Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones) is an employee at a clinic that sells injections of live viruses harvested from sick celebrities to obsessed fans. Biological communion - for a price. Syd also supplies illegal samples of these viruses to piracy groups, smuggling them from the clinic in his own body. When he becomes infected with the disease that kills super sensation Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon), Syd becomes a target for collectors and rabid fans. He must unravel the mystery surrounding her death before he suffers the same fate.
Review by Louise Keller:
If you get queasy at the sight of blood or needles penetrating the flesh, you'll have plenty to be queasy about in this audacious film from David Cronenberg's son Brendon in his debut feature. Celebrity, obsession and the ultimate thrill of being infected by a virus from your favourite celeb is the name of the game and Cronenberg Jnr has created a reality that makes the skin crawl. Satire, horror and sci-fi meld into one delectably gruesome tale in which Caleb Landry Jones' pasty protagonist spends most of the film clutching a thermometer, syringe and a vial of blood. (Jones is breathtakingly good)
Our introduction to the Lucas Clinic sets the scene. The pristine white surrounds are graced with floor to ceiling photographs of the glamorous stars whose viruses are peddled at a premium. By eliminating the contagious factor of the virus, a sophisticated interface machine assures patent protection. The patter and sales pitch that Syd March (Jones) uses, in hypnotic monotone, reiterates the perfection and beauty of the elusive donor to the obsessive fan customers. 'Enjoy,' says Syd in a morbidly, expressionless exchange, to a star-struck customer whose cold sore symptoms will appear in a couple of weeks, after having been infected by his favourite star.
But there's more for the avid fans. They can queue to purchase Celebrity Cell Steaks from Astral Bodies Meat Shop, whose proprietor Arvid (Joe Pingue, excellent), employs Syd in a duplicitous role as virus-carrier; he injects himself with the live virus before the Lucas Clinic has whitewashed it. There's also a TV channel flaunting intimate celebrity body parts. The stakes are high on the roulette wheel on which Syd plays his life, constantly in a state of ill health as he rushes to sell his wares, eager not to let the competition pip him at the post.
The film changes directions into thriller mode with reports of the death of Monroe-styled starlet Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon, A Dangerous Liaison). Syd, who was one of the last people to see Hannah and injected himself with her deadly virus, starts to get violent symptoms.
No prize for guessing where Cronenberg gets his sensibilities; he is a natural in the genre, enveloping us in a genuinely creepy atmosphere, compounded by a chilling score and soundscape. Its simple, uncluttered nature enhances its effectiveness with the occasional percussive shocks contrast battering our ear drums. With production design emphasis on white, the sharp contrast of dark red blood on white floor, walls, sheets and pillow cases assures a striking result. Watch for Malcolm McDowell in a brief appearance as the lovely Hannah's personal physician.
If there's a flaw, it is the slightly repetitive nature of the celebrity message, but it's a gruesome reality and some of the concepts are frankly stomach turning. If you think you've seen it all, wait for the final scene that adds the macabre to the already queasious, almost unwatchable gross-out with which the film ends. Dad will be proud.
Published August 8, 2013
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ANTIVIRAL: DVD (MA15+)
CAST: Caleb Landry Jones, Sarah Gadon, Douglas Smith, Joe Pingue, Nicholas Campbell, Malcolm McDowell, Sheila McCarthy, Wendy Crewson, Nenna Abuwa
PRODUCER: Niv Fichman
DIRECTOR: Brandon Cronenberg
SCRIPT: Brandon Cronenberg
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Karim Hussain
EDITOR: Matthew Hannam
MUSIC: E.C. Woodley
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Arvinder Grewal
RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto Distribution
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 25, 2013
SPECIAL FEATURES: .
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Reel
DVD RELEASE: August 7, 2013