The dawn of the home video age in the late 1970s was a magical time. The VCR became a bona fide extension of the Hollywood experience in the comfort of your own living room. Video stores were houses of wonder, in that innocent pre-internet age, there was simply no way to determine what many of these strange movies were, or where they had come from, nowhere more so than the Horror movie section. Low budget productions with lurid artwork on oversized boxes stared down from the top shelf, charging already frenzied imaginations with the nightmarish possibilities of what those forbidden films might hold in store.
The 1970s produced numerous critically acclaimed horror films including The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Exorcist, Carrie, The Fog and Halloween, but the advent of home video unleashed oddities galore, most of which were low budget entries that gleefully pushed the boundaries of good taste. Usually based on urban folklore or real life 'monster' sightings, they tapped into the cultural zeitgeist and were destined to become cult favourites. Supported by a burgeoning network of mom and pop video stores, the release of these movies would be accompanied by promotional t shirts and posters designed to mesmerise and engage the viewer. These ‘straight to video’ films would become vehicles for a new wave of countercultural creativity. Art house directors could now experiment with avant garde concepts that big movie studios would never fund, musicians and bands could release concerts and documentaries, it became a new medium of subcultural communication.
David Cronenberg’s cult classic Videodrome was released in 1983 and embodied the new medium. Hailed as the decade’s answer to A Clockwork Orange by none other than Andy Warhol, it starred Blondie’s Debbie Harry, and was made in and about the VHS era. It was a bold, cerebral examination of human kind’s reliance on and subservience to visual media, decades ahead of its time, a portent to today where technology facilitates everyday human interaction on a macro scale. Much of the films narrative could be substituted with the internet and the message would be the same.
This collection celebrates this revolutionary era and the redefining of countercultural aesthetics, fuelled by technology and the convergence of creative outsiders driven to push boundaries and place their vision on the small screen.