Antiviral Review

I recall reading a disconcerting article last year about Mila Kunis and how she was in fear that an obsessive fan wanted to kill and eat her.

In new release Antiviral, such stalkerish extremism is pretty much acceptable.

The film plunges us into a world where fans can indulge in all sorts of boundless behaviour, including consuming their celebrity of choice via living matter grown from extracted cell tissue.

But wait, there’s more.

Ever imagine being able to sport the same upper-lip outgrowth as some Z-lister who was promptly booted off Celebrity Big Brother two years ago?

Well in this world it’s possible.

For a fee.

Syd March works in such a charming industry, as a successful broker of celebrity viruses. He spends his days dishing out herpes strains, flu bugs and awkwardly-located rashes like there’s no tomorrow.

Syd is good at his job yet has two flaws, the first being the unhealthy obsession he harbours over his key supplier, the beautiful Hannah Geist.

The second is the frequency with which he uses his own body to smuggle out some of his company’s product to sell on the side.

He hits a snag when he discovers that the latest Hannah Geist virus he has smuggled is in fact terminal. Bad news for Syd.

Thus ensues a race against time for our hero to discover where the virus came from and, more importantly, how it can be cured.

Brandon Cronenberg capably directs his debut full-length feature, and obviously shares the same body-horror fascination as his famous father David.

Just count the number of gratuitous intravenous injection close-ups.

You’ll recognise Caleb Landry Jones from supporting and largely comic turns in Contraband and the latest X-Men flick. Here he steps up to take centre stage as Syd, and does well.

Jones’ gaunt frame and pallor lends him a necessarily unhealthy appearance, and on an emotional level he manages to make you root for Syd; no mean feat given the character’s dubious morals and unsavoury career choice.

Which is a good thing, because there ain’t many other people to root for here.

Malcolm MacDowell pops up briefly as a creepy doctor-type, and Joe Pinque is memorably odious as one of Syd’s main black-market buyers.

The emotional centre of the film, such as it is, comes from Sarah Gadon’s performance as the vulnerable Hannah Geist, suggesting a certain cattle-like aspect in the way we view celebrities.

Sure, Antiviral conveys deep messages about obsession and how celebrity spreads like a virus. For real-world validation, all you need to do is take a look at the fan-boy petri dish that is Twitter.

Alternatively you could take it on a simpler level: as a futuristic film noir with Syd as the hapless gumshoe, ricocheting between leads and suspects. A bit like an update of the 1950 movie DOA.

This thought-provoking little number is definitely not date-night material and may escape your radar in the shadow of larger releases, but for fans of the Cronenberg family it’s definitely a recommended watch.

Conor Brennan

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Dates ‘n stuff

January 2013