From 1999, “eXistenZ” is one of those movies that should have a much bigger audience and cult following than it already has, but hey, that just means there are more people out there ready to get sucked in to this amazing, puzzling, and unfortunately somewhat familiar world. A story about a virtual reality game designer in some unspecified near future and the violent “realist” movement trying to take her and all of gaming down, this is a weird, creepy, cool, bizarre movie, which means it is standard pre-2000s David Cronenberg, which is a great thing.
Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is the world’s foremost game designer, and the movie starts with her giving a demonstration – the first ever – of her new eXistenZ gaming system. But when an assassination attempt on her live disrupts the demo, she ends up on the run with security guard Ted Pikul (Jude Law), and while on the run, they have to test out the eXistenZ game pod and ensure it still works properly, as it is the only copy in the whole world and also cost millions upon millions to develop. And when Ted logs in to the game for the first time with Allegra, things start getting really wonky, as he starts to lose concept of reality and they delve deeper and deeper into the game.
This movie gets into our relationship with technology, and while it was made over 15 years ago, it feels more relevant now than ever before. We all hear the same old complaints about people being less and less connected with each other personally because we are all too busy to connect with each other electronically, and this story explores this concept, as it is possible for people to spend so much time in the virtual world of the game that they forget about the real world and neglect it, and hence themselves.
And “eXistenz” is also delightfully Cronenbergian, as this film is pretty much the culmination of his “long live the new flesh” phase of his career, which includes such body horror staples as “Videodrome” and “The Fly.” The game pods are not electronic, but instead are a weird fleshy silicone rubber with organic components, so that the game pod is essentially alive. And when the players use it, it acts as such, pulsing and flexing and moving on its own in the creepiest way possible. Additionally, just to continue with the meshing of flesh and technology, the games are plugged into bio-ports that people have installed in their backs, which means this movie has a high number of instances of people’s small, fleshy holes being penetrated by game pods, fingers and even tongues, so that the sexually allegory could not be any more explicit.
A delightful movie that seemingly starts off strange and off-kilter and only gets weirder from there, and finally ending in a place where it all makes sense (as long as you are paying attention to the many visual clues), “eXistenZ” is a movie just begging to be discovered by more and more people.
You can be one of those by watching it here on the Netflix Instant.