Antiviral is the feature-length directorial debut from Brandon Cronenberg, son of David Cronenberg. David Cronenberg, for me, is easily one of the top five genre filmmakers of all time. While a lot of his films fit a similar pattern, he has an extremely diverse body of work. From his early body-horror films, to his recent hyper-violent crime/drama outputs such as A History Of Violence or Eastern Promises, I wouldn’t say that his films have went through an evolution, but I would say that he is one director that is in no way afraid to try something different. I was excited to see what an offspring of the man could do, because it’s been a long while since something as “out there” as something like Videodrome or Scanners has been unleashed upon the movie-going public.
After watching Antiviral on Blu Ray late last night(4 AM), I can report that yes, Brandon is definitely a chip off of the old block. Before I get into it, I will make one suggestion. If you haven’t seen this film, stop reading now. I’m not going to spoil any major plot points, but, the type of film this is, the less you know, the greater your experience. One of the things that makes Antiviral such a strong film, is the fact that there are no scenes of exposition. You will not have your hand held as you navigate your way through this twisted nightmare. You are going to be dropped on your ass in the middle of a disturbing, sinister universe, and left to find your own way around. So, do me a favor, and watch the movie, then come back and read the rest of this review. You’ll thank me later.
Antiviral exists in an alternate universe, where public obsession with celebrities has become even more disturbing than it already is. Caleb Landry Jones plays Syd, an employee at a clinic that markets to the public, injections of infectious diseases that have been collected from celebrities who have authorized them to do so. In electing to be infected by a disease from a celebrity of your choice, apparently you are bringing yourself closer to said celebrity. For example, if a celebrity comes down with a nasty case of VD, and you have said VD injected into your body, It will be as if your favorite celebrity personally infected you with the disease. However absurd this concept sounds to you, are you convinced that, with the celebrity climate what it is today, that if a company offered such a service, that they wouldn’t do business? We are obsessed with celebrities, every aspect of their lives, things that we have no reason to be obsessed with. If someone were to offer an injection of herpes, harvested from Emma Stone’s body, you and I both know that there would be a market for it.
Syd has quite the obsession with disease himself. As the film opens, Syd is very visibly ill, but it is easy to assume that he is just legitimately ill, but as time passes, you see Syd injecting himself with things that haven’t even been tested yet, as well as conducting a side business where he sells diseases that haven’t hit the public yet to disease “pirates”. Much like dealing with real life pirates, on a ship somewhere out in the middle of the sea, dealing with pirates is hazardous to your health, such as Syd soon learns. This does not even begin to capture all of what makes Antiviral one of the best sci-fi/horror films I’ve seen for a long time. There are so many things going on, that if you look away from the screen to sneeze for a second, you may already find yourself lost. And that’s one of the things that makes it such a great experience. It is a very “involved” film. You will have to participate with the narrative for you to get from it what Cronenberg intended. I sincerely hope that Brandon has a long career in genre film. Antiviral is one of the strongest debut features from a director I’ve ever seen.
Antiviral is now available on DVD and Blu Ray from IFC Films. If you are a collector of physical media like myself, you can currently purchase the Blu Ray for under $10. If you like to try before you buy, the film is already available on Netflix to instantly stream. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a title made available on Netflix Instant so quickly after its home video release. IFC titles usually wind up on Netflix within a month or two after release, but it seemed like Antiviral went up on day one. The picture quality of the Blu Ray though is impeccable. It is a very bright film, and the transfer on the disc lends to a level of detail that managed to even impress me, and I have seen a lot of films on Blu Ray, both new and old. There are a couple of extra features on the disc, including a commentary with director Brandon Cronenberg, as well as his cinematographer, Karim hussain. There is also a making of documentary titled “Anatomy Of A Virus”. Antiviral is highly recommended to any fans of David Cronenberg’s earlier films, and pretty much anyone that enjoys a film that tries to do something different with the genre. For under $10, I would be shocked if you were disappointed with this purchase. Antiviral is a recommended blind buy.