videodrome review

film by David Cronenberg (1983)

David Cronenberg is one of the few Canadian directors who have generated a lasting impact in cinema over the past 50 years. His auteurist vision, as one of the originators and leading purveyors of the body horror genre, has gained him reverence as well as notoriety. Over the years, his films have accumulated a larger momentum of respected analysis and criticism. Shedding much of the prudish aversion from the mainstream media that once perpetually haunted his name through negative press, his films have gained a critical awareness that has elevated the interest beyond cult film stardom and revival house theaters into broader psychoanalytic and philosophical conversations.

Review by Aaron Jones | May 19, 2024

Cronenberg was also the main influence on the Toronto New Wave film movement, shaping a generation of filmmakers with his unique approach and visionary style. With films as recent as 2022, like Crimes of the Future, and another slated for 2024, Cronenberg continues to be a constant and relevant force in cinema. His career has lasted so long, in fact, that two of his children have taken up the filmmaking occupation, each with their own non-traditional styles. With recent remakes of some of his earlier work, Cronenberg has established a name among those with some of the most unique signatures in cinema, including Lynch, Lanthimos, Żuławski, Strickland, Breillat, Carax, and Jodorowsky. Videodrome is no exception when it comes to Cronenberg’s commitment to honoring his process and vision over commercial success.

Videodrome (1983) by David Cronenberg
James Woods (Max) and Debbie Harry (Nicki).

Max Renn (James Woods), the president of a TV broadcasting channel, specializes in controversial and sexually explicit content to stay competitive with the more extensive mainstream networks. In his tireless search for alluring and salacious material, he comes across a pirated broadcast of a violent, sexually charged gonzo show known as Videodrome, which he soon begins broadcasting on his station. In the process, Renn becomes sexually involved with a local radio host, Nicki Brand (Debbie Harry/Blondie), a sadomasochist who is seduced by the allure of Videodrome and who disappears after proclaiming her interest in auditioning for the show.

Cronenberg’s analysis of our society’s future spotlights our growing dependency upon and relationship with technology. The fallibilities of progress that are reshaping our existence are embedded within the film’s worldbuilding, creating a social commentary that is being developed at the height of the videoworld, an era in which increasingly violent forms of media found their way into even the most insular homes in urban society. Through the popularization and expansion of interest in VCRs, cable televisions, and video games, our growing demand for excess infused into our consumptive lifestyles created a divisive social climate that broadened the generational gap and became politicized, giving birth to a whole new culture forevermore associated with the 1980s.

Videodrome (1983) by David Cronenberg
Nicki as she appears in one of Max's hallucinations.

Evoking conspiratorial suggestions and obvious subliminal undertones, Cronenberg likes to play with his audience in an attempt to give us a similar reality to that of Renn’s experience through the strategic and artful use of video static, hallucinations, false facts, distortions, and contradictions. This gives the audience reason to question the reality within the film, supporting an additional subversive reality that exists simultaneously within the film and the viewer.


Technology continues to lay the groundwork for where the human race is heading in profound ways, and as Cronenberg suggests, contemporary society is driven and enslaved by our addiction to that technology. His inspiration often comes from coalescing themes of anomalies of human evolution, sexuality, horror, and science fiction, where he draws upon our technological dependencies becoming extensions of ourselves. This facilitates our own descent, blurring the line between our digitally enhanced realities and the real world. The perils of such dependencies are represented by the prospect that our own addictions may replace the real world, turning us into dehumanized byproducts of progress in an increasingly hedonistic society. Manifesting physical transformations that are evolving within us, sharing a connection with our own creations and desires, our technologies evolve as we do, although no longer through our own natural organic matter but through a new epoch of human evolution where we and technology are as one.


Videodrome is not only an unhinged and cerebral cautionary tale calling out our species’ social responsibilities, which are integral components to the human condition. It also unfolds as a political message about the dangers of breaking down our own limitations and philosophies to widen the gap for capitalism, begging the question, “Just because we can make something, should we?” It serves as a roadmap to one of our possible futures that, 40 years later, looks shockingly precise with each passing year.

Aaron Jones


Reviewed and published by Aaron Jones. Based in California, he developed a passion for film from a young age and has since viewed over 10,000 films. Curently serves as a film critic at CinemaWaves, he has contributed to other publications as well. Feel free to follow him on Instagram and Letterboxd.

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