“Remote Control” has got to be one of the best camp send-ups of paranoid 50’s sci-fi ever made. It was written and directed by Jeff Lieberman, who served the same duties on earlier horror classics “Blue Sunshine” and “Squirm”. This film uses the convention of movie in a movie to advance the plot and give us some wonderful recreations of bad 50’s sci-fi sets, costumes and dialogue.
One of the best things about this film is how it captures that stereotypical futuristic 1980’s style of fashion and design, which are themselves a throwback to 1950’s sensibilities. When you watch this movie you find yourself believing that maybe the 80’s really were all about neon colors and plastic hair, almost as if Patrick Nagel had lived beyond 1984 and went into cinematography and set design. It’s the same way as when we watch those cheesy 50’s films and almost believe that was how the world really was.
As a follow-up to his acclaimed performance in the Oliver Stone classic “Platoon”, Kevin Dillon went to the complete polar opposite with “Remote Control”. It doesn’t seem to have hurt his career any. And it’s a good thing too, because he’s gone on to be arguably one of the more entertaining character driven actors of my generation. Here he plays Cosmo, a rough around the edges, wise-cracking video clerk extraordinaire and erstwhile world savior.
One day a salesman comes in and leaves free copies of his videocassette, “Remote Control”. All he wants in return is for the store to set up his display. The display is this big Interociter-looking thing with a spinning antenna, a mirror and all the trimmings. People seem to be strangely attracted to it, and the video becomes an unusually popular rental. This is probably because both the display and the video exert a form of killer mind control.
This is where things get weird. In the video, set in a 1950’s version of the 80’s, a couple are settling in to watch their own videocassette called, as luck would have it “Remote Control”. Suddenly, the people in the video see themselves on TV, hear voices and then kill each other. As fate would have it, this is exactly what happens to the people who rent “Remote Control” from Cosmo. He and his buddy Georgie from the video store stumble upon the truth while delivering a video to their customer Allegra, played by the sickeningly bubbly and always hot-to-trot Jennifer Tilly. They get away. She doesn’t.
Cosmo and Georgie take the blame and go on the run to find the truth and clear their names. Along the way they join up with Belinda, another customer that Cosmo has the hots for. She starts out as a hostage but has also had a run in with the killer video. Belinda is also being pursued by Victor, her sometimes boyfriend who is yet another video store customer already under the videocassette’s influence. They trace the tapes back to their origin, Polaris Video. There they find alien controlled workers making thousands of copies. It seems that everyone at Polaris Video serves the Master Controller. Cosmo and friends wreak havoc at Polaris and then escape on a mission to destroy all of the tapes before the whole world is taken over. It’s not going to be easy.
Are they successful? Get yourself a copy of “Remote Control” and find out. You’ll be glad you did. And remember, “You can’t control yourself”.