October 2nd: Video Violence 2 (1987)
Camp DVD packages both Video Violence 1 and 2, but it might as well have put the sequel in the “extras” section, because that’s what this feels like. Released less than a year later and featuring much of the same cast (and some of the same footage), Video Violence 2 feels more like an excuse to reunite the ol’ gang rather than an effort to create a stand-alone film. Shame, because technically it’s an improvement. Despite the fact that its shot on video, Video Violence 2 actually looks (and sounds) much better than the first film. But, trust me, that’s still not saying very much.
For the sequel, Gary Cohen throws away the traditional narrative structure of the first film and structures the film as an extended television show. Sadistic TV hosts Howard (Bart Sumner) and Eli (the actor is listed only as “Uke”) return, this time bringing their snuff-variety show to the air-waves, via a pirate signal. And--we learn via an unconvincing news report at the film’s opening--the show is a big hit. Besides a dozen fake commercials and interludes, we spend the entire movie with these two goons. Besides introducing clips, Howard and Eli torture a bound woman live, with the participation of their music-man Gordon (the film’s composer Gordon Ovsiew).
Videodrome had a huge impact on gore-hounds in the 80s. The late-night pirate snuff/torture porn premise of Video Violence 2 is clearly inspired by Cronenberg’s film. I imagine there are a lot of Fango-junkies who love Rick Baker’s effects but probably didn’t really get the film. There’s nothing funny about the routines in Videodrome; the murders in Video Violence 2 are played for laughs. Like the first film, VV2 is creepy in its contrived “zaniness”, an awkwardness that occasionally plays as downright disturbing.
While the original Video Violence was clumsily plotted for sure, VV2 is constantly in the process of falling apart. Simply, the film has no center. Also, it's not that great. There was a kernel of something worthwhile in the original; here there is none. It took a lot of self-control not to watch the last half of the film in fast-forward. The two protagonists from the first film appear only in a cameo, and the video store itself is the setting for only one scene. The two best things about the original film are essentially removed. While there are things about it I like, I can barely recommend the original Video Violence. The sequel however, I can confidently warn against. Alas, since both films are available on one DVD, this point is practically irrelevant.