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by Cochise

"This is one weird ride."
4 stars

It is rare to find a film that engages a bit of one’s grey matter. ExixtenZ is such a film.

WARNING - In order to review this film and discuss its meaning, I have to reveal the ending. So . . . if you don't want to know what happens in the end, please don't read this until after you have seen the film.

The movie begins with a group of fans testing game-designer Allegra Geller’s new virtual reality game, ExistenZ. As the game begins, a member of a radical group called the Realists tries to assassinate Allegra. He fails and is killed. Security guard Ted Pikul helps Allegra escape and they both go into hiding.

When they get to their first hiding place, Allegra tells Ted she wants to play her game with him to make sure it still works. However, Pikul can't play the game with her because he never had a bio-port installed. (A bio-port is a hole in a person’s spine which the game plugs into.) Ted has one installed.

Allegra and Pikul then go to a ski lodge run by Allegra’s company. They hook into her game pod, and end up in Darcy Nader’s Game Emporium (The second game.) In that game they buy tiny game pods and insert them into their bio-ports. This takes them to a location called “trout farm” (the 3d game). At a certain point the second and third games interact with the first game, and they all become one game world. At the end Allegra leaves that game and jumps to still another game.

I believe the message of the film is that virtual reality, if it is as good as the game in the film, can be very dangerous. It can be very hard for the player to know the difference between fantasy and reality. This is shown in two places in the film. First,
when Pikul returns to the ski lodge after pausing the game at the Chinese Restaurant, he says, “I’m not sure here where we are is real at all. This feels like a game to me.” Secondly, the confusing nature of Allegra’s game is emphasized after Allegra shoots Kin Vanokur. Pikul says, “What if we’re not in the game any more.” It is important to note that Pikul says, “if we’re not in the game”; he doesn't say “we’re not in the game”.

There is strong sexual imagery in the story. Examples being the phallic symbolism of the pod’s cord being inserted into the body, the nipple-like protrusions on the pods which must be flicked to start the game, and Allegra telling Pikul that new bio-ports can get excited because they want action.

There are many things about ExistenZ which in some films would make them stupid, but are appropriate for Existenz. For example, there is a lot of trite dialogue, but this a something that computer games do have. Also, the killing of the assassin in the opening scene may seem over-the-top and unrealistic, but over-the-top violence is a characteristic of computer games.

The movie even makes fun at itself. Allegra says of a character in the game that he is, "Not a well-drawn character, and his dialogue was just so-so." Also, when kissing Pikil, she calls their behaviour a plot device: "a pathetically mechanical attempt to heighten the excitement of the next game sequence."

The characters in the film are somewhat like normal people, but they are also weird. This made me feel unsettled watching the film.

Allegra is crafty, insinuating, spontaneous, independent, and inventive She talks to her game pod as if it’s alive, seems to feel sorry for it when it is diseased, and calls it her “baby”.

Pikul is a nerd and seems slightly confused by what is going on, but he is still willing to carry out his mission. (His mission being one of the twists in the movie.)

The set design helped sell the weirdness of the film. There was no advanced technology as you see in many science fiction films.

The film has a particularly macabre atmosphere, particulary seen in the workings of the trout farm and the Chinese Restaurant. Other examples are the gross looking bio-ports, and the disturbing computer games in Darcy Nader’s shop. Games such as: “Hit by a Car” and “Chinese Restaurant – Will you make it out alive?”

If you are of a philosophical bent, and enjoy thinking about life, nature, the universe, and everything, you will love this film.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=1322&reviewer=228
originally posted: 12/31/02 08:47:29
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell good ideas get lost in gross out effects 2 stars
5/21/10 Dane Youssef Superior to "Matrix" in ever way. Cronenberg refuses to disapoint. Wicked. 5 stars
7/02/09 Josie Cotton is a goddess Cronenberg at his best 5 stars
3/24/09 JDigital One of the weirdest movies ever, great to watch on shrooms. 5 stars
3/17/09 Josie Cotton is a goddess One of the most imaginative films i've seen 5 stars
1/22/09 userNstuff this movie was freaking weird...not bad for 1999. seemed gay/homo? but had a cool ending 3 stars
1/06/09 FrankNFurter Awesome! Alien orifices and bug-like creatures.Classic Cronenberg madness! 4 stars
7/29/07 QC cRappY. Can't believe Canadian taxpayers money was used to finance this junk. 1 stars
4/29/07 William Goss Intriguing concept soon grows redundant and wearying. 3 stars
5/08/06 K. Sear Fantastic. Cronenburg keeps getting better with age. 5 stars
3/12/06 matt this blew my mind, i was affected for several hours after and somewhat lost sense of realty 5 stars
12/27/05 Stu Hasic As a regular computer game player, I found there were many levels to this movie. 4 stars
12/09/05 havthat I thought this was really interesting and beautiful when it came out. 4 stars
10/07/05 Mr Whuschatio Interesting and Grotesque 4 stars
8/12/05 ES What?!? guns out of mutant fish bones?= a bad dream after food poisoning 1 stars
6/05/05 Indrid Cold Ultimately it's satisfying, but the plot moves WAY too slow to even come close to "Matrix" 3 stars
7/23/04 Samuel a pretty decent film. 4 stars
5/24/04 Daveman like most of Cronenberg's films, underrated 4 stars
3/06/04 malcolm not at all intriguing. just F-ing wierd for wierds sake. 2 stars
2/23/04 Naturezrevenge Worst Cronenberg EVER, Intensely homoerotic symbolism. Loopy plot. Videodrome for idiots. 1 stars
2/14/04 Lou great story telling, superb acting & look/feel 5 stars
1/01/04 William so! I think it`s realy freaky movie and it`s hard to find a movie like that!! 5 stars
7/03/03 DANIEL YES BIZARRE 5 stars
6/28/03 Nicole Bizarre 4 stars
3/24/03 Al This movie sucks, has no plot or special effects and the ending is very dissapointing. 1 stars
2/13/03 Luke Naidoo Wonderful Movie, really unexpected ending 5 stars
10/28/02 Taylor James Reality becomes a vanishing subset 5 stars
9/21/02 Ostrich Eddie Nice visuals, one of my favorite cronenberg flics. Very subtle and powerful. 5 stars
8/09/02 Jiz Would have seemed good had I not already seen 13th floor, which is the same damn thing 3 stars
7/26/02 Bada Bing Crosby I loved 'Crash' & other Cronenberg but this one was off the charts, plus I hate JJL, alot 1 stars
10/13/01 Bevan R. Clark Kick ass Cronenberg doing what he does best! 5 stars
9/25/01 Grisu one of the best sci-fi films about virtual reality i´ve seen, maybe even the best one 5 stars
9/08/01 Gary Inventive and enigmatic. Law & Leigh are good, but the final act gets much too frantic. 3 stars
9/08/01 Michiel Huitema Best part is when you turn off the TV 5 stars
9/04/01 perverted pixie If you like mucus this film is your heaven 4 stars
9/02/01 The-Dude good film 4 stars
8/28/01 Gary Likeable and funny with good turns from Leigh and Law, but goes way too over-the-top. 4 stars
7/17/01 SF fan Very good work. 4 stars
7/13/01 Puggy D Come on epeople, Cronenberg just plain kicks ass. 5 stars
6/12/01 Gizzy Didn't appreciate it until that stunning ending...Good stuff 4 stars
2/22/01 trashstar I liked it alot, very surreal imagery and concepts. 4 stars
2/14/01 c. Walken Cronenburg doing what he does best - mutating things. In this case it's reality he mutates 5 stars
1/28/01 Soggy Bottom Boy The best of the VR genre! One of Cronenberg's best outings, kick-@ss visuals, FX & acting. 5 stars
1/07/01 The Bomb 69 the ending was a total mindfuck, by the way, are we in reality now? 5 stars
6/29/00 Bevan R. Clark Not being a diehard Cronenberg fanatic myself, I thought "eXistenZ" was a masterpiece. 5 stars
4/11/00 Dr. Rev. Krule, MD Why did Jennifer Jason Leigh have like 4 different hair styles? 5 stars
12/15/99 Silent Bob Gets You Thinking about Reality 5 stars
12/13/99 Aiken Drum was expecting more from the film so was a bit disappointed. I still enjoyed it though. 3 stars
11/30/99 James Cox Really cool movie 5 stars
11/22/99 Ralf Behet An unremarkable Cronenberg. The ending was particularly flat. 3 stars
11/20/99 John Linton Roberson At last, the real Cronenberg returns 4 stars
10/28/99 Bozo It was disgusting & I haven't eaten Chinese since seeing it ten months ago 1 stars
10/26/99 Karahde Khan Jennifer Jason Leigh is hot, the script is awesome, and the movie is pure intelligence. 5 stars
10/25/99 Dr. Fardook Lacks the cojones of his usual ... but still good 4 stars
10/14/99 Lame-Oh freaky as hell 5 stars
10/14/99 Tommi Neither Cronenberg's best flick, nor his worst 4 stars
9/16/99 strike one of the better Cronenbergs. 4 stars
8/19/99 JHON MARKY LION203 5 stars
6/14/99 Dylan Absolutely marvellous. Very um...visceral. I really like the way Cronenburg likes FLESH! 5 stars
6/04/99 Gasgano Good, but Phantom Menace was better. 3 stars
5/25/99 Mr. Film I saw it the night after Phantom Menace. It was BRILLIANT by comparison. Videodrome Lite. 4 stars
5/19/99 Heather Intriguing movie, you've got to admire Cronenberg 4 stars
5/14/99 Sanford Dostovesky Pure Genuis 5 stars
5/09/99 Ah Dooey Sci-fi at its best 5 stars
5/04/99 Jerry Excellent 5 stars
5/02/99 Ian Nathanson Give Videodrone a look first but applaude Cronenberg! 5 stars
4/30/99 Phlipit I was lost after the first scene but i don't give a damn it was simply smashing 5 stars
4/28/99 dirt very good 5 stars
4/25/99 kam cool 4 stars
4/25/99 Kirgo1 Original 5 stars
4/25/99 Mr Showbiz The latest take on virtual reality benfits from the vision of Cronenberg 4 stars
4/25/99 Justin S. Excellent. One of Cronenberg's best. Very strange and surprisingly funny. 5 stars
4/24/99 agustin interesting 4 stars
11/25/98 Lord Of The Dunce A really good film. Cronenberg might have broken through at last. 5 stars
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