In what is almost a David Cronenberg 101, "eXistenZ" sees the Canadian director revisiting themes already plundered in "Videodrome" (1982), "Naked Lunch" (1991), and "Crash" (1996), although this time in a more accessible format.
The weak plot centres on eXistenZ itself, a virtual reality game where players jack directly into an organic gamepod through a port inserted at the base of the spine. The game's architect, Allegra Geller (Leigh), finds herself targeted by violent anti-game campaigners and is forced to go on the run, with only a junior marketing assistant from the game company, Ted Pikul (Law), to protect her.
In the hands of anyone else, the notion of computer game terrorists would be ludicrous, and even Cronenberg fails to explain their motives, using the film instead to indulge in surreal exercises of dream logic.
But his pared-down style of minimalist horror refreshingly avoids computer-generated effects in favour of relatively lo-tech ones. This allows you to ignore the film's flaws as Geller and Pikul descend deeper into the game and begin to forget exactly which reality is their own.
Leigh provides a typically sardonic performance as the game genius whose world (both real and programed) turns against her. And while Law sometimes either over-acts or resembles an attractive sideboard, he manages on the whole to conjure up the required naivety as he finds himself way out of his depth.
The final, predictable twist is unworthy of Cronenberg, and it seems he may have lost much of his bite when compared with his earlier work. However, even though fans will have seen much of this before, there is still plenty to enjoy from one of the few truly original horror directors.
Don't understand "eXistenZ"? You need Lost the Plot, which explains all.