eXistenZ Review

by "Berge Garabedian" (drsuess AT microtec DOT net)
April 25th, 1999

RATING: 7.5 / 10 --> Very Good Movie

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David Cronenberg takes a little time off before his official designation as president of the 1999 Cannes Film Festival, and presents us with another strange tale crawling out of his impressively twisted head. Shot in his hometown of Toronto, David tosses in a little more Canadian content by the way of Sarah Polley, and delivers his possibly over-saturated version of alternate realities into the cinematic community. Think THE GAME (8.5/10) meeting STRANGE DAYS (8.5/10) in a dark, creepy alley.

Futuristic virtual reality game super-creator Alegra Geller, runs into opposition from people who call themselves "realists", who not appreciate the propagation of her makeshift universe games, including her latest and greatest one, called eXistenZ. Joined by her "bodyguard", Alegra runs through her own game and her characters, in the hopes of escaping her enemies.

Dark, moody, interesting science-fiction melange of creative plot twists, solid actors, an inventive and fresh premise despite my initial "been there, seen that" resentment, and a truckload of gory, icky sequences accompanied hand in hand by disgusting, yet overdone, squishy noises. This film managed to keep me interested in its development, despite several moments of "are they still in the game?" frustrations, and stamped a vote onto my approval with a fun and appropriate conclusion. This movie is definitely not for everyone. It's pretty graphic in its depiction of several skin-crawly scenes, but does convince in its depiction of the futuristic world, and their maneuverability within. Consider yourself in a game where everyone else is programmed to react to what you do or say, and without any cognizance of your own mission, and you might just get the gist of this flick's foundation.

Be warned, this movie does not have much action in it, despite what the electro-music-fooled trailer might have you believe, but it does put forth an intriguing prophesy of our future, and deliver enough indirect explanations to satisfy my peeked curiosity. And while most of the actors were fine in their roles (I especially dig on Willem Dafoe in his most psycho roles, and this one is pretty sweet), they aren't really the focus of this story. The game of eXistenZ, the power of its creation and the claustrophobic feel of the film make it a touch better than any other play-by-numbers virtual reality trip. If you're any kind of a squeamish person, or looking for the Kung-Fu and special-effect action a la THE MATRIX (7.5/10), skip this sucker altogether, it is not for you. If, on the other hand, you like dark and creepy films that play with your head and move along at an even pace with twists and turns here and there, check this puppy out. Just remember to check your back for port drillings before you leave the theatre. You never know how real eXistenZ can be.

Little Known Facts about this film and its stars:
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Review Date: April 21, 1999
Director: David Cronenberg
Writer: David Cronenberg
Producer: David Cronenberg, Robert Lantos and Andras Hamori Actors: Jennifer Jason Leigh as Alegra Geller
Jude Law as Ted Pikul
Genre: Science-Fiction
Year of Release: 1999

(c) 1999 Berge Garabedian
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