Since it made its way into the home, TV has occupied a place of power. It’s never really been questioned. Everyone accepts it as the centerpiece of the home. Which is almost already an outdated concept. The TV still has a place in the home, but it’s simply a larger platform to view the things you find online. It’s for streaming now. In some ways, it’s almost the sci-fi version of television that some of these movies depicted. Yet by the 1980’s it was becoming clear that this was something that simply was not going away.
Made in the height of the Empire Pictures era, Terrorvision was pure cheese, but it at least had a kind of charm. It was very much a Charles Band production, and was actually written by Charles and his father Albert. The movie was directed by Ted Nicolau, who would go on to direct many films for Band’s Full Moon Pictures including the overlooked Subspecies series. The focus of the movie is a satellite dish installed into a home that may look like the cheapest model, but certainly picks up the most channels. It taps into something extraterrestrial, and eventually materializes a giant, mutated creature right into the poor owner’s living room.
4. THE VIDEO DEAD-
The people in the movie really should have figured out something was amiss long before the action really took off and there’s probably a lot they could have done about what was happening, but the movie is still fun in a dumb and campy way. It’s a cool movie. It’s not overly plot-heavy or stylish. A television is delivered to a house without anyone ordering it, the next day the owner of the house is dead. The television sits inside the house until a new family arrives. Now, this TV only plays one program, and it’s a seemingly endless zombie movie called “Zombie Blood Nightmare.” The whole production seems made as an answer to all those parents and critics who said TV was turning people into zombies, and that’s the best thing about it.
Poltergeist is obviously a great movie, but there’s a lot more going on than just the TV. Just like there’s more going on than killer clown dolls, child-eating trees and swimming pools full of corpses. Man, there’s a lot of frightening stuff in this movie. But the TV is the conduit for all of it. The TV is how the presence inside the house announces itself, at least to young Carol-Anne. And then as the film goes on and this dynamic is switched, it is Carol-Anne who is taken into the spirit world and forced to communicate through the TV with her family. It’s one of the all-time greats and proof that a movie can be really scary even with a PG rating.
2. HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH-
This one takes a notch above Poltergeist simply because of how much the TV has to do with the plot. The TV is the plot. Tommy Lee Wallace sort of used the backdrop of a Halloween film to take on TV culture and the advertising industry in one fell swoop. There’s a commercial that plays at least every ten minutes in the movie, and everyone who’s even remotely familiar with the film can instantly remember it. The owner of a popular line of Halloween masks is planning to kill every single child in the world when they tune into the “big giveaway” at nine o’ clock on Halloween night. The plot is convoluted, for sure, it involves ancient Celtic magic, killer robots and more… but the point is clear enough.
Videodrome is the best of these films because it is as much a horrific experience as it is a thoughtful examination. And the same is true of all Cronenberg’s films. The movie says it best in the lines “television is the new reality, and reality is less than television.” By 1983, that was already the way it had become. TV was the way people experienced the world, it was where they got their emotional content and therefore it became how people felt. The movie also takes on whether or not violent images leave an effect on the viewer, but even still it’s examining through the lens of this thing that projects those images to millions of people. And given that nothing is black and white with Cronenberg, there are the people who manufactured this supposedly foreign snuff channel in order to pick off the morally degenerate.