Wow. I just finished watching Antiviral – a movie that I’ve owned for a while and decided to watch it. Directed and written by Brandon Cronenberg. Yes – that Cronenberg. It is an unflinching look at the celebrity machine cranked up to eleven and given nitro. Because apparently, body horror is in the genetic make-up of these men, there are some body horror moments, but they’re fairly light given both the subject matter and the writer/director.
I wish I could have turned off this movie at the end and said to myself, “That’ll never happen. Celebrity steaks? That’s a non-starter. Getting infected with a celebrity’s herpes? Not without dinner and a movie.”
Sadly, those days of optimism in the sanity of the human spirit died a long time ago. In the world of Antiviral, if you really follow your celebrity, you get their autograph, their book and their raging case of shingles. I can see this happening in the future. I see clinics popping up advertising so-and-so’s genetically modified version of tuberculosis. The clinics have technology to keep the diseases from being transmitted (the word proprietary is thrown about). ‘Medical holidays’ take on a whole new meaning.
The thrust of this movie is more than the obsession with celebrities, but their commodification. You like Keanu Reeves? How much? Willing to eat a steak made from his muscle cells? Why stop at making tea with Scarlet Johansson’s panties? We can clone her saliva glands – what’s too much to pay to know that a part of the celebrity that maybe you’re thinking a little too much about is with you permanently?
The central character Syd March, played with ‘I’m a Z-pac away from ending this’ menace by Caleb Landry Jones, goes from disease pimp to…uggh…high priest to celebrity golden girl Hanna Geist (good one, Brandon) in the arc of this movie. Infected by a mysterious disease that kills Geist, Syd must find the cure, avoid the predators who would use him as nothing more than a selling point, and try to maintain his own little slice of the black market.
This is a movie that makes bold statements and does absolutely not pull any punches. The character makes his living not only selling diseases of the rich and famous, but he smuggles out the self-same diseases to be sold on the black market.
Antivirus needs to be watched several times to get all the messages, but none of them are positive. The tech aspect of it is kept very low key so that we’re not blinded by the neon, and that works in the favor of the movie’s themes. We are also not spared a single second of non-celebrity time. Even Syd’s landlady manages to stay abreast of the current events that unfold on what looks to be a scant budget. Celebrities are often mentioned, but we never learn much beyond they’re beautiful, very unhygienic and bought and sold like cattle.
This is a future not for the squeamish.
(author’s note: I apologize for the delay, and I am afraid there will be another one tomorrow, but work often gets in the way of all things. I beg to indulge your patience for this week at least, as I try to work in a time to get more of a buffer going. Thank you.)