Welcome to Script to Pieces, a recurring feature at Wicked Horror where we look at the best, most interesting and at times most unbelievable horror movies that never happened. Sometimes these will be productions that never came together at all, other times, they will be original incarnations that were completely different from what we wound up with. Each should be fascinating in its own way, because the stories of movies that never see the light of day can sometimes be even more interesting than the stories of those that do.
Videodrome is one of David Cronenberg’s most iconic films. In many ways, it feels the most representative of the director’s work. When we think of Cronenberg, we think of hallucinogenic imagery and strange body horror. Videodrome is basically built on those things. It’s about a snuff TV broadcast that implants tumors in the viewer, causing hallucinations, causing protagonist Max Renn to make out with his television, spawn an orifice in the middle of his chest, and eventually be programmed as an assassin with a gun that’s merged to his own hand.
It still amazes me that this was ever even released by a major studio, which makes it even more amazing to think that there was ever talk of actually remaking it. It didn’t do that well and has only grown a cult audience. Nobody saw it at the time and the ones who did mostly hated it. But it’s a recognizable title and in the late 2000s, that was all any movie needed to get remade.
The remake was first announced in 2009. The script was witten by Ehren Kruger, but at the time no director had yet been announced. Kruger is best known as the writer of Scream 3, The Ring, Skeleton Key, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Transformers: Age of Extinction. He was a surprising choice for the project, as the original Videodrome seems like a very different type of film from almost everything he had been credited on up to that point.
This isn’t to say that a Videodrome remake couldn’t have potential, either. The original is all about the television screen taking over daily life to the point that it becomes the new way we experience the world around us—the new flesh, as it were. In our current culture, that’s more true than ever before and there is room to expand on that original idea to hold the same mirror up to our own current climate of desensitization.
And that, of course, makes it all the more frustrating to realize that that’s not what the remake was going to do at all.
Like I said, it’s puzzling that Universal ever even planned to remake Videodrome as it was a little too cerebral for mass appeal and didn’t really make any money. But of course, a remake at the studio level is nearly always about capitalizing on a recognizable property. Once you have a title that people will at least vaguely know, you don’t actually have to remake the movie.
Of course we’d never get a big-budget remake about hallucinogenic body horror. No, the remake was instead set to focus on nanotechnology and turn the story into a large-scale sci-fi/action epic.
In 2012, Adam Berg was brought on board to direct. At the time, Berg was gaining studio attention as a commercial director, but had never helmed a feature before. In fact, as of 2017, he still hasn’t. Now, many great directors have come from the commercial world, but it’s hard not to think of this as a studio simply wanting to push out a spring action vehicle on time and on budget. It feels almost similar to the remake of Total Recall, but at least that was a sci-fi/action movie remade as a sci-fi/action movie.
While Videodrome is deeply rooted in sci-fi, body horror is its heart and soul. It would be bizarre to remove that, although I’m pretty sure the film would’ve somehow found a way to use nanotechnology to turn those affected by the Videodrome broadcast into zombies, a la Stephen King’s Cell.
Eventually, Universal must have realized that this remake was not a creatively or (especially) financially sound idea, because there’s been no movement on the project in years. I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say that it’s dead, but that might just be me projecting my own hopes onto it. It’s possible that Kruger and Berg could have had a great take, but in this instance it just really doesn’t seem likely.