When I was watching eXistenZ, I thought the first half-hour was horrid. Never had Cronenberg's bizarre biological fixations seemed so inherently ridiculous or his directing manner so coldly self-conscious -- if somebody had wanted to make a Cronenberg parody, I thought, it would look something like this. Then it dawned on me (during the Country Gas Station scene) that Cronenberg was displaying something that he's shown little of recently - a sense of humor, as he played the obvious anal sex subtext of the game "bioports" for laughs. What follows is the obligatory virtual reality mindfuck material (with a most memorable Chinese restaurant dinner that manages to outdo Ravenous on the ick factor), but for the first time in years Cronenberg looks like he's having fun. He mocks the reliance on CGI effects that dominate other cyberspace flicks (the single CGI effect in the movie is completely gratituous), and critics more talented than I have already commented on the film's obvious parody of computer adventure games. It's not particularly deep Cronenberg -- his film is too much of a goof to be taken seriously -- but it may be his funniest film.
My suspension of disbelief was tested badly by the living game pods that serve as the computer for the game of eXistenZ -- there's a resounding rubber fakiness to them that's immensely distracting. They did start to bother me less as the film went on and the film's final "surprise" removes any problems I had with it. (eXistenZ is the kind of film that has a great knack for providing rationalizations to answer such nitpicky sci-fi-wanker criticisms.)
"I have a great fear of being penetrated (beat) surgically." is the single funniest line of the year (so far) in context.
Note that this elaborate shaggy-dog prank of a story ends with a plot twist involving a shaggy dog.