David Cronenberg’s son makes his directorial debut with a fascinating, icky take on celebrity obsession that he just can't quite stretch over feature length.
The (rotten) apple hasn’t fallen very far from the tree on the evidence of Brandon 'son of David' Cronenberg’s caustic, sci-fi parable which exists in a future where celebrity obsession has taken a turn for the revoltingly icky.
Gaunt, ghostly, ginger-haired Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones) is a lone-gunning corporate stooge who works for the Lucas Clinic, a slick corporate entity that harvests maladies of the rich and famous and then – for obscene sums of money – transmits them to fans as the ultimate corporeal tribute.
But it seems that Syd has acquired a taste for getting high on his own supply. He must keep his activities unnoticed from both the execs at his firm and those of a rival pharma company who are aching to get their hands on any new and exciting diseases.
Perhaps more satisfying on paper than it is to actually watch, Antiviral is a slick, droll and highly original satire which occasionally drifts into the dark world of surgical horror. You could easily file next to Darren Aronofsky’s similarly inclined (though admittedly superior) Pi, or even some of Papa Cronenberg’s early, funny ones, such as Shivers and Rabid.
And highly cynical though it all may sound, the film’s gory central motif is clearly not meant to be taken literally, offering a fairly conventional visualisation of the notion that modern celebrity culture is out of control and spreads through our souls like a nasty virus.
The elegantly wasted Jones makes for an interestingly outré lead, though his special-agent-like steeliness doesn’t really imbue him with the requisite vulnerability to make you really hope that his ass gets saved.
Who wouldn’t embrace the chance to frolic on another branch of the Cronenberg family tree?
Great idea well executed. But really runs out of steam on the home straight.
If David Cronenberg’s entire body of work didn’t exist, Antiviral would be a revelation. As it stands…