It’s the same old story (literally): Variety reports that Universal is lining up a remake of David Cronenberg’s cult classic Videodrome. Apparently, this new take will “modernize the concept, infuse it with the possibilities of nano-technology and blow it up into a large-scale sci-fi action thriller.”
I’m a movie purist, but the idea of this remake is, on the surface, not a bad one. The time is right for a movie about the power of increasingly-prevalent media, the insidious nature of a corporate overlord is always good for a laugh, and there’s never been a better time for an examination of the inevitable voyeurism attached to broadcasting other people’s suffering (just look at America’s Next Top Model). As unique as Videodrome is, a remake that incorporated the leaps of technological achievement and cultural shift since 1983 could be an interesting thought experiment. Of all Cronenberg’s movies, Videodrome is the one that could best adapt and withstand the contextual taffy-pull of a remake.
Which is why Cronenberg did it already.
eXistenZ, Cronenberg’s 1999 surrealfest, is a half-remake, half-sequel, full-on cultural heir to Videodrome.
Where Videodrome concentrated on the reality/unreality dichotomy of television, eXistenZ was a reaction to the rising internet and video-game culture. eXistenZ is as rife with hallucinatory unrealities and bizarre biology as any Videodrome fan could want, and Cronenberg managed to update the themes of Videodrome to suit the emerging technology of the culture in which each movie was made, while exploring a new facet of a world that seems both utterly foreign and frighteningly organic. (Get it? Because of all the body par—oh, never mind.)
eXistenZ might be Cronenberg’s version of an action remake, since there are scenes filmed outside, but even as game designer Allegra and marketer Ted slide back and forth from the game to the real world, Cronenberg keeps the focus claustrophobically tight.
This claustrophobia—the unrelenting grip of the visceral even in the midst of the utterly surreal—is an essential element of the world Cronenberg created with these films, and is why the movies remain two of the creepiest sci-fi films ever made. In Videodrome, it’s the horror of losing control of your own body. In eXistenZ, it’s the intimacy of sliding a biological entity into your spinal cord and entering a possibly-inescapable MMPOG. Best of luck to the “large-scale sci-fi action thriller” that tries to one-up meat VHS with CGI nanotech-cam and some explosions.
Aside from the casual blasphemy of someone telling David Cronenberg they can do it better, there is even less call for a remake in this case than in most others. So for those at Universal who are busily preparing the big 3-D biotelevision effects, or trying to write a script treatment that involves updated technology, internet culture, and overtsly sexual spinal plugins, listen: Cronenberg really did cover it already. Just…go home, Universal, okay? Relax; maybe watch a little Civic TV.