And this is the last chapter of my Sitges experience 2012. Not bad, huh? I’ve left the final touch to talk about Antiviral, Brandon Cronenberg’s full-length debut film. Whay can I say? The family ties attract me too much as to miss the screenings in Sitges. I didn’t want anyone to tell me about the film, I had to see for myself and judge. I tried to ease down my expectations, clinging to the idea that despite who his father is, it doesn’t mean that he receives the baton and is able to go on with the tradition. No matter how I tried to deny myself, I knew I wanted Brandon Cronenberg to succeed as the new baron of blood.
Those who are in regular contact with me, and also because the title of the post is quite self explanatory, you already know my verdict: EPIC WIN.
As soon as I left the room after the screening, I immediately wrote this tweet:
One thing is for sure. Taste for blood and twisted stories is hereditary. Long Live The New Flesh! Hail to the Young Cronenberg!
In a not so remote future time, Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones) works for the Lucas Clinic, a company specializing in inoculating its patients with virus samples taken from the hottest celebrities they adore. This is the ultimate fan experience, to develop and pass through the same illness as their idols.
As security is so strong, the only way to smuggle some of these virus to develop into another sub-products to be sold in the black market, Syd shoots himself with leftovers, in order to sell blood samples.
Things get rough when after visiting the super gorgeous Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon) for some samples of an unknown disease she probably caught in China, news announce her sudden death, and he find himself in danger infected by the same disease. March’s body will be pursued as if gold, for many parties will be interested in taking as much advantage as possible from him.
If at this point you don’t think this plot is twisted enough as to be worthy of admiration and recognition as the extension of David Cronenberg’s legacy, now that he’s evolving to more conventional stories, then I’m making you waste your time, because from here you’re only going to read praise to this son’s work.
This is a critic exercise against the fan phenomena happening lately, with the massive media coverage, the narrow line separating fans from stalkers, the pursue of trespassing the intimacy of popular people… women dress like their idols, soccer players are the inspiration for many men, kids named after actors, sportsmen or just yellow press characters… Right now, as in the film, celebrities don’t have to earn it. If they become popular for no reason and people worship them, they go on doing nothing, getting richer and being just famous.
Antiviral goes one step beyond, turning the screw another time: now a guy wants the cold-sore of Hannah Geist, a woman wants to experience the genital herpes of an actress, the man who wants the flu of his idol… and so on. The client pays for suffering, and both the company and the celebrity make profit out of an illness. Could you imagine if that was for real considering what some people are capable of doing for money? Getting rewarded for catching illnesses… it would get out of control, I’m sure.
The film is very aseptic and minimalist, so much it’s disturbing. Blinding white locations are very present, thus any element in contrast, is highlighted. Blood is very intense in the film, for example.
The recruitment of Caleb Landry Jones to play Syd was a great choice, the perfect candidate for that role. His physical features provide the character of more personality. Ginger, freckled, super pale, skinny, and androgynous, with this cold expression as if insensitive… he behaves like a robot, dresses in the same way everyday, sandwich and orange juice are his daily meal, no hobbies, no personal items in his flat but the hidden virus processor, he’s also an aseptic character, only worried for his health as if he was hypochondriac, even though he’s actually monitoring the illnesses he’s submitting to in order to get extra money. The progressive decline, accelerated by this last lethal virus is noticeable: he’s weak, his physical appearance is severely affected, he suffers from paranoia episodes… and cannot get proper help.
Sarah Gadon means perfection in this film. The Cronenbergs’ muse, this time is the celebrity everybody worships. Blonde, perfect, warm and close in the eyes of her fans, adorable… but if you think of it, she’s a rat making money of her illness.
Visually speaking, there are very Cronenberg elements. At some points I thought of Videodrome, eXistenZ and Dead Ringers. Antiviral is suffocating, and those moments when reality conveys with insanity are a clear example.
It has to be hard for Brandon to be constantly related to his father, but the truth is that David Cronenberg is one of the greatest influences in horror sci-fi films, and no matter how hard you try, you’ll always be compared. Beside, Brandon had taken part of the cast of some of his dad’s projects. You’ve learnt from the master in first line, and we the fans love you’ve been so diligent, because the results have been outstanding, surprising everybody with a remarkable debut film. The future of young Cronenberg is promising, and Antiviral has opened the doors to another mad scientist into the business. We only have to wait and see, and hopefully Brandon will be delivering interesting projects which won’t leave us indifferent.
Again, Antiviral is an excellent job, and I just can shout: LONG LIVE THE NEW FLESH!