Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Antiviral

Pass the sick bag, there’s a new Cronenberg on the block.

April 11, 2013

-By Megan Lehmann


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1375528-Antiviral_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, David Cronenberg should be feeling pretty chuffed with son Brandon’s big-screen debut, a petri dish of high-concept perversity and cultural commentary teeming with lo-fi ickiness.

Clearly weaned on Dad’s early body-horror films such as Shivers and Scanners, the 32-year-old Canadian writer-director gives a sardonic, Cronenbergian twist to a very au courant subject: the sickness of celebrity worship. It’s a topic ripe with potential, and the younger Cronenberg takes off down some gratifyingly weird alleys as he follows the travails of a young man peddling the viruses of ill celebrities to obsessed fans.

An overly mannered approach throws the pacing off, however, and some ungainly tilts at exposition are more jarring than the conventionally repellent close-ups of needles piercing skin.

But it’s early days. Brandon Cronenberg is the scion of a phenomenon, working in the same freaky field, so the curiosity factor is high. A berth in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes—a high-profile debut that coincided with his father’s Competition film Cosmopolis—gave Cronenberg Jr. the nod as an embryonic talent, a genre director with an added kink.

An obsession with disease and decay is obviously encoded in the family DNA and here it is visited upon a spindly clinic worker named Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones), who theatrically deteriorates over the course of the film after he is infected with a mystery virus harvested from the body of starlet Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon).

Against a backdrop of unhealthy celebrity mania—trashy magazines and nonstop TV coverage serve as wallpaper—Syd and his cohorts at the Lucas Clinic work to exploit the desire of the most rabid fans to get closer to their idols. They buy strains of live viruses from the famous and inject them into paying customers as the ultimate form of communion.

Cinematographer Karim Hussain shoots these early scenes starkly, making them sterile and whiter-than-white, perfectly primed for when the blood begins to flow.
Syd supplements his income by smuggling viruses out in his own body to sell to black marketeer Arvid (Joe Pingue), owner of a butcher’s shop that flogs celebrity cell steaks (best not to ask). He goes a step too far when he injects himself with an exotic virus that has laid Hannah Geist low and wakes from a hallucinatory trance to find the young starlet has died, catapulting Syd into a disorderly tumult of commercial espionage, double-crosses and assassination attempts,

Cronenberg loses his grip on the material, interjecting some stomach-churning inspection of an orifice or bodily fluid every now and then to jolt the narrative back on track.

Landry Jones ( X-Men: First Class, Contraband) gives an unnerving performance hauling round his freckled wreck of a body, and Gadon (Jung’s perpetually pregnant wife in A Dangerous Method who re-teamed with Cronenberg Sr. for Cosmopolis) is porcelain-perfect as an object of desire. Malcolm McDowell pops up briefly as the starlet’s personal medico, anchoring his few scenes with veteran gravitas.

Creaking technology summons a defiantly 1980s vibe, echoed in the thrum of E.C. Woodley’s subterranean soundtrack, discordant with analogue synths.
The Hollywood Reporter


Film Review: Antiviral

Pass the sick bag, there’s a new Cronenberg on the block.

April 11, 2013

-By Megan Lehmann


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1375528-Antiviral_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, David Cronenberg should be feeling pretty chuffed with son Brandon’s big-screen debut, a petri dish of high-concept perversity and cultural commentary teeming with lo-fi ickiness.

Clearly weaned on Dad’s early body-horror films such as Shivers and Scanners, the 32-year-old Canadian writer-director gives a sardonic, Cronenbergian twist to a very au courant subject: the sickness of celebrity worship. It’s a topic ripe with potential, and the younger Cronenberg takes off down some gratifyingly weird alleys as he follows the travails of a young man peddling the viruses of ill celebrities to obsessed fans.

An overly mannered approach throws the pacing off, however, and some ungainly tilts at exposition are more jarring than the conventionally repellent close-ups of needles piercing skin.

But it’s early days. Brandon Cronenberg is the scion of a phenomenon, working in the same freaky field, so the curiosity factor is high. A berth in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes—a high-profile debut that coincided with his father’s Competition film Cosmopolis—gave Cronenberg Jr. the nod as an embryonic talent, a genre director with an added kink.

An obsession with disease and decay is obviously encoded in the family DNA and here it is visited upon a spindly clinic worker named Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones), who theatrically deteriorates over the course of the film after he is infected with a mystery virus harvested from the body of starlet Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon).

Against a backdrop of unhealthy celebrity mania—trashy magazines and nonstop TV coverage serve as wallpaper—Syd and his cohorts at the Lucas Clinic work to exploit the desire of the most rabid fans to get closer to their idols. They buy strains of live viruses from the famous and inject them into paying customers as the ultimate form of communion.

Cinematographer Karim Hussain shoots these early scenes starkly, making them sterile and whiter-than-white, perfectly primed for when the blood begins to flow.
Syd supplements his income by smuggling viruses out in his own body to sell to black marketeer Arvid (Joe Pingue), owner of a butcher’s shop that flogs celebrity cell steaks (best not to ask). He goes a step too far when he injects himself with an exotic virus that has laid Hannah Geist low and wakes from a hallucinatory trance to find the young starlet has died, catapulting Syd into a disorderly tumult of commercial espionage, double-crosses and assassination attempts,

Cronenberg loses his grip on the material, interjecting some stomach-churning inspection of an orifice or bodily fluid every now and then to jolt the narrative back on track.

Landry Jones (X-Men: First Class, Contraband) gives an unnerving performance hauling round his freckled wreck of a body, and Gadon (Jung’s perpetually pregnant wife in A Dangerous Method who re-teamed with Cronenberg Sr. for Cosmopolis) is porcelain-perfect as an object of desire. Malcolm McDowell pops up briefly as the starlet’s personal medico, anchoring his few scenes with veteran gravitas.

Creaking technology summons a defiantly 1980s vibe, echoed in the thrum of E.C. Woodley’s subterranean soundtrack, discordant with analogue synths.
The Hollywood Reporter
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

War Story
Film Review: War Story

Infuriatingly slow, enervating and basically empty contemplation of war's impact, and a waste of the formidable talent of a gallant Catherine Keener. More »

Happy Christmas
Film Review: Happy Christmas

Joe Swanberg's latest feature is a collection of strong individual scenes and performances that never quite finds its statement of purpose. More »

Very Good Girls
Film Review: Very Good Girls

More of a meandering, misguided path than a road to hell, Naomi Foner’s directing debut, starring Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen as 18-year-old BFFs, is similarly filled with good intentions. More »

The Kill Team
Film Review: The Kill Team

Marine Adam Winfield goes on trial in a case in which U.S. soldiers murdered innocent Afghanis. Strong subject marred by poor narrative choices. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Get On Up
Film Review: Get On Up

Chadwick Boseman is sensational in this multi-faceted portrait of troubled, pioneering soul-music giant James Brown. More »

Guardians of the Galaxy review
Film Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

With Marvel’s backing, cult filmmaker James Gunn blasts off for the stars and takes audiences along for a wild, funny ride. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here