Antiviral (2012)

(On Cable TV, November 2013) So the “Best Cronenberg movie not directed by Cronenberg” award goes to… Cronenberg.  Brandon Cronenberg, that is: son of David, who’s been on an extended break from his body-horror shtick for a bit more than a decade but who finds his own tradition more than upheld by his writer/director progeny.  By targeting celebrity worship through willingly transmitted diseases, Cronenberg-filsAntiviral certainly goes for the gross: people with a sensitivity to seeing graphic close-ups of needles breaking skin, coughed blood, quasi-cannibalism, virulently sick people and other joyous expressions of the frailty of human flesh may want to steer far away from this film.  The clinically white-dominated direction is as cold as its characters, which is both unnerving and easy to dismiss.  For all of its strengths and ideas, Antiviral just doesn’t work as well as it should.  While Caleb Landry Jones is a special effect of his own as the red-headed, spectacularly-freckled protagonist, he’s saddled with a script that doesn’t give him much to do but act sick and mumble lines enigmatically.  As a result, Antiviral is watched at a remove, as it features unpleasant characters doing even more unpleasant things to themselves and each other.  There are no heroes (and fewer sympathetic victims than you’d expect): one wonders if a better movie about ideas of celebrity worship could have been achieved through the viewpoint of someone becomes a celebrity without intending to.  Alas, this would have required quite a bit more emotions that are on display here.  While Cronenberg has enough directing skill and writing ideas to maintain interest in Antiviral from beginning to end, it’s not as successful as it could have been.

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