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Imagine a world in which celebrity infatuation has reached a fanatical new extreme.  Do you find yourself obsessing over your favorite actress and want nothing more than to be close to them?  Search no further – the Lucas Clinic has what you desire.  For a price, you can have yourself infected with their ailments – bringing them, and their world, as close as your very own skin.

Brandon Cronenberg has some crazy large shoes to fill.  Any way you slice it.  And with his first feature filmAntiviral, it’s probably safe to say he’s cut from a very similar cloth as Father, David Cronenberg.  With Antiviral‘s sparce and vividly visceral use of blood, gore, needles, and other body horror related ephemera, Cronenberg shows he’s not afraid of the obvious familial comparisons that will be drawn – even if he never set out to make a film like his Father.

Brandon Cronenberg's AntiviralStarring Caleb Landry Jones as Syd March, Antiviral plays with our oft times sickening fascination with celebrity.  It may leave you saying, “serves them right,” and it will certainly have you cringing.  What I find particularly attractive, though, is Cronenberg’s completely flat and humorless attitude about celebrity.  Bleak and sterile, it’s as if his vision of the near-future has somehow mutated our morbid curiosity into mental zombism.  We see something/someone we desire.  We obsess.  We long to fill our every moment (meals and illnesses included) with the object of our obsession.   This psychologically complex model is turned into a societally accepted state of being – I mean, people are eating genetically modified celebrity meat and voluntarily infecting themselves with celebrity Herpes.

<Face slap>

And by <face slap> I mean – awesome!  Sort of.  I have only occasionally been as freaked out and intrigued by intimacy as I was when initially began watching this film. anti3 And yes, worth noting is the element of the sexual amidst everything here – needles penetrating skin, impregnating oneself with bacteria and other assorted sundry to achieve satisfaction.

But it all feels, if you’ll forgive me, a little skin deep.

Antiviral is a strong first showing although it loses some of its initially strong auteur vibe as the story begins to wind down.  I’m a fan of what Cronenberg has done with his incredibly considered use of blood and violence.  Beyond the obvious needle phobia, he’s managed to suggest a terror so small it can only be seen upon careful observation, and then, occasionally, not at all.  And what’s more insidious than that?

Brandon Cronenberg's AntiviralSure, Jones could be accused of coming on a bit strong and even overplaying his role.  His pasty complexion and dead shark eyes do nothing to help convey his character’s motivations and, to be honest, I’m not sure I’d let him inject me with anything … but, I say that about everyone.

Malcolm McDowell arrives and stays too briefly as physician to the film’s object of the greatest obsession, Hannah Geist (played by Cosmopolis stunner Sarah Gadon).

If anything, Brandon Cronenberg proves he is a director to keep a keen eye on.

 

 

 

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