Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Antiviral (15) | Film Review

Antiviral, dir/wr. Brandon Cronenberg, st. Caleb Landry Jones, Sarah Gadon, Malcolm McDowell

Definitely his father's son then, as Brandon Cronenberg's Antiviral serves up the kind of opaque and stylish film that has typified his dad's body of work. This is, to date, Cronenberg Jr.'s only film, and what it lacks in pace and structure, it makes up for in scope of ambition and design. Some time in the future, or in an alternative present, private clinics harvest illnesses and infections from willing celebrities intent on marketing themselves to the full. For $500, you too can be infected with an A-list disease comprising cells from the original superstar host. One clinician, Syd March (Jones), makes a bit on the side by injecting himself with his company's pathogens in order to sell them on the black market. The film boldly envisages a world beyond Heat magazine, where celebrity makeup endorsements, clothing-lines and perfumes have only fuelled the public's appetite to be as close to their objects of desire as possible. It's a bit of a stretch to believe celebrity obsession might stretch to wanting to share the same debilitating bug, but stranger things have happened in the real world in the name of delusional star-striking, and I was reminded of Andrew Motion's claim in 2002 that inducing illness was conducive to a sudden burst of creativity. But the film not only resonates with the idea of a public infatuated with the rich and famous, it also concerns itself with the idea of celebrities themselves being complicit in what has become just another lucrative marketing tool; in addition to the registered clinics, Antiviral shows punters queuing up at a butcher's, eager to get their fix of superstar meat - beige-coloured stem-celled muscle tissue injected with celebrity spores. Imagine your local Morrisons deli selling Brad Pitt sausages, Zayn Malik burgers, Tulisa Contostavlos steaks. The film is also partially indebted to Andrew Nichols' Gattaca in its depiction of pinsharp-suited Wall Street-like lab technician employees and their antiseptic working environment. Dad would undoubtedly be proud of his son's ability to explore new avenues in body-horror and make the most of his meagre budget, but ultimately, Antiviral collapses under the weight of its own lethargic heft, the story having run out of places to travel.