Directed by Brandon Cronenberg
Starring Caleb Landry Jones, Sarah Gadon, Malcolm McDowell
Review by Jordan
Upon turning on the Television, entering a newsagency or even commencing a conversation with anyone but your closest friends or relatives the mind is constantly bombarded with unwanted, unnecessary and often unethical images of and dramatizations about celebrities; their shallow lives and put-upon problems. As a westernised society we are being spoon-fed the ‘issues’ assailing these higher life forms and made to believe they matter, as apparently their everyday lives matter even in a time where war continues to rage in the Middle East and civil unrest is tearing Egypt apart.
Who cares about the slaughter of whales in the Antarctic waters when Kim Kardashian is getting married? (or divorced, I forget), a nations simplistic and outstandingly ignorant and stubborn view towards gun control amid a backdrop of school massacres when Lady Gaga wears a new, outrageous outfit? Or the increasing rate of teen suicide when Paris Hilton ‘wants to have the babies’ of her new, unsurprisingly wealthy toy boy? These things don’t matter. What matters is becoming more like these perfect people we idolise; looking like them, acting like them, and in the not too distant world of Brandon Cronenberg (son of the great David Cronenberg)’s Antiviral, feeling like them…
Antiviral may be an obvious, unsubtle film, but that doesn’t detract from its necessity nor the truth in its metaphors. Caleb Landry Jones stars as Syd March, an employee at an organisation that collects and sells viruses from sick celebrities to their most dedicated fans. The viruses are copy protected and cannot be transferred from one host to the next once bought, however, before delivering the samples back to the clinic Syd injects himself and sells illegal samples on the black market. When he is called out to gather the sickness of the stunning Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon), this method of transfer proves to be very costly, and Syd finds himself embroiled in a deadly conspiracy he must solve before losing his life to the disease that now inflicts the both of them.
Even without knowing this film’s creator, one could assume the inspiration behind it. Cronenberg Jnr introduces ‘body horror’ to a whole new audience here, and for those unfamiliar with titles such as Videodrome, The Brood and, of course, Shivers it will be an exciting, if a little self-indulgent experience. For the rest of us? It’s a film that demands respect, but could do with some trimming. We are aware enough that this culture is figuratively devouring the celebrities placed on a mantle, while we are ourselves devoured by this unhealthy addiction, so we don’t need to actually be confronted with a meat product grown from their muscle cells and displayed as a butcher would his finest cut of beef. Still, it is a genre built on ‘more is more,’ so perhaps I’m missing the point. The appearance of cult stalwart Malcolm McDowell in an extended cameo is further proof of the film’s vision, McDowell having made his name in anti-establishment titles such as If… (1968) and A Clockwork Orange (1971).
In conclusion, Antiviral comes highly rated, though that may not be reflected appropriately in my star rating. More so than most other films I’ve seen this year it really requires the viewer to decide on its merit themselves, and trust me when I say it won’t take long to decide whether this is a trip you’ll enjoy taking or not. Also, for those with a phobia of needles, be prepared to become a lot more acquainted with the palms of your hands.
3.5 celebrity meats out of 5