Film Review: Antiviral (2012)

antiviralTitle: Antiviral
Director: Brandon Cronenberg
Starring:  Caleb Landry Jones, Sarah Gadon
Year: 2012
Source: On Netflix
Purchase: AMZ/BN

Blurb from IMDB: After becoming infected with the virus that killed superstar Hannah Geist, Syd March must unravel the mystery surrounding her death to save his own life.



Case File: Body Horror/Intense Close-Ups/  Needle Shots/ Corporate Espionage/Videodrome
Rating: Buy It

Antiviral is a film that should have had a tighter storyline  in order to be bloody fantastic but even without it, it is still a fascinating movie. Surprisingly, it was hard to find a blurb for the movie because Amazon describes the movie as a “sexy thriller” (that’s inaccurate) and B&N’s blurb gives away too much (ironic that I didn’t pick that one when this is a review).

In the not-too distance future, “Celebrities are not people but mass hallucinations” meaning that people are so obsessed with celebrities that they want to catch their diseases. Syd March is  part of the Lucas Clinic that helps people acquire their favorite celebrities’ diseases. The problem arises when celebrities sell their diseases as exclusive lines to one corporation and not the other clinic, Vole & Tesser. It creates competition between them that leads to the thriller aspect of the film, especially in the end.  Syd March steps right into the middle of this corporate espionage battle and then sickness happens, with lots of blood.

Caleb Landry Jones as a sickly Syd March is fantastic. The way he moves and stands reflect the on-going debilitation that he is suffering from the virus as he increasingly becomes sicker. He cannot get any paler than he already is to portray the sickness but his poses and the way he carries his neck show how weak he is. Sarah Gadon as Hanna Geist is unrealistically beautiful, she sells the idea of celebrities are not people because she doe not look like a normal person. Besides Tesser, Hannah might be the only beautiful person in the film because everyone looks decent or average but Hannah is perfectly done with her makeup, her red lips are impeccable and even when they are not, they still add to her attraction. Her beauty marks her as different. Her difference was portrayed through sterile environment, she is constantly contrasted against stark whiteness that emphasize her body and her lips (at times, it felt like watching Sleeping Beauty). The relationship between Hannah and Syd is clearly one of a fan who doesn’t think that Hannah is a real person and it is seen through the interactions where Syd focuses more on her blood than on her as a person.

I like the cinematography of the film.  There are very intense close-ups of needles (fair warning), of body movement like the throat moving up and down, of the mouth, really well done shots that emphasize micro-movements. A couple of body horror shots like metal pipes coming out of March’s body and a bleeding cover of his mouth, it’s disturbing. A fascination with blood and the color red. There was a great throwback to Videodrome with the women inside the television set reference but it was different in that Nicki Brand from Videodrome seem to be more in control of her image on the television set where Hannah Geist was begging for release.

I do have a plot problem with the film and that is Geist’s goon leaving March unprotected which is why he is captured by Vole & Tesser where he is visually violated. March is carrying the same virus that Geist carries and virus are a commodity in this world, therefore, March is a very valuable commodity. He is a pearl necklace left unattended, someone is bound to steal him. What is the logic in leaving him alone or not providing assistance to him (other than providing a spare part for his machine)? There is none. It could have been easily fixed by having a cliché bad guy fight in his apartment which results in his kidnapping. That would have made the story more plausible.  It’s the major problem that I have with the film (as well as no representation of minorities in the film).

Antiviral has a fascinating concept that could have been explored in different ways, there is the corporate espionage, celebrities as objects, the public’s obsession with consuming celebrities (literally), biotechnology, all of which was explored in some ways but not in depth.   It was a good film but it could have taken things further (in my opinion), especially the whole concept of the afterlife but that might require a different film. Occasionally, the film has down movements that are boring but the concept is interesting enough that they didn’t bother me.

Randomly, I hate the DVD cover. It provides a different narrative than the film provides. It just screams to me that Syd March is a psychopath who captures celebrities whereas the bloody lips poster that is on Wikipedia, that is what the film is about, bodies and blood.



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