Antiviral (2012)




It's clear from the first frames of Brandon Cronenbergs 'Antiviral' that the apple doesn't fall too far from his famous fathers tree. The Cronenberg style, present in even the most abstract of his fathers work, is present in almost every aspect of Brandon Cronenbergs feature film debut. But studying at the feet of or emulating a genius relative doesn't necessarily guarantee success. For every success like Joe Hill or Duncan Jones there are hundreds of Stephen Baldwins or Gwyneth Paltrows (I kid,...I loved Stephen Baldwin in 'The Usual Suspects').

The younger Cronenberg tackles some pretty heady subjects with his feature debut. In the near future or some sort of alternate present, societies celebrity obsession has progressed beyond simply watching TMZ or dressing like the sluts on "Keeping Up With The Kardashians." The latest celebrity emulating rage is having yourself injected with celebrity diseases. An entire industry has propagated around the procurement and sale of various celebrity sicknesses, where companies send associates to celebrities with the sole purpose of pulling blood samples of sick celebrites. They bring these diseases back to the institute where the diseases are isolated, replicated, and sold to the general public. So you can have the same flu that your favorite celebrity had on their last vacation.

Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones) is one of these associates, except Syd has  a neat little side business. After procuring these diseases he injects himself with the disease. He later extracts his blood and isolates the diseases on a makeshift machine in his apartment. After isolation he sells the disease on the ultra competitive black market. Still with me? It's rather high concept, but it works within the context it's presented.

While all celebrities are cannon fodder in this new obsessive culture, there is no one held on high like Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon) and Hannah Geist has an exclusive contract to sell her diseases to Syds company, The Lucas Clinic. When the Clinics exclusive Geist associate gets mixed up in some nefarious dealings (the same kind March is wrapped up in), Syd steps in to collect the latest disease from Miss Geist. Following his M.O. he quickly injects himself with Miss Geists disease. It's only when he wakes up the next day to news reports that Hannah Giest has died from her disease that shit starts to get really bad for Syd.

What follows is a race against time. Syd tries to find out the nature of Hannah's disease, only to find that Hannah is not really dead. She is dying and her death seems inevitable, meaning Syds death is inevitable. Once his predicament is known, he is extended a couple of olive branches, including one from Hannahs doctor, Abendroth (Malcolm McDowell). Together they work to not only find a cure for Hanna, but by proxy, for Syd as well.

'Antiviral' certainly feels like a Cronenberg film. It's stark whiteness, if that's really the term for it, feels very much like something from 'eXistneZ.' It's obsessive personalness bears a lot in common with the elder Cornenbergs last film, 'Cosmopolis.' That doesn't mean that the film is nothing but a crib sheet of David Cronenberg films. 'Antiviral' certainly stands on it's own, both in content and feel.

As a visual horror film, it's certainly not anything to get too excited over. There is some puking of blood and needles...a lot of needles. However as a concept the film is petrifying. Yes, it's science fiction in concept, but based enough in the trajectory of reality that in the back of your head your thinking "this could happen." The film drags during it's second act, getting lost in it's own blurred lines of morality, and doesn't really get back on track until halfway through the third act. Those couple of stumbles, though annoying, do not hurt the overall value of the film.

'Antiviral' is a bleak, scary, and stunningly realistic for a conceptual sci-fi/horror film. Check it out now on Netflix and on Blu-Ray.

***1/2 stars out of *****

As always...thanks for reading and..."Enjoy Every Sandwich"

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