Videodrome

An American Werewolf in London

There’s a reason that, 33 years after its release, John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London remains a gold standard in on-camera special effects. The detailed and inventive use of makeup and animatronics by Rick Baker and his team meticulously fashioned a transformative threat to one man’s body that proved to be enduringly terrifying and enthralling, not to mention a bit cheeky. While CGI and other digital techniques age remarkably quickly, the indexical standard of animatronics and makeup create an ever-convincing case for the relative permanence of older means for producing spectacle. It’s simply a different thing when the effect was genuinely there, on set, alongside the events and people filmed. Hollywood spectacle has changed dramatically over the past thirty years, and Rick Baker’s career is evidence of that, with his role behind the scenes increasingly combined with the work of digital engineers. Yet Baker has always embraced the opportunity to collaborate with other disciplines of special effects, from puppeteers to stop-motion animators to today’s armies of talented digital artists. So here is a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the only person to have won an Academy Award for Harry and the Hendersons.

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Videodrome

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Videodrome

Canada is a scary place. I know that may be hard to believe given its reputation south of the border, but it’s true. At least since the mid-1970s something about the Great White North has inspired its citizens to go forth and make horror films. Good ones at that. Derek Lee and Cliff Prowse’s Afflicted, one of our 13 Best Horror Films of 2013, is only the most recent to hit American theaters. It won’t be alone, either, as Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy continues to unsettle and confuse audiences in its third week. The glut of terrifying entertainment from Canada begs some sort of explanation. Obviously there’s more to the nation than the stereotype of the apologetic, self-effacing peacenik but the Maple Terror phenomenon is now large enough to merit some light-hearted analysis. Let’s start with Margaret Atwood. Back in 1972 she published a book of literary theory called “Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature.” Her idea was that the principle theme of Canadian culture is the battle with the wilderness, the fight to survive the snow and the cold. The protagonists in Canadian fiction are often in “victim positions,” a representation of a communally held fear of nature. Canadian literary criticism has mostly moved on from Atwood’s book, as has the writer herself, but there’s something very useful about this idea. No one is more victimized than the hero of a horror film. Is there something inherently Canadian about the genre, something that has inspired generations of filmmakers to terrorize their characters? Maybe! […]

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3021398-slide-s-1-body-mind-change

Even if you love the work of “venereal horror” king David Cronenberg as much as we do, it’s unlikely you’ve ever said to yourself that you’d like to live inside the dark world of beta tape-eating chest cavities, grotesque human-to-fly transformations, and telekenesis-powered head explosions. But that’s exactly what the Toronto International Film Festival, the Canadian Film Centre, and installation artist/self-proclaimed “experience designer” Lance Weiler have teamed up to do. In connection with TIFF’s “David Cronenberg: Evolution” exhibit running through January, Weiler’s “Body/Mind/Change” seeks to recreate for the intrepid fan the experience of living inside a Cronenberg film. Particularly inspired by his celebrated Videodrome and its less celebrated thematic sequel eXistenZ, “Body/Mind/Change” looks like it will take the museumgoer through an extensive, interactive, tactile Cronenbergian narrative full of biotechnological paranoia and interactions with personalized (and possibly malevolent) artificial intelligence.

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Videodrome Remake

Back in 2010, when news of Ryan Reynolds-starring Deadpool feature was still interesting, Swedish commercials and music video director Adam Berg emerged as an unexpected candidate to helm the feature. Though Berg had never directed a film, he was lauded in the commercial and music video arenas, and had already earned the Film Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival for his Philips ad Carousel. While Berg didn’t get the job (it now belongs to Tim Miller), it seemed inevitable that he would eventually use his talents for a big, splashy feature debut. And how. Deadline Hollywood reports that Berg is currently in talks for that Videodrome remake no one saw coming that has somehow been penned by Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Reindeer Games scribe Ehren Kruger. Pardon me? While the involvement of Kruger and the reported plans to “modernize the concept, infusing it with the possibilities of nano-technology and blow it up into a large-scale sci-fi action thriller” are, at best, cause for concern (and, at worst, just totally wrong-headed), Berg’s involvement is just about the only heartening thing about this endeavor.

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David Cronenberg

David Cronenberg has made many types of films, but all of them are unmistakably Cronenberg. From B-horror movies to a beat literature adaptation to a film about the working relationship between Freud and Jung, the Canadian filmmaking veteran’s oeuvre exhibits a versatility of subject matter that somehow maintains consistency in style. Cronenberg’s films are known for their complicated portrayals of sex, in-your-face depictions of violence, and unmitigated explorations of human transformation, whether that transformation be from a human to a fly, a patient to a psychologist, or an east coast mobster to a Midwest suburban father. David Cronenberg got his start in underground experimental films, then made interesting low-budget B-movie horror features, and has since risen to prominence as one of North America’s most respected and revered auteurs. In August, the 69-year-old Cronenberg’s 18th feature film will be released, and he may follow it up soon with his first ever sequel. So here’s a bit of free film school from an experienced filmmaker hailing from America’s favorite hat.

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Criterion Files

David Cronenberg’s Videodrome is the Network of participatory media. Where Sidney Lumet and Paddy Chayefsky’s celebrated 1976 masterpiece rather accurately predicted televised sensationalism and infotainment, Videodrome’s ideas about media’s dissemination and our relationship with it continues to reveal its incredible foresight nearly thirty years after its initial release. Just as Network is now hardly satire, Videodrome seems less and less a work of science fiction. Sure, digital technology has brought many of Videodrome’s ideas into stark realization more so than the analog technology depicted throughout the film (a disconnect literalized by Criterion’s clever faux-Beta DVD packaging of the film), but the film’s many astute (and foreboding) observations about our evolving relationship to media technology is nothing short of profound.

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Round my way, 99% of all Halloween costumes these days are zombie-based. The knack, it seems is finding the right gimmick to zombify – so you’ll see grown adults dressed as zombie jailbait schoolgirls, zombie sportsmen or zombie auditors. But the movie world can offer all manner of appropriate costumes that don’t require an unnaturally pale face, lashings of ketchup and a stumbling walk – for instance you could terrify everyone by going as Gary Busey. Just inhale two cans of hairspray for that real not-quite-right look. Seriously though, this week’s column is dedicated to the great and the good of movie Halloween costumes: think of it as inspiration. And never say I don’t do anything for you. In all honesty, they’re not the greatest costumes, but they will certainly make you the center of attention…

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31 Days of Horror - October 2011

We continue our journey through a month of frightening, bloody and violent films. For more, check out our 31 Days of Horror homepage. Synopsis: “Long live the new flesh!” Good old fashioned body horror courtesy of the master of such things, David Cronenberg. Videodrome stars James Woods as Max Renn, the sleazy president of CIVIC TV, a Toronto-based TV station, “The One You Take to Bed With You”. The channel focuses on lower quality content, the kind of stuff we get after 1AM on Cinemax these days. Always on the hunt for something more extreme, more what he calls “tough”, Renn believes he’s found his station’s latest offering in the form of Videodrome, a faux snuff show he has come in possession of. But Renn soon believes he is involved in a global conspiracy when the truth about Videodrome and the people behind it begin to reveal themselves, and Renn’s already sick mind deteriorates into hallucinations and madness.

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This Week in Blu-ray

This Week in Blu-ray, we get one of the most exciting and diverse slates of HD releases that we’ve seen all year. From the definitive event film of 2010 to a few beautiful additions to the Criterion Collection, there is a lot to be excited about. I might as well call it the big director edition of TWiBD: Christopher Nolan, David Cronenberg, Guillermo Del Toro and Brett Ratner. Wait, all but that last one. Even my own predisposition to like below-the-line action movies can’t lead me to become victim to the siren song of Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. Especially when there are so many wonderful releases to talk about, instead. So grab your credit card and mounting debt and lets go shopping for a slew of new Blu-rays.

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Criterion Files

Just as film noir isn’t one single definable thing, noir itself contains many offshoots and categories. And every Noirvember, it’s important to not only examine good ol’ film noir, but its corresponding variants as well. One aspect of noir that complicates its designation as a genre or a style is the persistence of neo-noir, a cinematic form that arose in direct reaction to noir. In the US, canonical neo-noirs include films like Roman Polanski’s Chinatown or Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye. These were films made by filmmakers who knew cinema’s history, who have seen and studied noir’s origins and staples. These were filmmakers who worshiped film history and used classic cinema as a prototype for their own creation, embedding references to the old while departing from it in creating the new.

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Criterion Files

Landon and Adam usually have the lock down on all things Criterion, but lately I’ve been inundated by the important films of old times and new. First it was the package I received from my good friend Travon who took advantage of the Barnes and Noble 50% off sale and his last few days before heading back to Iraq to fight for our freedoms to send The Red Shoes, Paths of Glory and House my way. And, no, there’s nothing ironic about an American soldier sending me movies from the UK and Japan. That’s what this country is all about. In addition to that bountiful harvest, I was also invited to blather on inanely for the Criterion Cast – the podcast whose title is incredibly self-descriptive. That Criterion Cast gang and I were talking Videodrome – one of the best films of all time featuring a chest vagina. Of course, the conversation covered our fears of technology, the future-casting from Cronenberg, and the likelihood that we’ll all grow new VHS-compatible sex organs (hint: we will). Even with my inclusion, the episode is a fascinating one, and I highly encourage you to check it out over at the Criterion Cast site. Then bookmark the site to further bask yourself in the warm glow of film love with future episodes.

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RachelWeiszKarynKusama

The director of Jennifer’s Body is looking for a new playmate, and Rachel Weisz is the right woman for the gender-bending job.

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Don

Everyone just calm down. Put the entire bottle of luudes away. It’s going to be alright. Or maybe it won’t. Instead of threatening self-inflicted bodily harm, just rant about how stupid this remake will be inside. Long live the old new flesh.

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Transformers

Whether it’s a mythical beast or a horrifying monster, we love it when characters change into something right before our eyes. Here’s a look at the best flicks featuring transformations.

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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