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Overall Rating

Awesome: 35.53%
Worth A Look42.11%
Average: 13.16%
Pretty Bad: 5.26%
Total Crap: 3.95%

13 reviews, 74 user ratings

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by John Linton Roberson

"Mutant Offspring of Videodrome, & It's About Damn Time."
4 stars

David Cronenberg is a much more respected director than you'd expect. He's the only "horror" director with a page all to himself in the Oxford History of Film(like Pasolini, Herzog and the like), and possibly the most respected Canadian director in the world. Many of his films pose the best, but most disturbing, metaphors for our thinking in this suddenly artificial world we have embraced.

That they scare is partly the point but partly incidental, the result of his tapping into one of the most literal and wrenching metaphors--the body turning against itself, or changing or acting against the mind's will, calling into question what consciousness itself might be. In "The Tenant," Roman Polanski poses a question that illustrates the point well: If he were to cut off his arm, he would most likely then say, "Myself and my arm"(we're assuming he's well-drugged against the incredible pain of autoamputation). But if he were to cut off his head, would he then say, "Myself and my body?" "By what right does my head claim the status of myself?"

Seems silly, till you think how your belief in the integrity of your body, and senses, and perception affects almost every aspect of your life, except, perhaps, your dreams. And suppose the dream were occurring when you woke? Could you really ever know the difference?

Cronenberg has been sputtering & misfiring much of this decade(though I loved NAKED LUNCH and have a soft spot--er, somewhere--for much of CRASH), but here he's gotten back to ground he's been bizarrely slow to grab as rightfully his. One of Cronenberg's best and most complex films is VIDEODROME(1982), starring James Woods, which attempts to reflect in its narrative shift from reality to hallucination to one eventual contradictory--and channel-surfing-like--unquestionable blur, the effect of TV on human consciousness.

So how much richer a vein to mine than TV a human tool which depends upon an interface with, and imitation of, consciousness, the computer. I'm somewhat surprised he hasn't dealt with the Web yet, but in this, the gaming consciousness, such as it appears(my own experience is limited to a couple of enjoyable Monty Python games), is fodder enough for Cronenberg's cybersurrealism.

The changes taking place in the bodies of Cronenberg's characters is not alwaYS for the worse, though it certainly may scare the shit out of his characters and us. More often he looks at disease, mutation, and other alterations in the human condition possibly benevolent in some cases as well, and explores increasingly of late characters who embrace this, in a truly sick and alien way in CRASH, in an oddly light and cheerful way here.

Essentially, a game designer and her bodyguard are on the run from militias out to destroy her new game eXisTenZ, a CD-ROM-like game, a simulation but exaggeration of reality, which hooks directly into your nervous system through semi-organic technology ported directly into the base of your spine. Your mind goes inside the game, which is downloaded directly into your mind. (Makes one wonder what would happen if a virus were put in one) They meet one thug after another, and have to both go into the damaged game to assure the only copy is still intact.

The section which follows will be hilarious to anyone who's played a CD-ROM strategy game. This is the weird logic it follows, having to gather and place certain objects and speak certain combinations of words to get to the next level--and the levels come up suddenly, again, just as in those games; the narrative follows this bizarre structure. Jennifer Jason Leigh explains, looking very seductive(as an amplified version of herself in the game), "You have to play the game to find out why you're playing the game."

This seems fun and cheerful and only becomes creepy when you realize how easy, psychologically, it has become to use technology to wall oneself from reality, how it has become a lifestyle choice. That it becomes, over time, harder to find reasons to resist, for some. It's a subtler but no less real dread Cronenberg explores here, and the film is just plain fun to boot, with an excellent and surprising cast(and rather nasty, brutish and short abuse of Christopher Eccleston, but given the terrible NYC accent he tries here it's a relief), Jennifer Jason Leigh once again proving herself the best goddamn American actress alive.

I can't really say much more about it without giving away the surprises that make it enjoyable to watch, so I'll stop here.
You have to see it to know why you're seeing it. I'll just say there are many more levels to this game than would first appear.

This is the only film about "virtual reality" that ever should have been made, and David Cronenberg, bastard offspring of Nabokov and Burroughs, is the only one who could've made it. Take that, William Gibson!

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 11/20/99 23:31:43
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell good ideas get lost in gross out effects 2 stars
5/22/10 Dane Youssef Superior to "Matrix" in ever way. Cronenberg refuses to disapoint. Wicked. 5 stars
7/03/09 Josie Cotton is a goddess Cronenberg at his best 5 stars
3/25/09 JDigital One of the weirdest movies ever, great to watch on shrooms. 5 stars
3/18/09 Josie Cotton is a goddess One of the most imaginative films i've seen 5 stars
1/23/09 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
7/30/07 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
5/09/06 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
12/10/05 havthat I thought this was really interesting and beautiful when it came out. 4 stars
10/08/05 Mr Whuschatio Interesting and Grotesque 4 stars
8/13/05 ES What?!? guns out of mutant fish bones?= a bad dream after food poisoning 1 stars
6/06/05 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
5/25/04 Daveman like most of Cronenberg's films, underrated 4 stars
3/07/04 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
2/15/04 Lou great story telling, superb acting & look/feel 5 stars
1/02/04 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
6/29/03 Nicole Bizarre 4 stars
3/25/03 Al This movie sucks, has no plot or special effects and the ending is very dissapointing. 1 stars
2/14/03 Luke Naidoo Wonderful Movie, really unexpected ending 5 stars
10/29/02 Taylor James Reality becomes a vanishing subset 5 stars
9/22/02 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
7/27/02 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
9/26/01 Grisu one of the best sci-fi films about virtual reality ive seen, maybe even the best one 5 stars
9/09/01 Gary Inventive and enigmatic. Law & Leigh are good, but the final act gets much too frantic. 3 stars
9/09/01 Michiel Huitema Best part is when you turn off the TV 5 stars
9/05/01 perverted pixie If you like mucus this film is your heaven 4 stars
9/03/01 The-Dude good film 4 stars
8/29/01 Gary Likeable and funny with good turns from Leigh and Law, but goes way too over-the-top. 4 stars
7/18/01 SF fan Very good work. 4 stars
7/14/01 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
2/15/01 c. Walken Cronenburg doing what he does best - mutating things. In this case it's reality he mutates 5 stars
1/29/01 Soggy Bottom Boy The best of the VR genre! One of Cronenberg's best outings, kick-@ss visuals, FX & acting. 5 stars
1/08/01 The Bomb 69 the ending was a total mindfuck, by the way, are we in reality now? 5 stars
6/30/00 Bevan R. Clark Not being a diehard Cronenberg fanatic myself, I thought "eXistenZ" was a masterpiece. 5 stars
4/12/00 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
12/14/99 Aiken Drum was expecting more from the film so was a bit disappointed. I still enjoyed it though. 3 stars
12/01/99 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
10/29/99 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
10/26/99 Dr. Fardook Lacks the cojones of his usual ... but still good 4 stars
10/15/99 Lame-Oh freaky as hell 5 stars
10/15/99 Tommi Neither Cronenberg's best flick, nor his worst 4 stars
9/17/99 strike one of the better Cronenbergs. 4 stars
8/20/99 JHON MARKY LION203 5 stars
6/15/99 Dylan Absolutely marvellous. Very um...visceral. I really like the way Cronenburg likes FLESH! 5 stars
6/05/99 Gasgano Good, but Phantom Menace was better. 3 stars
5/26/99 Mr. Film I saw it the night after Phantom Menace. It was BRILLIANT by comparison. Videodrome Lite. 4 stars
5/20/99 Heather Intriguing movie, you've got to admire Cronenberg 4 stars
5/15/99 Sanford Dostovesky Pure Genuis 5 stars
5/10/99 Ah Dooey Sci-fi at its best 5 stars
5/05/99 Jerry Excellent 5 stars
5/02/99 Ian Nathanson Give Videodrone a look first but applaude Cronenberg! 5 stars
5/01/99 Phlipit I was lost after the first scene but i don't give a damn it was simply smashing 5 stars
4/29/99 dirt very good 5 stars
4/26/99 kam cool 4 stars
4/26/99 Kirgo1 Original 5 stars
4/26/99 Mr Showbiz The latest take on virtual reality benfits from the vision of Cronenberg 4 stars
4/26/99 Justin S. Excellent. One of Cronenberg's best. Very strange and surprisingly funny. 5 stars
4/25/99 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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