Written and Directed by Brandon Cronenberg
Starring Caleb Landry Jones, Sarah Gadon and Malcolm MacDowell
Syd March: Celebrities are not people; they are a group hallucination.
ANTIVIRAL, the debut feature from Canadian writer/director, Brandon Cronenberg, is being billed as a horror film. While it does offer up some significantly scary moments and I did have to look away in disgust on more than one occasion, the most frightening thing about ANTIVIRAL has absolutely nothing to do with the horror you may be accustomed to. The thing that’s coming to kill us here is our own ever worsening obsession with celebrity and fame.
Cronenberg, son to infamously macabre director, David Cronenberg, paints a fairly desolate picture of our contemporary existence. Visually, everything seems so drab, as if we’ve stopped living with any actual passion. If it weren’t for his bright, ginger hair, we would likely not even notice the story’s “hero”, Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones), for his pale skin blends right in with the sterile background. Syd works for The Lucas Clinic, one of a handful of medical treatment facilities that allows people to get closer to their favorite celebrities in ways you would never even imagine. This clinic gives its patients the chance to infect themselves with diseases exclusively obtained from the elite celebrity community. Now, not only can you know everything about them, but you can have something that was once inside of them, inside of you.
Syd drives the rest of ANTIVIRAL with an attempt to sell the latest celebrity disease on the black market, which goes horribly awry. His struggle is a truly disturbing one but the brilliance of Cronenberg’s debut is that no matter how repulsive Syd’s exaggerated journey is, we can never forget that it is our very real celebrity fixation that inspired it to begin with.