Directed by Brandon Cronenberg
In his directorial debut director Brandon Cronenberg (son of David) attempts to follow in his father’s footsteps by making a film that accounts the exploits, mostly erogenous and purgative, of the overwhelming virality of the celebrity culture and how society is the plague that spreads it.
Set in a bleak, pseudo-surrealistic world, Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones) is a devoted employee of The Lucas Clinic, and his job consists of selling expensive injections of live, non-fatal viruses taken from disease-ridden A-list celebrities to deluded celeb fanatics who are desperate to share a connection with those who grace the covers of the tabloids.
On the side Syd risks his own personal health by injecting the viruses into his bloodstream and selling them to an owner of a profitable butcher (Joe Pingue), who makes steaks from muscles cells of the celebrities, and then promptly takes antivirals to rid his body of the diseases on a daily basis.
Letting his greed get the best of him, Syd makes the mistake of injecting himself with a virus that has been harvested from the body of one of the world’s most elite superstars, Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon), and falls into a hallucinatory state. When Hannah succumbs to the disease, Syd inadvertently becomes a wanted commodity to black marketeers and must fight to figure out who invented the virus and how to cure himself before he perishes from the deadly disease as well.
Cronenberg gives a solid attempt with his first full-length feature by providing an interesting take on today’s celebrity culture and an intriguing vehicle chock-full of cleverly constructed social commentary behind it.
Cinematographer Karim Hussain also provides an excruciatingly cold, captivating and clinical aesthetic to the film while also being able to make the scenes look remarkably vivid during Syd’s amplified hallucination, which was most impressive.
Alas, despite its unprecedented premise, 80’s nostalgic feel and strong cast, Antiviral falls short of its expectations as it pushes its fetishism of carnal bloodlust and eroticism to the point where it becomes overly distracting and illogical to the average viewer. The film focuses far too much time on sickening injections, projectile bloody vomit and extreme close-ups on sores than addressing rushed storylines, engaging dialogue and plot holes that could have made Antiviral as riveting as it intended to be.
While Antiviral is not the groundbreaking directorial debut viewers may have expected, it still manages to engage its audience to a certain degree with its unique premise, proficient cinematography and a breakout performance from Caleb Landry Jones that won’t soon be forgotten.
3 out of 5