Film, Drama
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Imagine a near-future world in which slavering fans of the famous are able to enjoy not merely a vicarious love of their idols, but also an intimate corporeal connection. A world in which obsessive admirers can pay to be infected with a worshipped celebrity’s minor ailments and life-threatening diseases, so enjoying a close viral bond. Front-loaded with big ideas and satirical possibilities, Brandon Cronenberg’s début feature, ‘Antiviral’, shares mutated DNA with his father David’s ‘body horror’ films, but lacks the narrative focus, intellectual rigour and infectious wit to propagate its germ of an idea.

Despatched by his employers, The Lucas Clinic, to extract an infected sample from beautiful young starlet Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon), pale lab technician Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones) penetrates her shiny lip with a hypodermic needle, as she lays blindfolded on a bed. Not immune to the superficial appeal of celebrity contagion, he later infects himself with her ailment, intending to sell harvested cultures on the black market. Almost immediately, Syd succumbs to a virulent fever, suffering disturbing hallucinations and collapsing. When he regains consciousness, he learns Hannah is dead, which means his days too are numbered. Convinced that Hannah died as the result of a commercial conspiracy, Syd tries to unravel the mystery surrounding her demise.

With its luminescent white sets and ascetic cinematography, ‘Antiviral’ creates an antiseptic world in which medical control and cynical marketing feed the sad dreams of celebrity acolytes. Landry Jones’s translucent pallor adds an extra dimension to a performance whose fragile angularity is almost expressionistic in its intensity. Yet ‘Antiviral’ never wholly succeeds as either a surgical satire or a medical conspiracy thriller, and its tedious last third is like a diseased body dragging itself slowly to the grave.   

By: Nigel Floyd


Release details

Rated: 15
Release date: Friday February 1 2013
Duration: 119 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Brandon Cronenberg
Screenwriter: Brandon Cronenberg
Cast: Caleb Landry Jones
Sarah Gadon
Malcolm McDowell
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I'll have to take issue with this review: this may not have quite the mordant humour of Cronenberg senior, and the white-on-white look of the film is a bit dreary [one really misses the feverish organic quality of, say, 'The Fly' or 'Existenz']. But the script is excellent, taking a horrible idea and exploring every horrible twist on it. And the conclusion tops everything that precedes it. Really good, promising stuff. Recommended.

I agree about the directionless last third of the film, but despite this I'd rate it as one of the most interesting and twisted horror / sci-fi films I've seen for some time, not to mention Landry Jones' great performance.