ANTIVIRAL (2012) Review

Directed by: Brandon Cronenberg
Starring: Caleb Landry Jones, Sarah Gadon, Malcolm McDowell

The world showcased in ANTIVIRAL is perhaps a terrifying look at our not so distant future. Celebrity obsession has reached an all new high and televisions display around the clock footage of celebrity lives. Newspapers and magazines are rife with the latest celebrity scandals and people everywhere are discussing the latest rumors about the genitals of the rich and famous. But that’s far from the worst of it. Clinics have been set up to satisfy the community’s celebrity cravings by offering injections so that average folk can have a little bit of their favorite celebrity inside them until the day that they die. Syd March (Landry Jones) is a technician at one such company, The Lucas Clinic. During business hours he harvests viruses from high profile celebrities and then infects the clinic’s clients with them. After hours he smuggles the latest and greatest viruses out by infecting himself so they can be sold on the black market. But this extra side business eventually ends up with Syd being infected with a very deadly virus and he is going to need to uncover its secrets and origins before he becomes its next victim.

ANTIVIRAL takes the idea of celebrity obsession and asks the question; how far would you be willing to go to get as close to your idol as you could? In the film’s world some people are so fanatical that they are actually lining up to spend their money just for the chance to be infected with designer diseases straight from their favorite celebrities. Others take a trip to the local butcher to buy thick slabs of grey, unappetizing looking meat created from the muscle cells of these very same celebrities. And as disturbing a concept as this may be, the one thing I found a lot more disturbing is that it wouldn’t be too far a stretch of the imagination to think that there are some people who would be willing to do this in our own, real world.

Think about it. Some people spend a fortune on plastic surgery to look like their idols; others cut themselves in the name of their celebrity heroes, and then of course there are others still who break into the properties of the famous and stalk them. Is it really that far-fetched to believe that there are people willing to be infected with the herpes virus of flu virus taken straight from their chosen celebrity? Sadly I think not.
But then not a lot of people could honestly say that they are completely innocent of celebrity worship. Gossip magazines sell like hotcakes and people spend hours online trying to find the juiciest scandals about athletes and film stars. I myself have plastered my walls in posters of my favorite musicians and just a few months back I clambered at an opportunity to get a photo with the Soska sisters. But I like to think that I have a healthy respect for talented celebrities which is a far cry from following them around or going through their trash to find a used tissue that I could treasure for the rest of my sad life.

But anyway that’s enough about me. Let’s get back to the film.

ANTIVIRAL begins with a great establishing scene in which a young man enters the Lucas Clinic and patiently waits for his appointment. He has come to be infected by a strain of the herpes virus obtained from his favorite celebrity Hanna Geist (Gadon). Syd informs him that Hanna’s virus first appeared on the right side of her mouth, so if he were to be infected on the left side of his own mouth it would be the closest thing to being kissed by Hannah. The look on the young man’s face and his reaction perfectly convey the level of obsession and fanaticism displayed throughout the film.

ANTIVIRAL is Brandon Cronenberg’s feature debut and being the son of respected director David Cronenberg I was a little worried that his father’s style would be heavily borrowed from in Brandon’s work. Fortunately it seems that is not the case because it’s obvious that Brandon has in fact done a great job at crafting his own style and apart from the obvious influence of his father in the body horror department the film stands on its own as an original and stunning piece of work. The medical theme is extended throughout the whole film and we witness stark white-walled rooms, minimalism and a lot of symmetry. The use of color is brilliantly conceived with contrasting reds used as lipstick and blood and there is some really nice cinematography as well.

Caleb Landry Jones is front and centre in ANTIVIRAL and his performance is easily the most impressive. Over the course of the film he undergoes a complete physical and emotional change and his portrayal of Syd’s downward spiral is breathtaking and agonizing to watch. Sarah Gadon plays the celebrity Hannah Geist and although most of her scenes are spent lying ill in bed she puts on a suitably fragile and vulnerable performance. Malcolm McDowell also makes an appearance as Hannah’s doctor and as usual does a nice solid job.

ANTIVIRAL is quite a slow film but its well crafted visuals make every minute of it a delight to watch and its drony score is a perfect companion to the on screen images. With some solid performances all round, great cinematography and twisted body horror ANTIVIRAL is one film I found exceedingly enjoyable and I look forward to Brandon’s next film. It’s by no means a perfect film but for a debut is quite stunning and slick and so I give ANTIVIRAL eight celebrity steaks out of ten.

No comments:

Post a Comment