eXistenZ Reviewby Susan Granger (Ssg722 AT aol DOT com)
April 28th, 1999
Susan Granger's review of "eXistenZ" (Dimension Films, a division of Miramax) The title, "eXistenZ," is the name of a virtual reality video game in this psychologically disturbing sci-fi horror tale. Like "Naked Lunch," "The Fly," "Crash" and other David Cronenberg films, it's ghoulish, grisly and grotesque, filled with slimy, squishy, repugnant creatures and cryptic sexual imagery. Jennifer Jason Leigh stars as Allegra Geller, the supposedly brilliant designer of the world's most awesome and challenging games. Accusing her of being a "goddess" and "demoness," an enemy of reality, various people are attempting to assassinate her, using a gristle gun, defined as "A pistol made of bone and gristle, almost like the half-decayed body of a small mammal, whose snout is the barrel and whose rigid hind leg is the trigger. Instead of bullets, the gun shoots human teeth." So she retreats to a throbbing fantasy world by stroking a "game pod," a fleshy lump with various indentations and nipples, that is attached to a "bioport" that is surgically inserted in game players' spines and connected by an umbilical cord. She is accompanied on this wild journey by a bland, bewildered companion, played by Jude Law, and her most memorable trippy encounter is with Willem Dafoe, as a demented mechanic. Allegedly, David Cronenberg was inspired by the plight of Salman Rushdie when he concocted the exaggerated "writer in jeopardy" premise and asked his actors to read philosophy of Sartre, Camus, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche to get into the mood of the picture. But much the same satiric concept was already explored in "Strange Days" (1995) and the final, eerie, macabre plot twist is painfully obvious. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "eXistenZ" is an artsy, absurdly weird 5. At one point, Jude Law says, "I find this disgusting but I can't help myself." Me, too.
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