Like some made-up disease from one of David Cronenberg’s icky thrillers, the director’s preoccupations have clearly infected the debut efforts of his son, Brandon, a reasonably talented purveyor of sci-fi style but hardly a signature voice (unless that signature is forged). Antiviral spends way too much time enthralled with its setup—in the future, people will obsess over the illnesses of celebrities—and too little energy creating an entry point for the typical flu-averse viewer. Our clammy hero is Syd (Caleb Landry Jones), a black-marketer of various herpes and colds, harvested from the hottest young flesh, guaranteed. He steals these maladies from his place of work, the Lucas Clinic (har), and when the sniffles of one globally desired pop star (Cosmopolis’s Sarah Gadon) arrive at the lab, Syd breaks out his needle and shoots up, a fortune in mind.
It’s not the smartest call, and when a raging case of black bile hits Syd, he’s suddenly a victim of weird experimenters. The best-looking parts of Antiviral take place in sterile rooms, as the irony of false intimacy with famous people is stretched to the breaking point. Far less successful is the movie’s grad-school-obvious script, flinging itself at tired comparisons to evil social media and boob-tube universality. The whole movie feels like a case of the sweats, putting you in desperate need of the chicken soup of recognizable human behavior.
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