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By Patrick Samuel • September 4th, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 4/5
Universal Pictures

Original release: February 4th, 1983
Running time: 89 minutes

Writer and director: David Cronenberg
Composer: Howard Shore

Cast: James Woods, Deborah Harry


For as long as I can remember the debate as to whether or not screen violence and sex contributes to the degradation of society has been raging between those who say it does and those who say it doesn’t. While there have been individuals who have been influenced by certain movies to go out and commit atrocious acts of violence toward others, these cases are too few and far in between to justify the widescale banning of entire genre films that we saw in the early 1980s with the Video Recordings Act 1984.

Videodrome is a film written and directed by David Cronenberg which plays into the idea of screen violence and sex influencing its audience, but it takes it a step further by incorporating other more disturbing elements.

Its story centres on sleazy Max Renn (James Woods) who works as the president of CIVIC-TV, a television channel which specialises in broadcasting softcore porn and increasingly gratuitous violence. Max believes these shows are the next big thing in entertainment but in order for that idea to become a reality he has to find the right show that will really hook audiences and convince the channel’s critics. When Harlan (Peter Dvorsky), the operator of CIVIC-TV’s pirate satellite dish, introduces Max to a show called Videodrome, he realises he’s just found what he’s been looking for.

The show, currently being broadcast out of Malaysia, is devoid of plot and depicts anonymous victims being brutally tortured and eventually murdered in a closed orange/reddish room. Without hesitation, Max tells Harlan to start pirating the show on their channel. Later on, while appearing on a chat show to defend Videodrome, he meets Nicki Brand (Deborah Harry), a psychiatrist and radio host whom he begins an affair with.

As they delve deeper and deeper into sadomasochistic activities, Nicki tells him she wants to appear on Videodrome and that she was made for the show. Max is slightly disturbed by this idea, but his troubles are only beginning when he finds out the Videodrome signal isn’t coming out of Malaysia at all but actually Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which then prompts Nicki to head off to secretly audition for it.


As Max learns Videodrome’s footage is real and it’s more of a political movement than an ordinary television show, he tries to track down Professor Brian O’Blivion (Jack Creley), a pop-culture analyst and philosopher whom he appeared with on the television chat show. O’Blivion might know more about Videodrome than he’s been letting on, but with an agenda for television to replace all other daily activities in people’s lives, Max has to ask himself if he’s really ready to risk everything to bring down the movement and save Nicki – if it’s not too late for her.

With some extraordinary examples of body horror, Videodrome is exactly how I remember liking my horror movies back in the 80s; simultaneously repulsive and yet fascinating. The images, such as a vaginal hole in Max’s stomach, a throbbing television set and gurgling breast-like video cassettes, remain etched in our minds long after the signals have stopped transmitting. As for the performances, Woods plays the part of Max convincingly and Deborah Harry surprises as the seductress with a thirst for pain.

Aided by Howard Shores eerie and tense score, Videodrome is more about our un-healthy consumption of visual media than about mind-controlling television shows, but while we may not necessarily agree with the ideas put forward by Cronenberg there’s still something to be said for the all-consuming nature of television.

Videodrome remains one of the best offerings from Cronenberg but it’s not for everyone. It’s a surreal experience and definitely not for the faint hearted, but if you’ve got the stomach for it – like Max does – then live the new flesh!

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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