eXistenZ: Cracklingly inventive sci-fi!
Taut, subtle and imaginative sci-fi horror where a life-like simulation game is being dry-tested on a motley of keen beans who unravel the game’s goals in accordance with their subconscious as this becomes a game inside a game. So we have a dopey slash geeky game designer [Jennifer Jason Leigh, uninhibited & unpredictable] who starts a trial run of her new game and is shot by an assassin from a competing firm who’s on a shooting massacre, which leaves only a humble marketing trainee [Jude Law, convincingly curious] to drive her to safety, get a bioport installed and oblige her with a friendly game to work out the damage being done by the unforeseen shooting during the initiation.
Almost Kafka-esque in its sparse alternate universe, it draws on its obvious parallels of the true nature of human existence cleanly and with flourish. The foetus-like fleshy game pods with placental cords which are plugged into a bioport installed within the spinal column and the flesh-and-bones pistol which shoots teeth are offbeat and innovatory touches, and so is the actual “gameplay” with affected people stuck in “loops” only being able to work with certain key statements, then Jude’s character developing gamer-instincts and gamer-urges: some of them downright savage and carnal, and with him forever questioning his perceptions and the nature of what’s real foiled wonderfully by Jason Leigh’s blasé attitude, it keeps it real.
Cronenberg’s clearly in love with the material enough to have fun with it [like when Law’s character can’t stop himself from ramming his tongue in the invitingly moist orifice on Leigh’s back-now who wouldn’t? and then there’s the teasing final scene questioning if the game’s still on?]. It is supremely accessible, and even though it has a lot of ground to cover with its layered universes, its surefooted enough to never go tipsy with the burden. Thoroughly enjoyable and a must for every science fiction fan. And yes, the visual effects are almost impressionistic with their sheer minimalism [the two-headed mutated gecko, the fleshy pods, the toothed gun, the blood and guts: its all very visceral].