Brandon Cronenberg’s feature film debut is a bit more than an echo of the bio-horror films that launched the career of father David Cronenberg. Antiviral takes place in a rather grim, chilly Toronto - a city no different than other parts of an apparently global dystopian future where citizens can purchase cloned viruses and bacteria from recently infected celebrities. Even weirder: they can also line up at a local artisan butcher to purchase muscle cultures containing other bio matter from said celebrities.
Whereas father David tended to make dramas of flesh penetration, infection, and a correlation between physical and mental transformations which presage a newer primordial stage of human evolution (witness Videodrome), son Brandon goes for social and media satire, evoking the tone of his father’s work yet making his own imprint by presenting his story and emotionally blunted characters – each especially desperate in some way – in striking widescreen compositions that border on the severely clinical.
The film’s imagery is most potent when Cronenberg fixates on macro-shots of skin, lips, greasy blood stains, and needle penetration. Equally affecting is Caleb Landry Jones’ physical performance which beautifully shows a vendor of bio-porn injecting himself with matter, thereby violating company policy to be even closer (and at a more constant rate) to celebrity Hannah Geist than his clients.
The subplot involving Syd’s secret injections, his own gradual mutation sought by black market dealers, and a conspiracy to hide the sudden demise of his idol isn’t the main attraction – it’s the film’s surreal tone, Cronenberg’s chilly satirical jabs, and the audio-visual tone maintained by composer E.C. Woodley and cinematographer Karim Hussain, respectively.
The Alliance DVD / BR combo release features plenty of extras, and this is one of the more beautiful HD films in recent years, filled with sharp colour and an immersive surround sound design.
An interview with composer E.C. Woodley is also available.
© 2013 Mark R. Hasan