Sunday 16 June 2013

Antiviral (2012) - Brandon Cronenberg

If you have a fear of needles, this probably isn't the film for you.

Brandon Cronenberg continues his director father's legacy of body horror films, in which psychology is interweaved with the physical human body.  Antiviral is a comment on society's fetishistic obsession with celebrity.  This is a near-future, dystopian world in which celebrities can literally sell themselves for special merchandise: diseases, skin grafts and even meat farmed from their own flesh.  That's right, here you can literally eat your favourite celebrity.

Protagonist Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones) works at the Lucas Clinic where celebrity diseases are administered, but secretly injects himself to sell on the black market.  Things quickly go awry when a famed actress dies; suffering from the same sickness, Syd must discover the cause of her death, losing his health and sanity in the process.  This is a murder-mystery with a difference.

The obsession with celebrity is merely a symptom in the search for perfection, which Cronenberg reflects in the arresting visuals.  The mise en scene is overpoweringly white - clinical and pristine.  Moreover, it provides the perfect, stark background for the gruesome, bloody action.  At times it's hard to stomach, with extreme close-ups of injections depicted with an almost erotic intensity.

Landry Jones proves to be the perfect match for Cronenberg's bizarre vision.  As if his angular facial features weren't frightening enough, he delivers a startling physical performance that surely lingers in the mind.

However, just like the visuals, the narrative is cold and detached.  Despite the performance of Landry Jones, there is an absence of character development.  As such, this is a striking debut that shocks more for its gory visuals than truly disturbing the mind.


Watch: Antiviral is available now on DVD.