As unfair as it is to the filmmaker, it’s impossible to watch ANTIVIRAL and not consider the influence Brandon Cronenberg’s father may have had on the young director.
Brandon, the son of David, has created a film that deftly explores the same body horror sub-genre that the elder Cronenberg has become the patron saint of thanks to his work on films such as THE FLY and VIDEODROME. Brandon Cronenberg’s ANTIVIRAL will open at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema – Vintage Park Friday, April 19. Advanced tickets are now on sale.
In the future, celebrity worship has gotten a tad out of hand. People are no longer content to simply read about their favorite pop stars on TMZ, they want to interact with them and – when a one-on-one meeting isn’t available – everyday people are willing to have those interactions on a genetic level by paying to be injected with samples of viruses that have been harvested from the rich and famous.
In addition to this lucrative (and legal) business – tightly controlled through a new technology that allows technicians to copy-protect the viruses as they would an MP3 – the black-market is full of other examples of celebrity-worship gone awry – including meat markets that sell edible tissue samples cloned from the DNA of celebrities.
The strength of ANTIVIRAL lies in its sense of invention. So many science fiction films are content to take a tired idea, twist it about and give it a fresh coat of paint. Deconstructing the true and tested has led to some great movies but far too many times the end result is something that feels overly stale and done to death. For ANTIVIRAL, though, Cronenberg stretches his creative muscles and lets loose with some truly original ideas.
Caleb Landry Jones, the young Texan actor who carries much of Antiviral on his back, is remarkable. As Syd March, Landry Jones plays a salesman for one of the premiere clinics responsible for selling the public the celebrity-endorsed viruses they so crave. On the side, though, March also has a lucrative job smuggling samples of the viruses out of the clinic, removing the copy protection and then selling them on the black market. Unfortunately, this moonlighting lands March in trouble when he injects himself with a blood sample of one of the world’s most desired celebrities, Hannah Geist, only to learn a few days later that Geist has died of whatever mysterious disease March currently has incubating in his person.
With his debut film, Cronenberg has established himself as a very promising talent to watch. While he seems to be treading similar territory as his father, he is doing so with equal parts talent and ambition. If ANTIVIRAL is the opening shot to a career that mirrors his fathers, Brandon Cronenberg should become just as respected and beloved a filmmaker in the eyes of genre fans as his father.