Existenz was another fortunate find for me! I’ve long been a fan of director David Cronenberg, so was overjoyed to find this one in the junk shop for a mere $1 on VHS. I hadn’t heard much of anything about this film, so went in completely fresh.
Upon putting this one in the machine I was even happier to find the tape was in great condition and the picture really sharp. The movie starring Jude Law and Jennifer Jason Leigh, with a bit part by Willem Dafoe had the credentials to be cool. It more than lived up to its mid level star power castings. I can’t say enough good things about Cronenberg.
Plot wise this follows the fortunes of Allegra (Jennifer Leigh), who has designed a new type of video game that assimilates itself with the user on a biological level. It’s basically an organic video game console half digital half flesh that connects to its user via an access point on the lower back / spine. It promises the user a new type of gaming experience that was previously unreachable with existing technology.
Allegra finds herself the target of an assassination attempt and flees the conference, with a co-worker. During the escape Allegra damages her “Bioport” (access point, where the games are ported into the body) and has to play the game with a friendly co player to fix the problem, and sort out who is trying to kill them.
The gore that Cronenberg is known for is ever present in this one too, some rather creepy creatures in this one. It’s not over the top horror but the more you think about it, the sicker the horror effects and creature effects become. The “body horror” (for lack of a better term) continues on well from one of his other movies, Videodrome. The sfx crew would have had a blast creating all these creatures!
There’s an undercurrent of social commentary about video games and how immersive they have become. Bear in mind this film was from 1999 so Cronenberg took some big leaps as to where he saw all this stuff going. As Cronenberg warned, gaming has basically followed in that direction since then, so basically he was right all along.
Overall, I really liked Existenz. I love everything I’ve ever seen that Cronenberg has directed and this was no exception. I’ll go so far as to say, I feel honoured for actually seeing this film.
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