Antiviral (TOP)

Brandon Cronenberg‘s debut feature, Antiviral, is clearly influenced by his father’s David’s work. Set in a dystopian future in which celebrity obsession has gotten completely out of hand, the film focuses on Caleb Landry Jones‘ Syd March, a young salesman who likes to get high off his own product. For the most part, Antiviral is a series of icky images of gouts of blood and needles, but it also tries to make an interesting comment about our society’s fascination with celebrity.

The Players:

  • Writer/ Director: Brandon Cronenberg
  • Cast: Caleb Landry Jones, Sarah Gadon, Malcolm McDowell
  • Cinematography: Karim Hussain

The Plot:

Syd March is a young man who works for the Lucas Clinic, a company that harvests diseases from celebrities and then injects them into paying clients. Wanting to make extra money, Syd smuggles the diseases in his body to sell them into the black market. When famed actress Hannah Geist (Gadon) is sickened with an unknown virus, Syd quickly injects himself with it, but soon loses his sanity and health due to the effects of the unusual sickness.

The Good:

  • Caleb Landry Jones: Jones offers a compelling performance. He moves through this surreal nightmare like a hunchback zombie, pale, sick and sometimes bloody. Syd is an obsessed young man, and even in his dying state, he goes to great lengths to get a glimpse of the world’s most coveted actress (whom he also covets). As the lead, he’s able to carry the film as it gets weirder and weirder and weirder.
  • Brandon Cronenberg’s Style: One could say that the young Cronenberg traced his film off of one of his father’s earlier works, but that wouldn’t be fair. Though David Cronenberg has influenced his son greatly, and it’s nice to see that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree (especially if you like the tree), the young filmmaker sticks to his own style. He paints a pale, harsh portrait of a celebrity-obsessed society. He uses Toronto as his background, dresses his actors in black and provides white-walled interiors. These are all smart choices that heighten the effect of this disturbing film.

The Bad:

  • Action And Ideas Wear Off: Antiviral starts off as a mystery. One doesn’t really know what’s happening, but somehow that’s okay, thanks to the eye-grabbing Jones. Once the mystery starts to unfold, you realize that people are having celebrities for lunch and willingly injecting themselves with deadly viruses. This is a very interesting notion. Cronenberg is trying to make a statement about our society’s illogical fascination with celebrity. He introduces the concept rather well, but eventually the action wears off and so do his ideas.


As a first attempt, Antiviral is a success. Cronenberg’s film loses some steam towards the end, but he still gets a captivating performance from his lead actor, and that makes it worth watching. Still, if you’re easily disturbed by needles and oozes of blood, you might want to rethink this one.

The Rating: 6.5/10

Antiviral hits New York and VOD today, and opens in Los Angeles on April 19, 2013. 

Photo Gallery:


Will you be seeing Antiviral this weekend?