One of the recent trends in cinematic legacy is the fact that usually the offspring of notable directors tend to get involved one way or another with their parents’ job. So it seems that Brandon Cronenberg doesn’t break that rule and he tries to follow the footsteps of his father David. His debut film Antiviral competed in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival and a revised version later participated in the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival.
In the near future celebrities’ objects frenzy leads people to urge in order to obtain a piece of them, even a malicious one. Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones) is working at an exclusive clinic whose business is to sell injections of live viruses harvested from sick celebrities to their obsessed fans. He is also a salesman for a piracy group that copies these viruses and profit from them due to the unlimited needs of the black market. Syd has found out that the only way to transport the viruses outside the clinic is by injecting them in his own body. Once he becomes infected with a disease that is life threating for the superstar Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon), Syd tries to find a cure to save his life.
Currently Antiviral seems like a science fiction satire but despite the humoristic initial approach of the subject, the film can be at the same time serious and cynical for the fate of the famous and their followers. In an era that all the inanimate merchandises have almost no value, a piece of real DNA of your icon could be an ideal solution. Vanity knows no limits so a profitable industry can be build based on blood and skin leftover parts. The traders know no limits so anything from simple herpes to a deadly virus could be a great deal. In a strange win-win situation Syd tries to become the definitive host for unknown diseases that must remain secret so no one could reproduce them. Things go even weirder when everything is built in a sterile environment that sometimes seems so close to a real sick dystopia where the only way to stick out is literally by using blood, famed one at least.
Taking into consideration the affection that current pop culture bears towards the feelings of vampirism, Brandon Cronenberg builds this medical horror chiller that could easily accompany early 70s David Cronenberg’s work. Luckily the similarities are not striking and it seems that he didn’t try to remake any of his father’s work, but the heredity is present, Sarah Gadon included. Brandon decided to provoke his viewers from the very beginning when a morally devastated society seems to try to build moral barriers in the most unethical business, the one of disease trade. Everything is literally collapsing but everyone is trying to live in the blissfulness of the ignorance. The repulsion sometimes comes through purely explicit depiction of the illness using countless real close ups of needles entering the skin, vomit, and hideous injuries. Probably this could seem kind of cheap but surely adds up to the cult sensation that the film finally delivers.
For Cronenberg Sr. true connoisseurs the newest addition in family’s filmography is not disappointing, on the contrary Brandon pays homage to his father and wants to cover the gap that every true fan has been left of since ExistenZ. His effort seems quite promising and despite the fact that something is always missing no one can really complain. Antiviral feels, breaths, smells like any other uneasy sick disturbing David’s work. If you missed the real Cronenberg, he decided to use the body of a 32-year-old, Jewish, atheist to reincarnate himself and time is on his side.