Film Title: Antiviral
Dir: Brandon Cronenberg
We’ve been afflicted by a sickness and we aren’t even aware of it. It’s worse than cancer. It’s highly contagious. There is no cure. There is no hope. It’s called the sickness of celebrity obsession.
Look at what happened to Miley Cyrus. The poor thing wags her tongue and twerks in public as an excuse for a song and dance performance. She appears buck naked in music videos and magazine covers despite being a teen idol. Her sad, pathetic state is attributed to us. We can’t stop talking about her. We can’t have enough of her. The media can’t stop leeching off her. The only way to realise all this is by watching the fantastic indie horror film Antiviral.
Directed by 28-year-old Brandon Cronenberg, the son of the great David Cronenberg, Antiviral is a swell demonstration of the mantle of cerebral horror cinema being passed from father to son. The film has Cronenberg Sr’s trademark creepy imagery, morbid humor, body horror, stomach turning violence and nihilistic overtones. Junior Cronenberg has made his film a smart, twisty thriller to complement its chilling social commentary.
Antiviral is set in a dystopian future where the obsession with celebrities has reached a sickening zenith. Celebs have sold out so much that food items are retailed with celeb brand names and there are companies that sell diseases which celebs contract. Caleb Landry Jones stars as Syd, a technician at a pharmaceutical organisation that harvests ‘celeb viruses’ and injects them into ‘customers’. Syd pirates the diseases, getting himself tangled in rival companies, shady mobs and the death of a popular star.
The film dances from satire and allegory in some disturbing ways and becomes more macabre as Cronenberg gets into technicalities. There is a barely legal ‘meat market’ that sells steaks and flesh products cultivated from movie stars’ cells. There are skin grafts developed from the celeb tissues worn by their fans as tattoos. There is a ‘copy protection’ system that prevents technicians from duplicating the viruses. The way Syd manages to override the system and pirate the virus is horrific. It’s a gruesome, brutal takedown of pop culture and the ridiculously profitable business that supports it.
Cronenberg fiddles with the themes of imperfection brilliantly, juxtaposing the near perfect nature of the movie stars to Syd’s deathly pale freckles. It’s a bit unsettling when you realise the meta surrounding the film — where cinema is just like the virus and can be sold commercially with digital copyrights, by sucking stars dry to cater to our greedy hands. The film also does a great job of establishing the utter lack of tact displayed by large corporations who profit from selling celebrities to their fans. Never before has a film been more relevant to us, and it’s perhaps time to leave Miley alone and think about the fact that we were directly responsible for the dozens of Disney stars ending up in rehab.
is a film critic and certified movie geek who has consumed more movies than meals.