David Cronenberg never fails to disappoint. Just when you’re needing a movie to make you feel icky again, he hits you upside the head with a ten day old trout left out the in sun too long. Yes it’s his 1999 film ExistenZ (remember to emphasis the Z with your neck extended like a baby eagle waiting for food). It’s a bit Matrix meets alien only with more gooeyness and is destined to do for chinese food what “the Fly” did for eating doughnuts. ExistenZ takes place in the near future where some Sony executives shoot up acid and decide their next game console should be made of human flesh and have nipples. Enter the marketing team saying “Hey the nipple thing is perfect, but can it plug into a bioport on your lower back with an umbilical cord too?” Wow, sign me up for two for some sweet multiplayer action or potential lower spinal paralysis!
Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is a leading designer of virtual reality games for these console-pods but is shot in the shoulder while attending a focus group, a known hotbed for gun violence. The Security Guard, Ted Pikul played by Jude Law, rescues her but he’s a bioport virgin and has to have one ram shackled into his spine by William Dafoe with an air wrench instead. Dafoe plays a gas station attendant who changes oil filters by day and staples firewire ports into your tramp stamp region by night. Typical Dafoe typecasting again. Once hooked into the game, Allegra and Ted take on their game characters role and become factory workers in a mutant fish slaughter house where game pods are manufactured from the fish guts. oh, and don’t forget all the free botulism.
Ted and Allegra take a lunch break at the local chinese restaurant where Ted orders the house special. It’s a simmering side-sampler buffet of dead mutants animals encrusted in goo which Ted devours like he has a tape worm. He finshes off the meal and slurps out the entrails to constructs a gun made of bone and gristle just so that he can shoot his waiter. This means the rebels are trying to take control of the game and worst of all there will be no fortune cookies after dinner. Meanwhile, Allegra’s game pod has become infected by a computer virus which she’s hooked up to but a rebel toasts it with his portable flamethrower. The pod pops open releasing millions of infectious spores destroying the other factory game pods thus upping the level of un-believability not seen since OJ testimony. Alegra and Ted awaken finding themselves still attached to their supposed real-life game pod while snoozing in a ski-lodge which we all know this is still a virtual world because ski-lodges don’t actually exist outside of trashy romance novels. Meanwhile a revolution starts up outside lead by realist rebels who are tossing around grenades and shouting things like “death to the virtual world” and other typical revolutionist banter. Ted and Alegra escape to the hills but have a gun-showdown with a competing virtual game developer who just wants them to work for his company instead. It’s a pretty effective recruiting method. I don’t want to give away the twist ending on this one except to say…it’s more of the same. There now you’re expectations aren’t too high, Barry Goodall says put down the virtual gameboy and go a few rounds with Existenz. Just don’t do it on an full stomach.
Watch the trailer to “ExistenZ”