by Gregory Lamberson
“I think my body’s starting to turn on me. I don’t know how much longer I can do this.” This dialogue, spoken by Caleb Landry Jones in the sober Antiviral, an IFC release premiering at the Screening Room this Friday, sums up the themes in this debut chiller from Brandon Cronenberg, son of famed Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg. The senior Cronenberg pioneered the subgenre of “body horror” films—depictions of the human body in revolt—and perfected it with The Fly. Comparisons are unavoidable since the younger filmmaker is exploring territory similar to that in his father’s early work, particularly Shivers (released in the US as They Came From Within) and Videodrome. I suspect that most people who see Antiviral will do so for this very reason.
Jones stars as Syd March, an employee of the Lucas Clinic, which harvests diseases from celebrities and sells them to obsessed fans. Syd embezzles these superstar germs and sells them on the black market. When he injects himself with a virus from movie star Hannah Geist (Sarah Gordon), the virus takes hold of him fast and won’t let go, and when Geist dies Jones must solve her death to save himself—sort of like DOA without the noir.
The film was shot in Hamilton, Ontario and Toronto, and Cronenberg has chosen a stark white palette to paint his near future society’s sterility, which also serves as a blank canvas when the blood drips, oozes and flows. Antiviral is an intellectual exercise with a clinical tone, which will distance viewers lacking patience. It’s a bit of a tough slog, but not one without some rewards: The director, who favors static shots, has a nice eye for composition, and the performances, while remote, are convincing (Malcom McDowell has a small role). Viewers with an aversion to syringes and extreme close ups of eyes are advised to look elsewhere for their entertainment.
Watch the trailer for Antiviral
Issue Navigation> Issue Index > v12n16 (Week of Thursday, April 18) > Film Reviews > Antiviral
This Week's Issue • Artvoice Daily • Artvoice TV • Events Calendar • Classifieds