I was fully prepared to hate this movie. Usually kids of good directors don’t just come up short; they fall flat on their faces (ie: Cameron Romero, Jennifer Lynch to a degree) so I figured Brandon Cronenberg would suck as well.
Antiviral is the younger Cronenberg’s debut feature about a young man working at a clinic that specializes in celebrity diseases. In this unknown point in the future, the cult of celebrity has gotten to the point where the gullible masses don’t just want to look or be like their favorite stars, they want to encompass them wholly, including being afflicted with their same diseases. Syd March works for one of these disease dispensing clinics and decides to smuggle the diseases in his own body to sell on the black market. He happens to infect himself with a new disease that ends up taking the life of supermodel Hannah Geist and now has to figure out what’s going on before he ends up dead like her.
David Cronenberg’s body-horror influence on his son is very apparent throughout the film. You can see little bits of Videodrome, The Fly and other goodies throughout, but Brandon tries to make this his own. The problem is that in making it his own, he ends up going a little overboard into the arthouse realm. I appreciate nice colors and well-shot images as much as the next person, but it gets to be a little too much. Most of the film is white-washed and sterile and cleanly edged. The only non overly bright/white moments are when Syd goes to do his black market dealings and it feels contrived having the dark dingy corners feel way too obvious creating at the shady mood.
The movie is a slow-burner. I found myself fast forwarding through the second half, waiting for something/anything to happen. Everyone’s favorite “I’m in every movie” actor, Malcolm McDowell has a small part, but the show is pretty much carried by Syd (Caleb Landry Jones). His almost albino, freckled, expressionless persona both annoyed me and worked in some weird way. The girl who plays Hannah is dispensable at best.
For a debut offering, it’s not bad. I wouldn’t purposely watch this again, but I wouldn’t leave a room if it happened to be on. I am curious to see what Brandon Cronenberg offers up in the future.