Antiviral has been out for a while now but I’ve only just had a chance to watch it and wanted to write a little something about it.
Written and directed by Brandon Cronenberg, David Cronenberg’s son, the film is literally dripping with Cronenberg DNA. Clearly inspired by his father’s films and style Antiviral could be mistaken as an homage to his father but there is plenty of his own style.
The story revolves around Syd, a salesman for the Lucas Clinic who sells celebrity infections to fans who want to feel close to the object of their obsession. A story not all that far fetched considering celebrity culture is king and you can buy plenty of celebrity personal items online.
Syd is an effective salesman but he also has a sideline selling viruses on the black market, specifically to a celebrity meat market called Astral Bodies. They take the pathogens and use it to grow ‘steaks’ – yup celebrity cannibalism.
After another salesman is caught selling viruses on the black market Syd takes over his job at the clinic and is now in charge of collecting blood from their biggest celebrity, the beautiful Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon) whenever she’s ill. She’s come down with a bug and Syd is sent to collect her blood.
Syd can’t help but take a ‘hit’ from Hannah’s blood almost immediately and quickly becomes ill. A couple of days later Hannah Geist is found dead and now Syd must find a cure or die too. If I tell you any more, I’m going to spoil this marvellously weird story.
Caleb Landry Jones does a brilliant job, his somnambulant performance helps build the unease and dreamlike quality of what’s happening. There’s plenty of grim stuff here, lots of blood and needles entering skin (all real shots by the way) but when it comes to what I would call body horror, Cronenberg style, it’s surprisingly light but when you do see it it’s gloriously twisted.
There’s a lot going on in the film, from the social commentary to the plot itself and it’s filmed beautifully. For the most part the film is clinical, white and minimal but then you get thrown a visually arresting scene that really stands out as sumptuous and while dark, colourful.
Overall I’d say if you like body horror, sci-fi and yes, David Cronenberg then give it a shot. It’s an infectious debut.