- Gareth Crook
Max Renn (James Woods) is a TV programmer looking for content that will cut through. Something different, extreme. Starring in a David Cronenberg film, he’s on the right track. Videodrome plays with that most 80s of genres, the video nasty. A comment on censorship, authority, vice and the indulgence of. Renn and his girlfriend Nicki (Debbie Harry) are keen to indulge as they descend further into their S&M fantasies. Both are fascinated with a tape of a new show, Videodrome. Renn by the marketability, Nicki by the danger. Renn thinks it’s fake, an act, a captivating mirage. He wants to track its origin and bring it to his TV Channel lost at the end of the dial. Woods is disarming on screen, worryingly believable, like he’s playing himself. Despite the subject and tone, the opening act feels very lofi, diy, straight to VHS. But as Renn’s reality begins to blur, the gloves come off, allowing Cronenberg to paint a nightmarish celluloid vision. Televisions breathe, Renn loses his gun inside a vaginal like hole in his stomach, the body horror effects are gory and glorious. It’s dark and dirty, without ever becoming scuzzy. The plot remains miraculously on track throughout. Max realises that he’s responsible for the trap he finds himself in and sets about finding some sort of redemption, “Death to Videodrome, long live the new flesh!” We used to be told that if we watched too much TV, we’d get square eyes. A tame threat compared to this. I wonder, do I watch too many films?