Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bald Mountain Night 11: Videodrome

Each day in October, intrepid blogger Alex Boivin will watch a horror movie. These movies are all new to him and are part of his month-long effort to fill in his gaps in the horror canon. If he doesn't die from fright, you just might get to read about about his exploits in cinema during the Halloween season.

How did a movie like Videodrome ever get made? Combining snuff films, cable access, S&M, Canada, body horror, Debbie Harry from Blondie- it's a wonder this film ever found backers. But as the plot itself proves, there's an audience for every sort of bizarre sex and violence, and thank God for that because this one's pretty great.

Videodrome is an early film by director Cronenberg, master of the gross and unsettling. The story concerns Max Renn, the president of a Toronto UHF station (played by James Woods) whose channel specializes in softcore porn and ultraviolence, anything that has an underground (or as they say in Canada "subterranean") market of viewers with discerning tastes. However, Max needs something more and more extreme to bring in viewers and when his staff stumbles upon a pirate signal transmitting a series of torture porns called Videodrome, he is keen to get a hold of the tapes and meet those responsible. Before you know it, Max is descending into a strange state of insanity and hallucinations of bodily mutilation, or are they? It seems Videodrome is more powerful and real than it seems.

Videodrome is one of those movies that everyone has one friend (unless you hang out with a lot of film nerds) who has seen it and the only way they will describe it to you is "Videodrome? Oh, man. It's good, but...man..." It really needs to be seen to be (roughly) understood and appreciated. On the drive home from the theater, my buddy and I were mostly silent except for the occasional "What was that?". Full of out-there mindfucks and disgusting things happening to James Woods' body, Videodrome is really one of a kind. The ideas of TV taking over the world and destroying mankind must have been revolutionary back in 1983 but seem quite tame now (though anyone who has watched VH1 will tell you that its mostly responsible for the decline and eventual fall of Western civilization), it makes me wonder when the internet (or maybe more specifically Facebook and Twitter) will get its own Videodrome.

I know that body horror is Cronenberg's trademark but this movie is something else. You'll be hard pressed to find anything quite like it (maybe the last 15 minutes of Akira), but you don't really need to because this one's good (read: "creepy") enough.

Final verdict: 71 Congos