This afternoon's viewing was Jeff Lieberman's REMOTE CONTROL (1988), another effective and creative oddity from the writer/director of SQUIRM (1976), BLUE SUNSHINE (1978) and JUST BEFORE DAWN (1981). Where the masterful BLUE SUNSHINE had people facing the horrific consequences of indulging in the LSD craze of a decade earlier, REMOTE CONTROL also has its characters paying the price for indulging in a popular cultural movement, in this instance the home video phenomena of the ...1980s. Befitting of the era in which it was made, REMOTE CONTROL tells its story in a very flashy and much more abstract style than BLUE SUNSHINE, full of MTV pop and exaggerated 80s fashion and materialism. And yet, thanks to the use of film within a film, it is also serves as a cool homage to the classic black & white B horror and science-fiction movies of the 1950s.
As he was in the remake of THE BLOB later that same year, Kevin Dillion is pretty solid in his familiar role of a rebel with a bit of past but ultimately a decent and reliable guy (here, he plays a video store clerk who gets embroiled in an alien plot to take over the world by using the VHS release of a low-budget 50s sci-fi film called REMOTE CONTROL to brainwash viewers and program them to kill). It’s also nice to see Jennifer Tilly show up in one of her earlier roles (her exotic looks and character quirks make her a natural for a film like this), and of course for any fan of vintage VHS like myself there’s plenty of fun to be had spotting the various individual titles on the shelves and the promo displays on the counter and walls of the (fictitious) Village Video store where a good deal of the movie takes place (JAKE SPEED and the Jane fond workout tapes seem to have been particularly popular at this time). And cool to see Lieberman giving nods to his previous films, with a poster for SQUIRM hanging on one wall and a clip from BLUE SUNSHINE playing on the video store’s huge TV set. The movie also benefits from a neat and very atmospheric electronica score by Peter (Son of Elmer) Bernstein.
While an old VHS copy might seem like the most appropriate way to watch REMOTE CONTROL (it was released on tape in Australia by Village Roadshow) I would love to see it in a cinema on a double-bill with Ted Nicolaou’s TERRORVISION (1986), another colourful and gaudy genre satire of 80s junk culture and American obsession with home entertainment (and both movies feature a performance from Bert Remsen, providing a nice symbiotic bridge between the two).