Brandon Cronenberg’s full-length feature film debut is unsettling, and that’s one of the most magnetic things about it. Antiviral takes the subject of celebrity obsession and pushes it to the limit, exploring the idea that the public would be willing to mutilate themselves to feel closer to celebrities they admire. It’s sort of like a Nip/Tuck meets The Human Centipede, which already tells you this film isn’t for everyone, but you could certainly give it a whirl if the trailer above intrigues you enough. The film stars Caleb Landry Jones and Malcolm McDowell.
By definition, a virus is a small infectious agent that can replicate only inside the living cells of an organism. It may be a far-removed thought from your mind when you’re in the throws of sickness, but those tiny agents attacking your healthy cells once lived inside of someone else—be it a stranger or someone in close contact. “These physical little virons have travelled into your body and infected your cells, and that’s why you’re sick,” says director Brandon Cronenberg, whose nauseatingly great debut feature Antiviral investigates the idea of disease as a marketable and desirable product for consumption.
The first time I watched the film was in the wee hours of the morning. I fell asleep as the credits rolled and woke up with nosebleed. Granted, I happened to be quite ill myself, but I like to attribute my nasal hemorrhage to the intensity of the film—which establishes Cronenberg as more than just the spawn of one of cinema’s most mind-bending directors, his father, David Cronenberg. Antiviral is a well-crafted and intelligent first feature that’s as inventive and thought provoking as it is grotesque and visually thrilling.