Videodrome (1983) Review

'Videodrome' stars James Woods as Max Renn, the CEO of a small time television network known as Civic-TV, whose main programming consists of soft-core pornography and hardcore violence. When Renn is introduced to the scrambled video signal of an underground show known as 'Videodrome', he becomes immediately drawn to its shocking content. Based on the simplest of ideas it shows human suffering undiluted, no plot, no characters, just relentless torture and pain. Max becomes convinced this is the next stage in the evolution of television, allowing viewers to express their true homicidal urges.

Together with  sadomasochistic radio host Nicki Brand, he begins searching for the source of this dangerous transmission. Soon, Max finds himself in a troubling world of shady corporations, political corruption and extreme fundamentalists. As he falls deeper into this tangled web, he becomes increasingly unstable, as his exposure to the 'Videodrome' signal causes him to experience ever more maddening hallucinations, till eventually his life and the lives of those around him are at stake. 
Released just as the burgeoning home video market was amassing popularity through the surge of uncut horror and pornographic video tapes, these illicit products began spreading like a virus through above and below counter dealing. Director David Cronenberg envisions the future advancement of this medium with his own unique, nightmarish twist. As the prolonged exposure to the visceral visuals in 'Videodrome', causes skin to mutate, psyches to crack and technology to turn into anthropomorphic tormentors.

The use of sexual images throughout as the gateway – or lubricant - to accept the transmutation and acceptance of new flesh was very radical for its time. In particular the sight of Woods fornicating with Harry, as they perform light S & M on each other. It may seem tame and a tad silly today, but imagine this scene played with a modern big name actor and successful pop singer in their place. 'Videodrome' also features a rich mythology (long live the new flesh) created by Cronenberg within the movie, while the abrupt ending appears to be leading to a bigger world of ideas, un/fortunately a sequel never materialised. Another fantastic aspect is the groundbreaking – though now sadly dated - effects used to visualize the corruption of the signal on the body.
One of the most distinguishing things about '80s horror cinema was the implantation and advances in practical effects. Be it the transformation from man to wolf in 'American werewolf in London', or the mind boggling human melding effects in 'Society'. Cronenberg uses these fledgling tools to express his own batch of imagined horrors, from the pulsating, living TV sets, to the unforgettable image of a vaginal orifice growing out of Wood's stomach. Today computers are used to bring film-makers visions to the screen, I for one miss the now quaint and fondly remembered days of VHS horror and their far more immediate and real onscreen prosthetics, that are missing from today's films.

In terms of originality 'Videodrome' has yet to be equalled by Cronenberg, it exists as the finest embodiment of his ideas come to glorious fruition. It's not a movie easily categorized or understood, it's merely to be savoured and studied, the film remains a classic both of its time, and of all time within the horror genre.