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Overall Rating

Awesome: 35.53%
Worth A Look42.11%
Just Average: 13.16%
Pretty Crappy: 5.26%
Sucks: 3.95%

13 reviews, 74 user ratings

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by Wendell Walker

"Intrigue, Admiration, but not Inspiration"
4 stars

eXistenZ is the socially crippled twin of The Matrix. Where the latter is outgoing and eager to please, eXistenZ is completely internal in that maddening Cronenberg way.

I've been a Cronenberg completist for almost twenty years now. When he really gets going he can put the shivers into you like no one else. But in the last ten years or so his visceral gutslam has been struggling with a cerebral urge to view his subjects from a distance--not a good sign for a horror film maker.

His last few films have almost been about that struggle. Naked Lunch focused on "intellectual splatter" author William Burroughs, but was really about the writing of Burroughs' most infamous book and his accompanying mental disintegration. Crash was about a most inflammatory subject ("the erotics of car crashes") in a nominally bold handling but without those messy bodily fluids. Its performances were so restrained, almost completely affectless, that the whole film felt like it was in bondage. These are both "interesting" strategies, with results (the sense of disassociation of the former flick and the tension of the latter) that were intriguing, maybe brave, possibly even admirable. And now there's eXistenZ.

You can take this as a straight horror picture, and at that level it's not bad drive-in fare, though free of the resonances that inform the best horror. It's possible that C. is looking to re-establish touch with his old audience, that appreciates his willingness to put your face into the ickiest stuff around. But I doubt it. The conceit of the film is that video games have gotten completely immersive, to the point that players have trouble distinguishing game reality from "real" reality. Almost the entire movie takes place inside a game, or inside a game inside a game, or...

But WE have no trouble telling what's real-real (that is, movie-real) and what's game-real. Game reality feels punched up in some ways (the characters are just a little bit more heroic, better-looking, decisive, forceful) and flattened in others (blowing another person away has no more weight than it does in other games). What's best about eXistenZ is the number of ways Cronenberg finds of skewing the movie-reality just so, giving a subtle sense of the facade.

But the movie's best feature is also the heart of the problem. Cronenberg's overall point seems to be that even if you take the implementation of interactive games to the limit, you still wind up with a reality that's about as interesting as a nerd's thought processes. That real reality has a texture and a weight that an artificial environment will never provide. In other words, the theoretical limit of games ia about as interesting as a bad movie.

Does this mean that eXisteZ is a bad movie? If a book that's about boredom is boring, does that make it a good book? Good question, one that you might consider arguing with your friends after you take in this one.

For my money, I'll give Cronenberg the call, because I like him, and because he's nervy, which is rare enough these days. I just wish he would start playing for higher stakes again.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=1322&reviewer=82
originally posted: 05/02/99 12:32:05
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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 ive 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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