Alex (Megan Ward) is a suburban teen still trying to come to terms with the suicide of her mother. She and her friend, Nick (Peter Billingsley), spend all of their time hanging out at the local video arcade, Dante’s Inferno. (Symbolic name alert!) Also hanging out at Dante’s Inferno is a man (John de Lancie) who is desperate to find people willing to play what he says is the next step in the evolution of gaming. The game, which is simply called “Arcade,” is a virtual reality simulator and soon, all the teens want to play it!
Unfortunately, there’s a problem with Arcade. It was partially programmed with the brain cells of a child who had been beaten to death by his mother. Don’t ask why anyone thought this was a good idea because this is a Charles Band production so you know no one would explain even if they could. The child wants either friends or revenge so, as a result, the game is stealing the souls of the people who play it and transporting them to the virtual reality world.
Realizing that all of her friends will soon be gone, Alex enters the virtual reality world to save them and thwart Arcade! She’ll have to defeat skulls, serpents, and every other CGI challenge that the game can throw at her.
If you remember this film, it’s probably because you’re like me and you saw it on HBO when you were kid. Though the film has an R-rating because of some awkwardly deployed bad language, the film really is a teen boy fantasy, one in which you can enter the world of your favorite video game and save the world with Megan Ward, a hot girl who loves video games just as much as you do. When it was released, Arcade’s special effects were pretty impressive. If you watch the movie today, it’s obvious that the actors have just been superimposed against a virtual background. Watching the film today, I had the same feeling that I had when I recently hooked up my old Xbox 360 and played a few games. It was more primitive than I remembered but that rush of nostalgia was enjoyable for a few hours.. Arcade features an energetic cast (including Seth Green and AJ Langer in supporting roles) and Dante’s Inferno was the coolest arcade I’ve ever seen. It was a hundred times better than the one from Joysicks.
One final note: If you needed any more evidence that Disney is evil, they actually sued Charles Band because they claimed Arcade was too similar to Tron! As a result, Band, working with Peter Billingsley, actually had to redesign a good deal of the CGI before the film could be released. Disney was right about Arcade being a goof on Tron but who cares? I doubt anyone has ever said, “I’ve seen Arcade, I don’t need to see Tron.” Chill out, Disney. There’s room for at everyone at the arcade.