Pod people produce potential problems
Before director David Cronenberg turned to boring thrillers starring Viggo Mortensen, he was known for his dark and disturbing horror films. The title, eXistenZ, comes from the name of the virtual reality computer game at the centre of the film that represents his last, and best, body shock chiller.
Jennifer Jason Leigh is Allegra Geller (best film moniker ever), a game designer who is forced to go on the run during the trial of her new game, when religious nuts target her for her ‘crimes against reality’. Along for the ride is Ted Pikul (Jude Law with a bad, but explainable, American accent) who becomes her personal bodyguard. He’s also Allegra’s guinea pig when she needs another eXistenZ player to test how badly it’s been damaged.
The film is set in the near future where virtual reality games are the standard form of home entertainment. The technology for these ‘Pods’ has evolved from electronic to biological components that port directly into your spine. Cronenberg can make an audience squirm like nobody else – he gave us Jeff Goldblum as a human fly who vomits on people before he eats them for heaven’s sake – but his weapon of choice here is to present the Pods as a sort of disquieting Pandora’s Box fable.
Pikul shares our wariness of the Pods and it takes a while before Allegra can convince him to get a bio-port installed so he can play eXistenZ. To do this, they first visit a backwater garage run by ‘Gas’ (a leering mechanic played by Willem Dafoe) but he’s of the anti-game persuasion and tries to kill them both. Allegra then decides to visit old friend Kiri (Ian Holm) who may be able to fix the Pod that Gas deliberately infected.