So I saw Videodrome recently.

First thing I must mention is that I am really really not used to hearing “Renn” over and over from movies or TV.

More importantly, I was impressed by how ahead of it’s time the themes were. There are some crossed signals in the film, but there are a few ideas that really stand out. For example, the first thing that really drives James Woods’ character Max Renn and the movie itself, is the idea of looking for increasingly shocking things to witness. Max digs through piles and piles of softcore and “tame” violence looking for something more and more nasty. It is an idea – that we are just looking to desensitize ourselves further and further – that has been both realized , and somewhat disproved, by the rapid rise and fall of the (goofily labeled) ‘torture-porn’ genre.

If you don’t remember (or haven’t seen and don’t care about spoilers) Videodrome, James Woods’ character Max Renn discovers a show that is absolutely pure ‘torture-porn.’ It’s simply a dungeon where two men beat, torture and occasionally rape a single victim. Once they are done with one, they bring in another. From the very beginning, even as Max discusses “production value” and “actors” you can pretty much guess that the thing is real (as it turns out to be). 22 years before Hostel, Cronenberg predicts the self-defeating escalation of gore-hounding.

Later we find that the purified violence of the Videodrome broadcast is far from the point. Turns out, it is the buried “videodrome signal” that leads victims to hallucination and violence, and that the torture in the broadcast is simply the imagery that makes the viewer most susceptible to the signal. If I take his meaning correctly, Cronenberg seems to imply that violence is only a catalyst for something that is already there in the viewer.

In a time where video-games are the current scapegoat for our teen violence and school shootings, I found this very ahead of it’s time. I thought to myself how prophetic it was for Cronenberg to comment on this idea of scapegoats for tragedy and violence when he did. After a while I realized that it wasn’t so prophetic as I though, just observant. It’s laughable to think that video games are the first scapegoat for parental paranoia, when you consider the generational blaming of comic books and rock music for teen dysfunction before video games.

While less impacting, Videodrome has something to say about piracy and the democratization of entertainment too. Coming from a pre-internet era though, there is only so much to be taken from it. I wouldn’t suggest digging as hard for meaning as these guys (I especially love the brilliant revelation of how the movie breaks up into three distinct acts *achem* modules).

Give Videodrome a watch if you haven’t lately/ever. It’s got some great creations from the brilliant Rick Baker and a nice performance from Woods. As always though, Cronenberg is a true auteur whose hand guides every frame of the film.

Thanks for reading.

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BONUS: Renn’s One-Word Movie Review #3

Good / Bad / Neutral

June 12th, 2008 : : Run Lola RunReckless

Past One-Word Movie Reviews
June 9th, 2008 : : Day WatchUpgrade
June 8th, 2008 : : The AmateursEndearing