Every film fan knows David Cronenberg. He is the kind of filmmaker who takes his viewers into strange and bold worlds (or situations) that kind of makes me want to scratch my head in a good way. Well, you know the saying “like father like son”? Brandon Cronenberg appears poised to follow in his father’s footsteps as he has incorporated several aspects found in his father’s films in “Antiviral”. This is film is deliciously different and presents a social commentary as how one can end on this path. The son is playing with distinctive and bold ideas here, at the same time having that familiar “Cronenberg” feel around its premise.
The film has several clever concepts going for it and it gave me a slight feeling of unease. In this futuristic world created by Brandon Cronenberg, society has become s obsessed with celebrities that the people would do almost anything and pay any price to be closer to their idol. Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones) works for the Lucas Clinic, a company that seeks to get celebrities’ fans become closer to their idol. For a price, the clinic can inject the celebrity’s disease to them so that they may experience what they are going through. Syd makes some extra money by selling the diseases in the black market so when an incredibly beautiful actress, Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon) becomes sick, Syd arrives to retrieve the virus for his company. But being a fan of the actress and seeing an opportunity, Syd also injects himself with the unknown virus. As the virus quickly takes effect, Syd finds out that there is something sinister at work, as the virus itself is lethal. He must find a cure in order to save his life.
This is a very dark world that Brandon Cronenberg had created. He makes such a strong social commentary just how society sees celebrities and how such adoration can sometimes lead to ruin. I am sure many would find this film a little hard to take, as the film’s disturbing nature is wrapped around this society’s obsession with fame and beauty that they are almost seen as modern-day gods. It is a satire of a sorts and a little over-the-top. It maintains a haunting atmosphere throughout, and things are exaggerated to the point as they need to be. I mean, it is all about a metaphor about getting oneself sick or taking a risk to one’s life. Consumers are seen as something whose desires are sickening, and it further solidifies what we already know “if there are no customers, then there is no such goods or services” and it is just sickening and very creepy. I mean, in this world, not only sickness can be bought, but fat cells from celebrities are processed into steaks and skin grafts are done to those willing to pay. This is a horrible and frightening concept that Cronenberg had integrated and he does not hold much back in the screenplay.
I have to say that the script hit’s the right areas and goes on the right path with its premise. I do believe that the writing had covered almost every possibility that I could think of in such a premise. The film easily hooks you with the intriguing idea, but it does go a little too far and yet not far enough. I get it, it is all about society’s obsession, but in the execution, it becomes a little too heavy-handed because some things were a little unnecessary. I understood what it wanted to say, but some of the surreal images felt a little too preachy that I feel that its commentaries have hit my head a little too much. I guess it is because of the film’s comings and goings are seen through the eyes of one character, and he was a little too hard to connect with. I am not sure, but I thought while Brandon Cronenberg got everything right with the smaller scheme of things, I wanted to know what caused society to be this way, and he does not present the ‘big picture’ with a lot more narrative power.
Not to say that the film failed in its messages, but there certainly was a lot of room for improvement. It is also a little slow, I know most art house horror films are, but when the script does get into its disturbing points, it does deliver. The cinematography was also excellent, it keeps the colors simple, mostly leaning to black and white, so that the grotesque imagery and the color red (of blood) really come into focus. The shots are exquisite, when it comes to visual and aural manipulation of the senses, the film is perfect.
Syd is the kind of guy who is low-key, and yet very creepy. Caleb Landry Jones gave his character a lot of layers; he is mysterious, and yet you know he is that intestinal fortitude to be able to pull off shit as he does. Sarah Gadon may have limited screen time, but she was convincing as the ailing celebrity. Gadon was beautiful and even her brief exchange with Jones gave the film a lot of intuitive intrigue. Malcolm McDowell plays the doctor who tends to Hannah, and James Cade plays Levine, a man who intends to capitalize on anything. The two characters make deliver depth to the narrative despite their limited screen time. The performances are superb, that despite my minor qualms about the screenplay, I was easily immersed into the film.
“Antiviral” is a one film that definitely aids me in getting my reviewing juices flowing again. I mean with all the mediocre mainstream films I have seen since January, I needed something that reminded me why I like cinema. This film may not be perfect, but it introduced several interesting ideas, and it is a solid film despite its flaws. Cronenberg wrote and directed, and I feel that he was over-stretching the path to its concept, but it still misses a lot more material. If it would’ve ruled if it was shorter due to some limitations, but it would’ve perfect if it went even further at this run time at 110 minutes. It pierces the skin like a needle, but not too deep. Still it gets a timid recommendation to art house horror fans, and a RENTAL for everyone else. [3 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
Plenty has been written about the films of David Cronenberg. I don’t want to paint myself into a corner, but I’m one of those rare few that has failed to draw much inspiration from his works. I think they’re smartly made; I think they’re exceedingly well told; but, in their own ubiquitous way, I’ve found them a bit too emotionally detached (in most cases) for their stories to truly mean all that much to me as a viewer. Sure, I get the message – … more