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"Death to Videodrome! Long live the New Flesh!"
A David Cronenberg film. A surreal movie, one of the poster children for Body Horror. Like all of Cronenberg's movies, it has a strong intellectual undercurrent. The film deals with Marshall McLuhan's philosophies and examines the relationship between television and its audience. Cronenberg was greatly influenced by McLuhan's theories.
More specifically, the film follows the CEO of a small UHF station who stumbles upon a signal that is broadcasting extremely violent and horrific things. He investigates. As you might expect from Cronenberg, things get worse...
- Affectionate Parody / No Celebrities Were Harmed:
- Brian O'Blivion is a parody of Marshall McLuhan, whose ideas are the central theme of the movie. He only exists in video tapes, parodying McLuhan's famous proclamation: "I refuse to appear on television, except on television."
- CIVIC-TV 83 is a parody of CITY-TV 79, which was a struggling UHF independent in its early days and occupied the worst spot on the dial (UHF 80-83 were never used by any North American originating station and were never assigned in Canada). CITY-TV only survived by being in the largest market (Toronto) transmitting from the highest possible location (the CN Tower).
- CRAM (AM radio station) is likely also a parody of one of the Toronto locals.
- Body Horror
- Brown Note: Videodrome itself. We get to see why, and it's as horrible as it is said to be.
- Deconstructor Fleet: For late '70s exploitation movies. Oddly enough, it is now much better known than films like Mondo Cane or the first Faces Of Death.
- Double Entendre: "Civic TV, The one you take to bed with you."
- Exploitation Film: Civic TV's stock in trade is exploitation TV.
- Fantastic Aesop: Not used by the film itself, but by the bad guys, who figure that if they make a torture porn show that kills the viewer, nobody will watch torture porn anymore.
- Gorn: Played with.
- Good People Have Good Sex: Sort of averted. No one has "good" sex, but then again few of them are "good".
- I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Done on purpose for extreme horror. At one point James Woods basically has sex with the cancerous vagina growing out of his own belly with a gun.
- Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Yes, they're visions, but... is that really Nicki talking to him beyond the grave, or just his own psychosis?
- Mind Screw: The blurring between fiction and reality only increases during The Climax.
- Moral Guardians: The purity league headed up by Barry Convex.
- New Media Are Evil: Deconstructed
- Non-Actor Vehicle: Deborah Harry
- Organic Technology
- Punny Name: Brian O'Blivion? Barry Convex? Is this a comedy? No. Possibly a Shout-Out to Thomas Pynchon. Justified in the first instance because Brian O'Blivion has explicitly renamed himself.
- Science Is Bad / New Media Are Evil: The seeming surface moral is that modern information technology is eeevill. But, later it turns out: not so much.
- Shout-Out: To several famous exploitation movies.
- Also, a shout-out to the early CITY-TV 79 as a struggling independent which was once notorious for broadcasting fairly explicit content after watershed.
- Show Within a Show
- Smug Snake: Barry Convex
- Spiritual Sequel: eXistenZ. This is made particularly clear because it starts with a scene that looks very like the climax to this movie.
- Struggling Broadcaster: Many of the early big-city UHF independents were this. With only three main commercial terrestrial networks at the time, there typically wasn't enough viable content for every station in the largest markets. This left the weakest stations cash-poor and content-starved. The further up the dial, the worse things got as a high-UHF channel invariably had more limited coverage despite massive increases in power. Ultimately, there were only a half-dozen North American stations to ever originate content on UHF 70-83; these channels were removed to make way for analogue cellular mobile telephones in the early 1980s.
- Snuff Film: Videodrome is snuff television.
- Surreal Horror: As Max's psychological descent steepens, plot points and settings grow more and more absurd.
- The Tape Knew You Would Say That: TV prophet Brian O'Blivion communicates solely through videotaped messages--even in order to participate in an interview early on in the film.
- The Television Talks Back: Nicki disappears when going to check out Videodrome, then appears to Max in his TV, and asks for a kiss. He does...and then things start to get really bizarre. Brian O'Blivion also starts to directly converse with Max in this way later on.
- There Are No Therapists: The only person coming close in the movie gets corrupted the fastest.
- Through the Eyes of Madness/Unreliable Narrator: The film is shown from the perspective of the protagonist, Max Renn, who has certainly gone batty at some point. Everything up to the first Brian O'Blivion tape he watches can be assumed to be real as he's still only slightly affected by the signal. But when Bianca tells him that his life could become "100% video hallucination", suddenly it looks more and more likely that the bizarre plot twists (i.e. an evil conspiracy operating out of an opticians', his best friend being part of this conspiracy, murdering people with flesh/metal hybrid weaponry) are all part of a massive psychotic break triggered by the Videodrome signal. Maybe.
- Vagina Dentata: Just about the only trope played straight. Except that it's on a man. In his abdomen.