In 2012 Hollywood wanted to rip Videodrome from the past and remake it for a new audience. In a decade where remakes of The Thing and Total Recall flopped, one would question the wisdom in remaking a film that never knew success in the first place. Even less inspiring was the selection of who would create the brain of this new body for Videodrome, a first time director who made commercials and a writer from the Transformers films. If you are reading this I am going to go out on a limb and assume you have never seen the original film, because many haven’t. If you take a tumble down the rabbit hole you will find a grotesque, disturbing and insidious film that will shake you to the core. Welcome to Videodrome, a story ahead of its time and trapped by it.
David Cronenberg: A Mad Scientist
Occasionally in filmmaking, a madman comes along and creates a demon that shifts the way you see things. There are many who are notable, and David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, and Werner Herzog are just a few infamous examples. David Cronenberg could be placed up there with the sickening visuals inflicted on audiences throughout Videodrome. You should at least once experience the horror it. Most of Cronenberg’s filmography should be experienced by any so-called film buff such as Naked Lunch, A History of Violence or The Fly. Cronenberg can make the grotesque a reality and finds a way to bring out the most insidious ideas out of basic themes. His lab is the camera, and he is mad. Cronenberg injects the story with numerous scientific ideas, due to Cronenberg studying science at university, and those concepts are paramount to the film experience.
A Failure And A Success
Videodrome features an impressive cast with James Woods and Debbie Harry (lead singer of Blondie) being the most recognisable. We follow Woods’ Max Renn, a sleazy TV station president who would screen anything to stay afloat. Videodrome comes into his world thanks to the “Prince of Pirates” Harlan (Peter Dvorsky). From there it turns into an R-rated Alice In Wonderland. The film has not aged well in some parts; the visual effects can look dated, and the focus on video and cathode ray tubes in an era of LCD’s feels laughable. The character names are also all on the nose, with the most cheesy being Prof Brian O’blivion. Yet that is its charm, being dated allows for some thoughtful commentary. Sadly it made only $2 million off a $5 million budget; audiences mostly discovered it later, ironically on video.
A Story Of Our Times
Videodrome is a film that has a close companion in another paranoid classic, They Live. Both are very dated, released at the peak of paranoia about violence, and made by directors who engaged in social commentary. Videodrome is a ‘techno-surrealist’ film that predicted our pathway to technology. Dated it may be, but it is impossible not to get chills when Professor O’blivion talks about the eventuality of screen names and slavery to the screen. If you are reading this, most likely it is off a screen. The film’s savage parody of mass-media, radicalisation, voyeurism, and love of violence feels relevant. Though this is all done while holding VHS tapes in hand, it still makes an impact as Videodrome is bold! The images from the film will wrap around your cerebral cortex and sits there. Like Get Out it is horror with something to say about today, all the way from 1983.
A Remake Doomed To Fail
Throughout this piece, I’ve championed that the dated nature of Videodrome is a big part of its charm. By being stuck in the past, it is anchored in a moment of time which allows its prophetic themes to have a sort of eeriness. Seeing old technology become twisted makes the viewer wonder about their own devices. Even the title Videodrome is an echo of the past. The remake was to be written by Ehren Kruger and was slated to be a techno-thriller according to Deadline. This is radically missing the point. Fortunately, it died in development hell, so as there will thankfully be no remake, please catch the original. Become unsettled, feel uncomfortable, and most of all, think. Good stories are an experience and a remake surely would have missed that. Videodrome is a creature of the past reaching to the present and beyond.