Videodrome (1983)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Videodrome</strong> (1983)

(On cable TV, March 2012) The media landscape has changed so much in thirty years that there was a real risk that Videodrome, in tackling the TV anxieties of the early eighties, would feel fatally outdated three decades later. In some ways, that’s true: at a time where gory execution video-clips are never farther than a Google search away, the premise of satellite channel piracy uncovering a snuff TV show doesn’t quite have the same power to make audiences shiver. The average moviegoer now has effortless access to a vastly more complicated media diet in which can be blended the worst perversions: Videodrome really scratches the surface of the horrors out there as we realize that we now all have access to the same. But there’s a lot more to Videodrome than a treatise on the dangers of satellite TV and a charming throwback to early-eighties techno-jargon: As the body horror of the film’s second half kicks in, director David Cronenberg (who, a long time ago, still made horror movies) truly uncaps the techno-surrealism that still makes the film worth a look. Videodrome still deserves its cult status as an unnerving piece of bizarre horror, perhaps even more so now that cathode-ray tubes are receding in the past. The visuals, as imperfect as they were in a pre-CGI age, still have a sting and the shattering of the protagonist’s reality is good for a few kernels of terror. What really doesn’t work all that well is the last act of the film, which disarms the film’s increasing sense of paranoia and ends up burying itself in pointlessness. Videodrome, even today, is more interesting for its potential rather than its execution. Oh well; at least James Woods is captivating as the protagonist, and Toronto gets a pretty good turn in the background. A stronger third act would have been a good way to wrap up the film, but as a cult classic, it probably doesn’t need any improvement.

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