April 23rd, 1999


more trailers eXistenZ

A game designer on the run from assassins must play her latest virtual reality creation with a marketing trainee to determine if the game has been damaged.

Release Year: 1999

Rating: 6.8/10 (45,276 voted)

Critic's Score: 68/100

Director: David Cronenberg

Stars: Jude Law, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Ian Holm

Allegra Geller, the leading game designer in the world, is testing her new virtual reality game, eXistenZ with a focus group. As they begin, she is attacked by a fanatic assassin employing a bizarre organic gun. She flees with a young marketing trainee, Ted Pikul, who is suddenly assigned as her bodyguard. Unfortunately, her pod, an organic gaming device that contains the only copy of the eXistenZ game program, is damaged. To inspect it, she talks Ted into accepting a gameport in his own body so he can play the game with her. The events leading up to this, and the resulting game lead the pair on a strange adventure where reality and their actions are impossible to determine from either their own or the game's perspective.

Jennifer Jason Leigh - Allegra Geller
Jude Law - Ted Pikul
Ian Holm - Kiri Vinokur
Willem Dafoe - Gas
Don McKellar - Yevgeny Nourish
Callum Keith Rennie - Hugo Carlaw
Christopher Eccleston - Seminar Leader
Sarah Polley - Merle
Robert A. Silverman - D'Arcy Nader
Oscar Hsu - Chinese Waiter
Kris Lemche - Noel Dichter
Vik Sahay - Male Assistant
Kirsten Johnson - Female Assistant
James Kirchner - Landry
Balázs Koós - Male Volunteer

Taglines: A game to live or to die for.

Release Date: 23 April 1999

Filming Locations: Rockwood Conservation Area, Ontario, Canada

Box Office Details

Budget: $CAD31,000,000(estimated)

Opening Weekend: $810,262 (USA) (25 April 1999) (256 Screens)

Gross: $2,840,417 (USA) (20 June 1999)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

The character of Allegra may likely be a reference to a minor character of the same name in Samuel R. Delany's novella "The Star Pit." In that novella, Allegra is a child prodigy able to telepathically project any type of reality she wishes to anyone around her.

Continuity: When Ted and Allegra approach the motel in the car, only the driver is visible.

[first lines]
Seminar Leader: eXistenZ. Written like this. One word. Small 'E', capital 'X', capital 'Z'. 'eXistenZ'. It's new, it's from Antenna Research, and it's here... right now.

User Review

A well-crafted film deflated by the Matrix-sodden expectations of an effects-obsessed audience.


I feel compelled to speak up for this film against the spoilt ravings of the it-said-it-was-like-the-Matrix-but-I-didn't-see-any-cool-computer-graphics-a nywhere crowd that have dominated these pages.

There seem to be two schools of thought on the use of special effects in movies. The prevalent theory - depressingly common among film goers and film-makers alike - seems to be that a good effect should stand out of a film and make the audience coo like a pigeon. If you subscribe to that theory, fine, watch the Matrix and be happy. If you think that a special effect is a means to an end, a way to portray a fictional vista as a believable realism, then watch eXistenZ and marvel at how a grotesque and visceral world can be made so engrossingly real and intriguing. This film has its fair share of effects, but they are so well grafted into the ethos the film evokes that you just won't notice them on first viewing. And in contrast with the current trend towards computer-generated effects, Cronenburg knows the value of his tactile world; the physical creativity involved in the gristle-gun building scene is a fantastic example.

Okay, so virtual reality has been used many times as a concept - and by films that actually came BEFORE the Matrix too - but the totality with which this film portrays its own organic brand of VR is truly engrossing. Jude Law and Jennifer Jason Leigh are utterly watch-able and the chemistry between them is the perfect vehicle to lead an audience through the admittedly gruesome situations the film describes.

There is an element of old-fashioned escapist fantasy in this film that manages to be strangely endearing despite the gore and I suggest that this is where the film triumphs - a triumph that can be attributed to clever writing, intelligent acting and characterisation, a compelling story, charismatic leads, a vivid and disciplined imagination and the discerning use of effects and visual style.

If the Matrix is an `oooh, aaah' sort of film, then this is more an `oooh, eeugh' movie - but don't allow the glare of the Matrix to dull your senses to the darker appeal of eXistenZ.