David Cronenberg's films are technically very well made and while his films are very disturbing a good deal of his films also have either a dark or subtle wit, poignant emotion or even both. He is for me one of the most interesting and unlike any other out there directors, despite being known for body horror and originating it his films are much more than that. All these are the reasons for my admiration and appreciation for him, even if he is not one of my favourites.
Cronenberg did do much better films than 'ExistenZ' though, my top five being 'The Fly', 'Dead Ringers', 'Eastern Promises', 'The Brood' and 'The Dead Zone' (also like very much 'Scanners' and 'A History of Violence'). It is though a better film than 'Stereo', 'Crimes of the Future', 'Cosmopolis' and 'Crash', and put it on the same level as 'A Dangerous Method'. It is not one of his most original premises though, it was done similarly in 'Videodrome' (another better film of his) and done more disturbingly and interestingly even though it had its faults too.
'ExistenZ' could have been better than it was. It could have done with a tighter pace and the script has too much talk and doesn't flow as much as it needed to, so attention did waver at times.
Jude Law came over as bland to me and out of his depth, not a complete blank but the role was in need of more charisma than what was provided. There are much worse performances in a Cronenberg film (Robert Pattinson, Paul Hampton, Stephen Lack, Keira Knightly) but also much better (Jeremy Irons, Jeff Goldblum, Viggo Mortensen, James Woods, Christopher Walken). Some of the second half was a bit muddled.
However, as always with Cronenberg, 'ExistenZ' is a very accomplished looking film. It boasts some of the most startling imagery of any Cronenberg film (in a way that is both disturbing and also oddly beautiful),Cronenberg again showing his visual mastery. Howard Shore's, a Cronenberg regular, score is deeply haunting while also with a degree of emotion, not just going for full on horror but also the emotional core.
There is enough of 'ExistenZ' that is truly unnerving and thought provoking, the eerie opening showing a lot of promise and making one want to carry on watching. The ending is intriguing and by the end of the film there are points that you do think twice about. Cronenberg's direction is at least not my definition of cold and other than Law the acting is fine, especially from understated Jennifer Jason Leigh and intimidating-ly off-the-wall Willem Dafoe.
On the whole, interesting but uneven. 6/10