By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
Hollywood is a family affair. You need to look no further than all the Douglases Bridgeseses, and Coppolas (that plural was much easier, also didya know Nic Cage is a Coppola?) for evidence. Sometimes a family is even greedy enough to appropriate two last names as their own.
You may recognize him from a thing or two
The Cronenbergs didn’t go that far, but it looks like they’re laying claim to something else as their patrimony- body horror. With Antiviral, Brandon Cronenberg makes his directorial debut, and it’s not hard to see where his influences came from. Even the premise seems like something his dad David would have tackled. Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones) works for a clinic that trades in celebrity ephemera for superfans, especially viruses certified to have come from the bodies of famous folk. This is part of an even larger industry of celebrity infatuation up to and including meat from the cloned cells of stars. Anyway, poor Syd gets himself into a bit of a pickle when his habit of infecting himself with celebrity diseases in order to smuggle them out to the black market backfires a tad when he acquires a new, deadly supervirus.
The world-building in Antiviral is its most impressive aspect. It’s a slick, spare vision of the near future that is entirely, disturbingly plausible even at its most outrageous. Even though the film functions as a clear allegory for and satire of celebrity obsession, and the way it dehumanizes not just celebrities but everyone involved in the process, it also works stunningly well as a realistic-feeling world, which enhances the horror and brings home the ideas at work that much more effectively.
You know there’d be a market for Goslingburgers
Brandon delivers on all of the skin-crawling, too realistic body horror just as well as pops ever did in Naked Lunch or Videodrome. With dad’s recent foray into the drily (0ver) cerebral, it’s nice to see someone filling that void. He has a visual style all his own, though, cleaner, sharper, more clinical, with a nice eye for framing a shot. The propulsive, electronic-infused score is an ideal pairing for the images on screen as well.
The acting in the film is definitely subsumed by the story and overall feel Cronenberg’s trying to capture, but the film is well cast, with Sarah Gadon entirely believable as a blonde bombshell the whole world falls for, and Jones, with is bulldog face and calm, dispassionate countenance with a streak of surliness running underneath, is an ideal protagonist for this.
He’s pretty good at CrazyFace, too
Unfortunately, he’s hampered a bit by his character (0r fails to transcend him). Syd is too much of a cipher to identify with much if at all, and as a consequence it’s hard to empathize with him as he’s jerked around by the plot, or even care all that much what happens to him.
Don’t be me wrong, I dug how much Brandon’s work reminds me of the elder Cronenberg’s, but scenes like Syd’s hallucination about changing into some sort of fleshy biological machine with blood dribbling out of his mouth/grille seems EXACTLY like his dad’s work. It’ll be interesting to see how he moves beyond this imitation/inspiration trap and develops his own voice.
A promising debut full of all of the cringe-inducing horror and sly commentary that put the Cronenberg name on the map in the first place.
Take a Drink: every time someone spits up blood
Take a Drink: whenever you see one of those creepy as hell ReadyFace images
Take a Drink: whenever gore of any sort is on screen
Do a Shot: every time Syd shoots himself up with something