Antiviral Director: Brandon Cronenberg
Screenwriter: Brandon Cronenberg
Cast: Caleb Landry Jones, Sarah Gadon, Malcolm McDowell, Douglas Smith IFC Midnight
Not Rated | 110 Minutes
Release Date: April 12, 2013 Instant Video
Directed by Brandon Cronenberg, the son of filmmaker David Cronenberg, Antiviral stars Caleb Landry Jones (X-Men: First Class) as Syd March, a technician at the Lucas Clinic, a dispensary that sells injections of live viruses harvested from sick celebrities to obsessed fans.
These viruses, which range from stomach flu to Herpes simplex, allow for “biological communion” between idol and idolizer. Looking to make some extra money, Syd hacks the chemical copyright of these viruses and sells illegal samples on the black market, smuggling them from the clinic inside his own body.
The Lucas Clinic has an exclusive contract with the gorgeous young celebutante Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon, Cosmopolis). When Geist becomes infected with a new, unknown disease, Syd injects himself with it and becomes a target for collectors and rabid fans. The gaunt and sickly-looking technician must unravel the mystery surrounding the virus before he loses his sanity and his life.
In this world of false idols and celebrity worship, the masses consume “steaks” cut from slabs of muscle cells cloned from the DNA of famous people. These sheets of gray meat are prepared in kitchens that look more like laboratories, where chefs prepare human skin and muscle cells instead of rotisserie chicken.
Cronenberg’s film is a disturbing, stomach-churning satire about the cult of celebrity. Antiviral deals with disgusting, perverse, and profoundly taboo themes – a blend of science-fiction send-up and body horror reminiscent of his father’s early genre films.
Hannah Geist is the height of perfection, yet rumors abound about a deformity that demands “fashion designers… make special underwear for her.” What this deformity might entail is never elaborated upon, nor is the reason for Geist’s celebrity status. The famous people in Cronenberg’s film are not brilliant, gifted artists. Instead, they are the equivalent of Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, celebutantes who are famous for being famous.
Antiviral is exceedingly cold and distant – the plot is confounding at times and there’s never really a moment when the film’s leisurely pace picks up with great urgency. Character development is practically nonexistent, but the film noir vibe of Cronenberg’s low-budget sci-fi horror flick, and nauseating body horror elements, make Antiviral intriguing and worth watching.
Caleb Landry Jones is easily one of my favorite up-and-coming actors right now, having enjoyed his work in X-Men: First Class as well as The Last Exorcism and TV’s Friday Night Lights. While his character is more of a cypher than anything, Jones carries the film well and gives a believable performance as a man deteriorating from a horrific disease.
Originality is a rare commodity in movies these days, so when something as fresh and surprising as Antiviral comes along, it’s cause for celebration. Brandon Cronenberg’s feature film debut is a well-crafted, unsettling work of body horror, packed with interesting ideas and images that even now, days after viewing, linger in my mind.
Antiviral is currently available on Video On Demand. You can also rent it from Amazon Instant Video or iTunes. The film is set to be released on DVD and Blu-Ray later this summer on August 6. If you’re a fan of dark, out-there genre films Antiviral is a must-see. Check out the trailer below!