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2012 | 108 min | Not rated | 1.85:1



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Theatrical release date

 12 October, 2012
 01 February, 2013

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Screenshots from Antiviral Blu-ray

Antiviral Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, April 11, 2013

It seems the poisoned apple doesn’t fall far from the rotting tree. “Antiviral” marks the feature-length directorial debut for Brandon Cronenberg, son of David Cronenberg, the master filmmaker behind such classics as “The Fly,” “Videodrome,” and “Dead Ringers.” Following in his father’s footsteps, Brandon conjures a diseased take on our engorged celebrity-fixated culture with this ominous, gruesome production. While the younger Cronenberg is undeniably sipping from his dad’s reservoir of corporeal nightmares, he proves himself to be visually fascinating helmer with a unique perspective on societal decay. “Antiviral” is stimulating work with a fulfilling grasp on agitation, though it works ever better as a glimpse into futureworld psychosis and extremes of consumption.

Syd (Caleb Landry Jones, “X-Men: First Class”) is an employee with a corporation that deals in the fantasy of illness. Acquiring diseases from celebrities, Syd sells infections to rabid fans, offering them a piece of their obsession to savor in their system. Syd also has designs on his own viral project, using stolen equipment to manufacture elements of the top seller, Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon), using backroom dealings with Arvid (Joe Pingue) to help refine and fund his approach. Using his own body as a laboratory, Syd is caught in a troubling situation when his bosses clamp down on employee piracy of sensitive materials, while Arvid has his own interests with a rival company to protect, leaving the sickly opportunist paranoid and desperate, eventually working his way to the presence of Hannah and her handler, Dr. Abendroth (Malcolm McDowell). As corporations use subterfuge to shake secrets out of Syd, he commences a plan to take celebrity branding to the next level of existence, elevating the science of infatuation.

The recent documentary “Sellebrity” attempted to explore the almost violent relationship between the famous and the consumer. “Antiviral” dissects such fascination in a fleshier manner, introducing the audience to an alternate universe where media stars are covered in 24-hour television cycles, their every move studied by commentators and the adoring public. Even matters of a more rectal urgency are surveyed. It’s a blizzard of attention that’s created deities out of the beautiful, watching dead-eyed sad sacks line up to be injected with their favorite star’s infection, with the opening of the movie observing Syd attempting to sell a herpes shot from the heavenly Hannah with all the programmed seduction of a weary used car salesman. It’s quite an introduction to this disturbing world of antiseptic white decoration and helpless adoration, finding the public so consumed with fame, they’ll risk their health to receive any part of their object of affection.

It’s a terrific premise that snowballs into more unnerving acts of binging, detailing how star DNA has been developed into a line of meat, with butchers selling slabs of slimy, gray flesh that allows fans to suckle and grind down a physical part of the celebrity. “Antiviral” is definitely the work of a Cronenberg man, finding the son’s patience with pacing and mounting disturbances clearly inspired by his father’s slow-burn achievements. Social commentary is also laid on thick, though the broadness of the concept always feels natural to the picture, presenting a realistic sense of berserk media coverage that comes across as plausible, despite movement into cannibalistic realms. “Antiviral” elects mood over shock value, supporting the mysteries of the screenplay through Syd’s gradual unraveling, watching him battle his weakening health and the insidious interests of others out to claim his prized tainted blood.

“Antiviral” loses some of its impact as corporate conspiracies seep into the writing, turning a sickening portrait of entertainment worship into a vaguely engaging war of viral ownership, finding Syd working his way through an underground world of betrayals and revelations that lead him to Hannah, stoking his own fervor for the shimmering red-lipped blonde. Cronenberg recovers for a satisfying finale, closing the feature on a chilling note of preservation and possession that could very well end up a reality one day, if our binge and purge culture keeps zombie-stomping forward. Perhaps “Antiviral” is a cautionary tale after all, though one with a distinct Cronenbergian fingerprint, generating hypnotic cinema that seduces as much as it repulses.

Starring: Caleb Landry Jones, Sarah Gadon, Malcolm McDowell, Nicholas Campbell, Sheila McCarthy (I), Wendy Crewson
Director: Brandon Cronenberg

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