Pages Navigation Menu


Written and Directed by David Cronenberg
Starring James Woods, Deborah Harry and Sonja Smits

Max Renn: It’s just torture and murder. No plot, no characters. Very, very realistic. I think it’s what’s next.

David Cronenberg’s 8th film, VIDEODROME, is a bizarre and visually freakish film that showcases the director’s affinity towards grotesque images in support of social commentary and personal reaction to events in his own life. In response to his own divorce, Cronenberg has previously joked that his 1979 film THE BROOD is his version of Robert Benton’s KRAMER vs KRAMER. He would use this visceral approach again in his 1986 remake of THE FLY which many have viewed as a commentary on the AIDS crisis, and how we deal with disease when it affects ourselves or the ones we love. But VIDEODROME is a reaction to critical response and censorship of his earlier works such as RABID and SHIVERS, and explores the limits of what is appropriate to broadcast and just what the results of overstimulation to images of violence and sex might be. VIDEODROME is not only a response to things past, but also a thematic guide to his future works that will examine paranoia, technological obsession, sadomasochism, violence and of course, sex.

As the head of a TV broadcasting company with questionable programming, Civic-TV (a play on Toronto based City-TV) , Max Renn (James Woods) is always on the lookout for something new and edgy, that can push the limits of the viewing experience. When he comes across a 30-second clip known only as “Videodrome”, a broadcast coming out of Malaysia, Renn is instantly intrigued by its content and stark realism. Characters on the show are subjected to torture by whipping and electrocution and eventually death, in what looks like snuff TV, and now Max wants to locate the source so he can broadcast it on his own channel. As Max begins to hunt for the source of the broadcast, he is sent down a rabbit hole of sex and hallucinations as the TV actually begins to become a pulsating object of lust and Max’s body begins to mutate. Max’s obsession of finding the truth behind “Videodrome” leads him down a path of corporate coverups and bizarre technologies that are created to alter human perception and “Videodrome” eventually becomes all consuming for him.


Cronenberg uses a complex narrative structure here that is used again in eXistenZ and NAKED LUNCH, the combination of reality and insanely bizarre events that to us, the audience, are never explicitly made clear as to whether what we are seeing is actually happening or not. We are forced to see the world through the characters’ hallucinations and Max, as well as the audience, are unsure as to what exactly is happening. Some of the characters, in particular television host, Brian O’Blivion (Jack Creley), only appear on television screens, so this suggests that he himself might not even be real, that reality may not even be part of the narrative.  Paired with Rick Baker’s brilliant and insane special effects work, the images we are given are some of the most visceral and surreal of Cronenberg’s career.

VIDEODROME, while complex in its narrative structure and definitely not for those with a weak stomach, is one of Cronenberg’s more harrowing visions of technological overstimulation. It blurs the lines of reality so well, that everything we see gives us reason to question its purpose, and its existence. As Max’s sexual interest, Nicki Brand (Deborah Harry) proclaims while watching a clip from “Videodrome” that she was “made for this”, we wonder if she means that literally or not. These small details give clues into the genius of Cronenberg’s work, that what we see isn’t always the truth, especially in televised broadcasts.


Share Your Thoughts