Once in a while, I watch an older movie that’s so prescient, so innovative in its ideas and predictions that it blows me away. Among examples like “Minority Report” and “2001: A Space Odyssey,” I would argue there’s room for “Videodrome.” It’s like writer-director David Cronenberg had access to a crystal ball, and was able to foretell a number of huge psycho-social problems, decades before the technology that allowed them to ferment was even commonplace. Case in point: Lead James Woods is awoken every morning with a new television broadcast developed especially for him and his daily needs by his personal assistant, pointing towards society’s growing (and now-rampant) dependence on technology and asking questions about what kind of impact it has on the human brain’s capacity for continued development. Additionally, the idea of “Videodrome” itself (the show within the movie, an obscure and disturbing transmission that records the brutal rape, torture and murder of everyday people) points the way to the corrosive effect of social media and the weaponizing of emotional manipulation for economic purposes; because of the psychologically addictive effects of the show (which literally manifests as a protein growing into a mass inside the human brain, leading to disturbing hallucinations, conspiracies and distortions), the movie’s characters gradually become literally consumed by the images onscreen, unable to differentiate between what is real and what is imagined, and the inevitably tragic collision course they’ve willingly and gleefully embarked on. It’s all a lot of take, but somehow Cronenberg manages to make the experience palatable: Woods is a notoriously prickly media personality so having him as, well, a prickly smut purveyor is perfect casting, what with his unpleasant and sleazy vibe making the character feel all the more authentic, and he makes a surprisingly effective surrogate for the audience’s more base traits. All in all, “Videodrome” is a downright masterpiece, an upsetting, scarily accurate vision of a dystopian future that’s all but arrived for the modern viewer, and it’s one hell of an experience to watch it play out so viscerally onscreen, nearly forty years ahead of its time. Incredible.
Rating: ★★★★★ (out of 5)