In Antiviral, getting up close and personal with your favorite celeb is a helluva lot more involved than rubbing elbows at Spago.
Lucas Clinic offers C Priority Pathogens from A-list celebrities, so you can feel what fictional starlet Hannah Geist feels when she has herpes on her lip by getting it yourself.
If you recoil reflexively at this, it’s no wonder. Antiviral is the icky, antiseptic brainchild of Brandon Cronenberg, Cronenberg being a name that obviously carries a lot of heft around these parts and beyond.
Our gateway into the world is Lucas account manager/technician Syd March (a tour de force performance by the sickly-looking Caleb Landry Jones). He wears oversized overcoats and carries an ol’ timey small town doctor bag, looking more like a ginger undertaker than a biotech firm up-and-comer.
He sells celebrity biology to obsessed star f-ers who can’t get close enough to get infected the old fashioned way, and where rumors are similarly spread (it’s alleged by one client, for example, that noted actor Michael Felix packs his foreskin with spices pre intercourse).
This is a world not too far removed from our current celeb obsessions as we’d like to think. Sure, hair follicles may be dead but the market for them is very much alive (CBS reported that in 2011, a lock of Justin Bieber’s hair fetched over $40,000 on eBay). And disturbingly, people get butt implants to look like the mentally-challenged Kardashians.
In Antiviral, a competing service is stem-cell celebrity steak, gross grey slabs that look like Gefilte fish. Imagine if you’re the type accustomed to sending back the genuine article when it’s overcooked and not medium rare as it’s supposed to be. And now imagine how revolted you’d be by a piece of Jennifer Lawrence’s flank, or some such thing. However, in this dystopian construction of celebrity culture, what lefty polemicist Chris Hedges calls “moral nihilism,” such behavior is the norm and people will line up for hours to get a piece of it, as it were.
Seeking biological communion with our social betters is a dynamite idea, and it’s fascinating to see the fruit of David’s loins keep the Cronenberg name associated with nasty body horror. And this one has a few nasty scenes.
A terrific debut. We were excited to see more of what the son had to offer, but sadly, requests for an interview were turned down by his agent. Perhaps celebrity culture has gotten to his head — or ours? Nah. Our mandate is to showcase and support young filmmakers, of which he’s certainly one. And our offer still stands.
A bit plodding in parts, Brandon Cronenberg trimmed six minutes before this was released. Still, very much worth a look and worth looking forward to more like this.
***1/2 (out of 5)