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VIDEODROME MARATHON: Death to Videodrome– and its Remake

“Death to Videodrome— and the sequel!”
– James Woods, 1987, joking around on the Videodrome set (as quoted in Videodrome by Tim Lucas)

Since April of 2009, word has been out about Universal’s remake of classic and Criterion Collection-affiliated film, Videodrome. Usually I don’t mind remakes, and I would be lying if I said that all remakes are a waste of time. Cape Fear, Cronenberg’s own version of The Fly, Dawn of the Dead,The Magnificent Seven and The Thing are perfect examples of quality reworkings. But after the research I’ve done on the Videodrome remake, I feel like a dog in New Orleans on the morning of August 29, 2009; I can just sense a shit storm is on its way.

What I feel is the greatest threat to Videodrome‘s legacy is the screenwriter hired to write the remake, Ehren Kruger. It’s a shame that for years now, most Americans have been a victim to Kruger’s painfully ineffective ability to tell stories.

We must explore our past in order to understand our present, so let’s start in Japan during 1991 when Koji Suzuki’s second novel, Ringu, is published. This was the first book in the series of Ring novels that inspired three film adaptations overseas. The first was Japanese made-for- TV movie Ringu: Kanzenban, released in 1995. Three years later screenwriter Hiroshi Takahashi and Director Hideo Nakata adapted Ringu into the highest grossing horror film in Japanese history. The film’s success lead to a Korean remake in 1999 titled The Ring Virus. By 2000, a prequel, sequels, and a TV series were adapted from Suzuki’s collection of Ring Books as well. In Japan, the novels and film became somewhat of a phenomenon, and at that point Hollywood thought, “You know, we can make some money off this . . . maybe even a good movie. I wonder who we could get to write it?”

It seemed like an obvious choice by Hollywood standards to pick Ehren Kruger, because in 1999 he won the Nicholl Fellowship Screenwriting competition for his screenplay Arlington Road. By 2001 he’d also completed work on Scream 3 and Raindeer Games, which are both . . . just awful. But what’s the connection between Videodrome and Ringu? To start, both films involve videotapes that when experienced lead to death, and in fact, Ringu director Nakata has directly credited Videodrome for their image of Sadako crawling from the television set. But more importantly, both horror films dap into some deeper fears and emotions—subtleties that are easily lost through the filter of a remake.

The fact that Kruger was hired by a production company that remade a sensational movie just for profit is proof enough that Kruger shouldn’t receive any kudos for his work on The Ring. The movie was the success that put Kruger in the position he’s in now, and people were fooled into thinking that he’d be a clever screenwriter for Videodrome. In fact, all he did with The Ring was take an already intriguing plot and make it suitable for an American demographic.

The other movies that Ehren Kruger is associated with, such as Transformers 2 & 3 and The Ring 2 receive attention for all of the wrong reasons. The stories are shallow and that’s what Kruger is good at; with it, he’s undeservedly worked his way up the screenwriter food chain. The fact of the matter is, a movie like Videodrome shouldn’t be remade for profit or because of its increasingly popularity.

Not only is Hollywood making unoriginal, shitty movies now, they’re going into the vaults of good movies and molesting them. There’s no way that Kruger can successfully translate the maze of ideas in the original, and unfortunately the Videodrome remake has no purpose but to turn a profit. Now that remakes are popular, Videodrome is a victim of Hollywod’s ability to please a vast audience for the wrong reasons.

David Cronenberg (left) and James Woods (right) on the set of Videodrome

I’ll tell you what will work in the remake’s favor though. One of the taglines from the original is, “A shocking new vision.” Yeah, I’m expecting to be shocked in some way or another. Who wants to bet it’s going to be in 3D? Wouldn’t that be something; a pair of wet, full-bodied, Deborah Harry type lips, coming at you from a giant movie theater screen.

Long live the New Flesh and death to the Videodrome remake.

By Austin Sveilis  9/20/2011

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