Tuesday, February 12, 2013



¡Qué horror! 2013
Candidate #6

ANTIVIRAL
(May 2012)




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Celebrity worship descends into madness in Brandon Cronenberg’s feature debut, Antiviral, where we are introduced to a world where--among other things--fans achieve “biological communion” with their idols by paying to be infected with viruses harvested from their famous bodies (for which the “celebrity hosts” are in turn paid by establishments like The Lucas Clinic).

“Mr. Lucas, how do you respond to critics who say the disease you’re really selling is a cultural one?”
--Talk Show Host

Antiviral (some of whose roots lie in the award-winning 2008 short film, Broken Tulips) is an astoundingly self-assured debut by Cronenberg, who possibly knows a thing or two about celebrity, being the son of David Cronenberg.
Like Jennifer Lynch, Brandon Cronenberg is the talented offspring of a noted writer/director who has gone on to follow in Father’s footsteps, and old school body horror Cronenberg can most definitely be seen in Antiviral.
There are also shades of Videodrome here, as a not-really-sympathetic protagonist gets sucked into shadowy and potentially lethal maneuverings.

“I’m afraid you’ve become involved in something sinister.”
--Dr. Abendroth

Caleb Landry Jones (who may be familiar from Daniel Stamm’s The Last Exorcism and Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class) brings just the right level of pale, sickly creepiness to the role of Lucas Clinic Technician Syd March, the aforementioned not-really-sympathetic protagonist, whose dealings with celebrity host Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon, who also appears in the elder Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method and Cosmopolis, as well as Mary Harron’s The Moth Diaries) trigger the dire situations he finds himself in over the course of Antiviral’s running time.
We’ve also got the exquisite Malcolm McDowell here as Geist’s personal physician, Dr. Abendroth, as well as some other Cronenbergs in the film’s crew (Brandon’s aunt, Denise Cronenberg, and his sister, Caitlin).

The range of [viral] offerings [from The Lucas Clinic] spans common skin infections and colds, to our more intense and lengthy experiences with communicable and rare forms of acute disease.

This is powerful stuff (some may very well say revolting and repellent), as Cronenberg runs his cinematic scalpel deep into society’s celebrity obsessions and how our very own fixations and fascinations make us complicit in the widespread sickness that riddles the body cultural.
And yes, like old school David Cronenberg, this is transformative and transgressive cinema, so you have been duly warned.

“Celebrity is not an accomplishment. Not at all. It’s more like a collaboration that we choose to take part in. Celebrities are not people. They’re group hallucinations.”
--Dorian Lucas

(Antiviral OS courtesy of impawards.com.)

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