Dir. Brandon Cronenberg
Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield
Any film that was to come from the son of David Cronenberg would no doubt hold comparisons. Body horror? Check. Slow paced personal drama? Check. Some shady officials chasing the protagonist? Check. Brandon certainly ticks all the boxes to continue his fathers legacy but can he stand out as a director on his own forte?
‘Antiviral’ starts in a clinical white tone. Everything is tripped from each scene to leave a blank canvas of personality. Syd Marsh (Caleb Landry Jones) injects himself on the rooftop of his apartment block and grows ill as a result. Setting the melodrama tone that will pass over the next 108 minutes. Working for the Lucas Clinic, a chemical facility that specialises in harbouring the diseases contracted by the rich and famous, colds, flu and herpes to name a few. Syd ensures that clients receive the illness’ to feel what the celebrities feel.
This culture of celebrity worship is at the centre of ANTIVIRAL and some disturbing processes seen throughout the film may not be as shocking as the scenes of Cronenberg’s VIDEODROME or NAKED LUNCH but they are certainly thought provoking. Everything in this film has potential for reality and that in itself is horror.
When Syd becomes obsessed with the company’s highest seller, the glamorous Hannah Giest (Sarah Gadon) his obsession goes too far when he injects himself with the illness that killed her. From then the chase is on to find the cure and evade those who would die to die the same way.
One part murder mystery, another part shocker. ANTIVIRAL will not be everyone’s cup of tea and if you want blood, violence and other horror staples step away now. This is the thinking mans horror that leaves the scary stuff for your own morales. Some scenes of shape-shifting and other dream sequences are about as supernatural as this film becomes but the thrill of Syd’s drama is captivating to the very disturbing end.
As the film travels deeper into the sinister world of disease harbouring, the film itself takes a darker tone. Scenes getting more and more cluttered, the whites turn to greys and Syd’s deterioration is somewhat lethargic.
Mix into this a rival company and other dealings that involve cannibalism of sorts and other not so clinical treatment of celebrities and Cronenberg has firmly stamped his name into the genre. Brilliant performances all round from Jones, Gadon and a brief cameo from Malcolm McDowell, ANTIVIRAL loses its pace at times but with patience come prevail and the climax of this piece is both shocking and thought provoking.
The plot may belong in Charlie Brookers BLACK MIRROR as a cinical look into celebrity culture but not only does this seem like a believable reality, the basis behind this is more truth than fiction and that itself is a scary thought.
For those that like their films with brains and not have them splattered across the screen, ANTIVIRAL is definitely a piece worth watching. Cronenberg’s detail in direction come across as a piece of art as opposed to a piece of film but within the beautiful imagery lies something much more sinister.