this taking place in a world where television is an addiction (another possible moral panic)? There are methadone-type clinics where they give you doses of cathode rays?
  • The ending/overall theme—psychic death and giving oneself over to religion? That’s what I got. I also really want it to be a response to a lot of Hollywood taking up Scientology.

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November 24, 2023
Tags: criterion collection
Categories: Reviews