Stream It: “Antiviral” is an Icky Treat From (Brandon) Cronenberg


Brandon Cronenberg’s debut film “Antiviral” is now streaming on Netflix, and it is a nicely icky movie that is certainly worth a look. It debuted last year at TIFF, and took the award for debut Canadian feature. I’m looking forward to watching it again, and also seeing what Brandon has in store for us next. (This was one of my “TIFF Revisited” columns for the Spree website.)

Brandon Cronenberg’s debut film, “Antiviral,” would fit nicely on the shelf next to his father David’s early efforts, and that says a lot. The young filmmaker had created an icky treat, a horror film with real ideas and bold stylization.

It’s a story of a grim future world that is even more celebrity obsessed than our own, a place where customers pay to be injected with the illnesses of their celeb faves. It’s a clever concept, this fetishization of the body to the point of voluntary infection.

Syd, played by the gaunt, nicely creepy Caleb Landry-Jones (who gave a fine performance in another TIFF 2012 entry, Neil Jordan’s “Byzantium”), works at the Lucas Clinic, the site for these objections, and smuggles diseases out fit extra cash.

But after injecting himself with the much-desired virus of the gorgeous Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon, star of David Cronenberg’s last two efforts), Syd begins to lose his health, and his mind.

It’s all played out in grimly thrilling fashion, and if the film feels a bit overlong, it is always fascinating and smart.

I love that Brandon Cronenberg is not afraid to make a film that calls to mind the work of his old man; a character even mentions having the “shivers” early in the film, surely a tongue-in-cheek reference to his father’s first feature.

If “Antiviral” is any indication, Brandon Cronenberg should be on the verge of a long, interesting career. Perhaps we’ll look back in thirty years and say, “‘Antiviral’ was his ‘Shivers.’”

Photo courtesy of IFC Films

Leave a Reply