Antiviral is the kind of infectious science fiction thriller that gets under your skin and crawls its way into your subconsciousness. Leaving you thinking about the thinly-veiled message throughout the story long after the film expires. It is the kind of horror film that will grow legs and find its audience for many years to come.
David Cronenberg basically wrote the book on body-horror a few decades ago. Leaving a body (man, I'm two paragraphs in with this review and we're already knee-deep in puns) of work to be dissected by all who dare to tread his unique path. Well...his son, Brandon, is perhaps the first to successfully manipulate the tools given to him by his father and create something that effortlessly elevates him beyond the imitators seeking to dethrone his father as the reigning king of the sub-genre.
Writer/director Brandon Cronenberg has certainly birthed something special with this feature debut. Antiviral is definitely the most unique thing that you'll rent from your local Redbox. The film is shot perfectly by Karim Hussain, who interestingly also shot Hobo With A Shotgun (a favorite around these parts) and scored beautifully by E.C. Woodley (another individual familiar with genre work). If nothing else...your eyes and ears will appreciate the film.
However, there is so much more once you scratch the surface and get underneath the fleshy bits. Man...I gotta stop with these goddamn puns, already. The premise, alone, is an intriguing one. As it dives head first into the obsessive nature of a celebrity-seeking culture that doesn't seem to do anything without first consulting with their Us Weekly's and their TMZ's.
In the not-so-distant future, Syd March, an absorbing Caleb Landry Jones, works as a celebrity-pathogen selling employee of the Lucas Clinic. That is to say that Syd sells the viruses that have stricken the many celebrities of this world. Kinda like if I tried to sell you herpes that were once on the lips of...say...Lindsay Lohan, for example. Yup...you read that correctly. Syd sells disease. And Jones also does a fine task of selling the role. I'm so happy to see him in stuff like Antiviral and not stuff like fucking X-Men: First Class. Caleb possesses a truly striking appearance about him that really fits into genre stuff like this quite nicely. The only other person I could see playing Syd would be, maybe, someone like Ben Foster. But, then...Ben Foster can instantly improve anything he's in. He's that good. And Caleb Jones looks to be an equally engrossing actor.
However...being a great salesman does not always equal a great inflow of cash. So, in order to make some extra scratch, Syd sells pathogens to celebrity-obsessed peeps on the down low. It's not long before Syd personally extracts some serious disease from super A-lister mega-star Hannah Geist, a hypnotic Sarah Gadon, and he finds himself deep in microorganism hell. To make matters worse, other harvesters of black market plagues are soon on his trail looking for the next big Hannah Geist disease that will fetch high prices from a feverishly rabid fan base.
The film is full of ambitiously high concepts like the ones mentioned in the preceding paragraphs and seriously take things to new levels once we are introduced to Arvid (Joe Pingue) at Astral Bodies, who essentially peddles meat grown from the cells of celebrities for digestion. Can you even fathom a Jennifer Lawrence sandwich? Literally made from her flesh? Well...maybe that's not so bad.
In the way of flaws, I would say that the film doesn't quite delve deep enough into the mystery portion of the script. The story spends most of its time planted on a soapbox preaching the many evils of a Kardashian-obsessed public to be bothered with a whole "whodunnit" sub-plot. And perhaps the pacing of the film keeps things from moving along briskly. Though, I'm the type to submerge myself into the rich textures of the lovely scenery...so, the pacing really didn't bother me much.
Antiviral is an excellent debut by a filmmaker with a notorious last name. The kind of last name that sets up quite a bit of expectation. Brandon Cronenberg has succeeded in making good on those expectations and making a really intriguing original film that not only says quite a bit about our present culture but, also delivers some truly disturbing blood-curdling, nightmare-inducing imagery to go along with his commentary. Daddy should be proud. Also...Malcolm McDowell is in it...and we love us some Malcolm McDowell.
Thanks for reading,