February 09, 2013


In Videodrome (1983), the president of a Toronto-based TV station (James Woods), known for his risque programming tastes, becomes the target/victim/subject of a new and ominous "program" known as "Videodrome." He's lured into a series of disturbing depictions of torture (all recorded onto lovely, now nostalgia-inducing video cassettes, which are so much more interesting in appearance than discs anyway), but he soon finds that the project known as "Videodrome" has far more political aspirations than supplying voyeuristic viewing pleasure.

Writer-director David Cronenberg explores the philosophical underpinnings of television, as well as the evolution of mankind and technology, or rather, the merging of those two once distinct forms as one thing. Videodrome is astonishingly relevant thirty years later in a culture where our mobile devices seem like technological extensions of our bodies, allowing us to live in a state of perpetual virtual "connectivity". James Woods becomes addicted to "Videodrome," and experiences hallucinations that blur the real and the unreal, and the movie makes it clear that the line between them was blurry to begin with, and was perhaps even imaginary all along; certainly that line has become irrelevant to the world of "Videodrome," and it's increasing less distinct to us today.

While some of the ideas in Videodrome don't pan out, and the film runs out of steam in the final third, it's nevertheless a fascinating, prescient movie, full of the freaky weirdness you would expect from Cronenberg. It was more enjoyable than I thought it would be, probably because of the ideas it poses. Of all the horror masters, Cronenberg has always been the most intellectual, and even when his films are strange or ludicrous or oblique (and many of them are all three, including this one at times), they're equally mesmerizing and curious and, I think, relevant.

With Debbie Harry as Nicky, a sex-obsessed radio psychologist, Sonja Smits, Peter Dvorsky, Leslie Carlson, Jack Creley, Lynne Gorman, and Julie Khaner. ½

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