Starring: James Woods, Sonja Smits, Deborah Harry
Director: David Cronenberg
Running Time: 89 mins
Videodrome is a Canadian film about a TV executive searching for cheap, insalubrious shows for his channel when he stumbles across a dark programme called Videodrome, which changes his life.
As dark and disturbing as sci-fi gets, Videodrome hits hard with its uniquely unsettling blend of gruesome gore and equally nasty ideas. Its thematic depth is immense throughout, and its bold nature makes it an undeniably gripping watch, albeit far from the most pleasant you’ll ever have.
Right from the start, this film bathes in a dirty, gritty and sleazy atmosphere. From its main character played by James Woods to its look at the morally corrupt world of television, it’s a powerfully unpleasant experience right from the off, but that brings its central point home all the stronger.
More than just an attack on the lack of morals in the world of television, but a pointed critique of how television and the media has come to take over people’s lives in so many ways, Videodrome hits hard on a number of levels that remain entirely relevant today.
Though its emphasis on television over other media may be dated, the main point of its message is just as powerful today, as it looks at the devastating decline of a society so focused on a superficial, morally bankrupt digital world.
Beyond the story, Videodrome uses gore, violence and graphic sex as another medium to really bring that message home. Much like its uncomfortable thematic depth, it’s not a pretty watch, and though its special effects are fantastic and remain so even now, Videodrome’s sheer brutality and graphic nature is often overwhelmingly affecting.
It really pulls you into the horror of a nether world that’s so alien yet so unsettlingly familiar – bringing home the harsh truths of the real world in such striking fashion that it’s difficult to look past.
On top of that, the film’s setting is an ambiguous work of genius, cleverly lying in a fuzzy middleground between a depiction of present day society and an unrecognisable far future. Some of its ‘predictions’ have come true by now, while others are both recognisable in what we see in the media in the present day, and what we can expect from the future.
That ambiguity in setting makes Videodrome so unsettling to watch, as you’re not afforded the luxury of watching this horror unfold in a far-off future. As things worsen, and the gravity of the story takes hold, you become more and more aware that the film is depicting a potential reality that is happening right now, which is really quite frightening to think about.
Overall, Videodrome is an undeniably impressive film. Deeply disturbing at every moment and hugely effective in delivering its bold and unsettling message, it’s a gripping watch that uses gore, setting and thematic depth in brilliant fashion to tell a horrifying story that hits so close to home, and that’s why I’m giving it 7.6.