An acclaimed techno-game designer, Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh), is leading a group of brave souls through a new game in which a control pod is attached to the player's spine. A young security guard, Ted Pikul (Jude Law) rescues Allegra from would-be assassins and so begins a dramatic series of events which may or may not be taking place in real life.

Hilarious, prophetic and sobering.

In the near future, programmers of computer and video games have become international celebrities like pop stars, so when Levi, (Christopher Eccleston), of Antenna Research, chairs a seminar to test the company's new game, eXistenZ, he's delighted to have game designer Allegra Geller, (Jennifer Jason Leigh), present. The game is literally plugged into participants via a MetaFlesh Game-Pod attached to an umbrycord and inserted into each player's bioport. But fanatical opponents of such games have managed to infiltrate the seminar, and during the proceedings, one of them opens fire, wounding Allegra who, not knowing whom to trust, flees in the company of Ted Pikul, (Jude Law), a novice security guard.

eXistenZ is the first original screenplay David Cronenberg has written since Videodrome in 1982, and it's a playful parody of some of his early grossout sci-fi shockers. As always with Cronenberg, the monster that invades your body is equated with sex; in this case, the director includes some outrageously suggestive scenes, like the one in which the virginal Pikus – who has never had a bioport fitted because he has a phobia about having his body penetrated – is fitted out by rough trade garage mechanic Willem Dafoe. Much of the film is quite hilarious, but it`s also probably prophetic – and sobering, too, when you consider that the basic theme is that of a fatwah in which the forces of reaction have targeted a gifted futuristic artist. Diehard Cronenberg fans may prefer him in a less frivolous mood, but there's a great deal to enjoy in eXistenZ.

Margaret's Comment: This film charts similar territory to Fight Club for me. It's about a disenchanted generation who want to push the boundaries of a deadening reality to explore the excitement, in this case, of computer games. I like so much of this film, Jennifer Jason Leigh has rarely been better and Jude Law shows what a good actor he can be with an intelligent screenplay. This is a very well done cold film, it's Cronenberg's way. He's a very intelligent writer/director and perhaps because of that his films tend to be rather austere, even visually. So while I admire this film from afar – it's so well made, with wonderful performances – there's a distance between the characters and an audience that precludes an emotional connection.

Watch David Cronenberg interview

SBS VICELAND: David Cronenberg season
The "body horror" master is coming to SBS VICELAND every Wednesday this month.
David Cronenberg: Matters of the Head and Horror
The iconic director may be best known for his gruesome brand of ‘body horror’, but if you look closer, the instability of identity is what he finds truly frightening.