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November 8, 2013

Movie Review: eXistenZ (1999)

I watched this movie years ago. So long ago that I didn’t remember half of the cast. Or maybe I just tried to block it from my mind because I hated it so much. But being 14 years older now, and it being part of the package of films sent to me by my illustrious colleague, Jeff, so I kinda HAVE to watch it, maybe it’ll be different this time. Maybe I’ve developed a more discriminating sense of taste; maybe this time I’ll remember that David Cronenberg wrote and directed it. I have enjoyed his work in the past.

Then again maybe it still sucks.

eXistenZ is about a game developer named Allegra. She has designed a revolutionary new game (that would be eXistenZ, btw) that will change the gaming world as we know it. Apparently, though, there are some people who don’t brook no innovativeness and want her dead. After someone tries to kill her, Allegra goes on the run with a PR nerd, Ted, from her company. While hiding out, Allegra needs to assess the damage done to her biopod during the attempt on her life. It's the gaming system that looks like a giant sex toy that literally PLUGS INTO YOUR FUCKING SPINAL CORD. In order to assess, she has to play the game with a friendly, aka Ted.

Once plugged into the game, they maneuver their way through the story and into another game. Real life was gross enough. The eXistenZ world is darker and a bit more disturbing. Then you’ve got the game within the game: it’s disgusting, dirty, and squishy. And no matter which world she's in, Allegra seems to be the target of assassination. Even virtual reality hates her and her game clout.

By the time Allegra realizes her gamepod is trying to tell her it’s sick, all hell has broken loose in reality. Bombs exploding, hiding place on fire, special ops guys running around who turn out to be with the Reality Revolutionists (or some crazy shit like that) who hate nerds, her supposed friend is a spy for a competing corporation who has stolen her game, and our beloved Ted is the true assassin. But hey, guess what? Allegra knew that all along! So she turns the tables on him and blows him up.

(a little spoiler action going on below so if you don’t want the big surprise ruined, stop reading and go make yourself a sandwich)

That’s when we learn that ALL of this was a game. Allegra and Ted are part of a focus group playing a virtual reality game. This system consists of a half glove attached to a cock’s comb on the player’s head. Everyone we encounter in the game world(s) are other people at the focus group. Thanks for playing everyone. Please fill out your comment cards and accept this gift bag as our thanks for being our guinea pigs.

More hell breaks loose. Allegra and Ted are not who they say they are (this IS my shocked face). And then the all important question is asked: are we still in the game?

Sorry, Mr. Cronenberg. This whole flick felt like the still talked about original Total Recall but with your quirky bloody spin on it. Kind of like Arnold Schwarzenegger found the three-tittied woman in Midian then pulled out a machine gun and screamed for everyone to get to the choppah!

The really strange thing about this movie is the blending of sex and religion. It’s obvious Allegra is treated as a Christ figure in the virtual worlds. She even does the crucified pose a couple of times and Willem Defoe falls on his knees to kiss her feet when he meets her. The entire world of gaming IS religion and Allegra is the savior.

Then there’s the gaming system that plugs into your back. Don’t worry. If you’re a newb and your bioport is a bit tight, they will provide lube to make it easy to slide it in (great Whitesnake song). And if there’s no lube? Then just stick the plug in your mouth and suck on it for a second. Or better yet, suck your own fingers and then rub them on the connector before violating another human being’s artificial orifice.

I like the idea of the movie. Wait, that’s a lie. I don’t really like the idea at all. It’s lame and already done. And all that philosophizing and metaphor makes my brain case feel tight and itchy. I do like Cronenberg’s unique sense of style and twisted sexual psyche. But over all, I’d be happy to donate this movie to someone else’s growing stash of cinema crap.

1 Hatchet (out of 5)

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