Arcade (1993) review

Arcade posterDirector: Albert Pyun

Starring: Megan Ward, Peter Billingsley, John De Lancie, Seth Green, AJ Langer, Sharon Farrell

KID – “Who gives a fuck about Arcade anyway?”

ARCADE  – “Try saying that to my FACE.”

In 1992, the movie version of The Lawnmower Man showed the potential dangers of virtual reality, and how it could be used to give someone enough power to take over cyberspace. Even though it couldn’t.

One year later, Arcade gave its own spin on the story, instead showing how virtual reality video games had the ability to come alive and trap children inside their circuit boards. Even though they didn’t.

Yes folks, we’re dealing with another brilliant cheesefest from the “fuck it, let’s go with that” minds of Full Moon, my favourite B-movie studio.

Arcade follows a group of kids who regularly meet up at an unrealistically seedy arcade called Dante’s Inferno. One day, while enjoying the gaming delights on offer, a salesperson approaches the group and asks if they want to try a brand new game called Arcade.

Here's the map screen. It's not exactly Dark Souls
Here’s the map screen. It’s not exactly Dark Souls

Despite its confusing title and the fact it’s named after the place it’s meant to be used (it’s like calling a car the Nissan Road, or naming your pet Doghouse), Arcade’s virtual reality headset catches the kids’ eyes and they try it out.

After the group’s token hotshot Nick plays it and gives his approval, everyone else is desperate to try out Arcade.

A young chap called Greg takes over, but while he’s playing the salesman takes the rest of group to a nearby room to give them all a free home version of Arcade (which, going by its naming convention, should be called House but isn’t).

Here’s Arcade, the game’s villain. Looks like a Transformer having a stroke

When the group returns, Greg is nowhere to be found. Everyone assumes he’s gone home but his girlfriend, Alex, is concerned something terrible’s happened to him. Other than his acting career leading him to star in Arcade, of course.

That night, Alex tries out her home version of Arcade. It starts talking to her and telling her that Greg is trapped inside it, Tron-style, so she heads over to hotshot Nick’s house and asks for his help.

The pair soon realise that in order to rescue Greg they’ll have to enter Arcade and beat its seven levels (Dante’s Inferno, seven levels of hell, geddit).

Look! It's Seth Green! Dressed like a complete fanny!
Look! It’s Seth Green! Dressed like a complete fanny!

Thus begins a whole bunch of silliness inside Arcade, which is less like a virtual reality machine and more like an odd version of British TV classic Knightmare, in which children had to don helmets and stand in front of a greenscreen while over-enthusiastic actors desperate for their big break chewed the scenery like a termite coming off a diet.

With all the Arcade sections set inside a virtual world, much of the film is an odd mix of bad greenscreen and equally bad early ’90s era CGI footage, much of which is used multiple times to save on money.

More than two decades later it does now have a charm in a sort of ‘this is what we thought virtual reality video games would be like, what in the realm of fuck were we smoking’ way.

"Where am I?" "You're in a room..." "CAREFUL, TEAM"
“Where am I?” “You’re in a room…” “CAREFUL, TEAM”

It’s also constantly compelling, if only to see how weirder it eventually gets. Arcade’s disembodied voice continually shouting “bitch” at Alex is strange enough, but the revelation that Arcade’s AI contains a dead child’s brain cells is the sort of thing you’d find frantically scrawled in a gunman’s notebook as he lies lifeless next to dozens of victims.

If you’re a gamer, give Arcade a watch, if only because it’s hilarious to see just how wrong its predictions on the future of gaming were. In fact, at times, it makes the like of Oculus Rift and Sony’s Project Morpheus seem dull by comparison.

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Arcade is daft enough to make it on the hallowed TWABM ‘Proper Mental’ list. Check it out to see what other truly insane films share similar notoriety.

HOW CAN I SEE IT?
Arcade is only available on DVD at the moment. It was recently released in the UK by 88 Films, while the US DVD has been available for a year or so. Alternatively, there’s also an American DVD box set called Full Moon Classics Volume One, which features Arcade, Bad Channels, Netherworld, Seedpeople and Shadowzone.

SHOW ME THE TRAILER:

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