By Tim O’Halloran
If you are looking for a sci-fi thriller set in the near future about a celebrity obsessed society, then Antiviral is the film for you.
Now, by obsessed, I mean so infatuated with celebrities that they want to carry the same illnesses as the celebs they love. For those of you who are thinking, “Tim! This isn’t extreme enough for me yet!”, don’t worry. You can also buy replicated human meat grown from the cells of their favorite celeb to cook and eat.
Without further ado, let’s jump into Antiviral.
The movie follow around Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones), and he works at the Lucas Clinic. The Lucas Clinic specializes in replicating diseases of celebrities that they’ve bought off the celebs themselves and sell them to obsessed fans. We learn that their main attraction is a girl by the name of Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon). The first instance of this we see is Syd selling some Hannah Geist brand herpes to a young male fan. We just jump into the craziness immediately.
Now, the way these things work is that these clinics make strains of these illnesses that once injected they are no longer communicable. Just a one hit virus. But, there is a large want for these viruses so Syd injects himself with a little bit, then at his house recreates the disease with a machine of his own. Which means that Syd is sick all the time.
This is where the movie takes an even bigger leap and we see a butcher shop where Arvid (Joe Pingue) is replicating celebrities muscle cells in these weird “cell garden”. You read that correctly. People are buying “replicated” human steak. It’s just as creepy as it sounds. We find out that Syd is selling these diseases to Arvid to sell on the black market.
We find out that Hannah has a new disease and Syd is told to go draw the blood. Which he of course takes a little and injects it into himself. This is where the ball gets rolling. Syd has a crazy delirious night that he barely survives. When he wakes up, he finds out that Hannah has died. We’re all wondering what it is that killed her because Syd has it as well.
From this point on, a bunch of other stuff happens. The movie was close to two hours long, and was definitely a half hour too long, so I’ll just skip to the good stuff. Turns out Hannah was still alive and they were trying to fake her death because she was nearly assassinated once before. Syd gets captured by the guy who was fired from Lucas Clinic earlier in the film and was going to be in a reality show, showing the people how Hannah “died”.
Syd escapes, finally gets a cure, and goes to work for Lucas Clinic’s competitors, Vole and Tesser. The final image is of Syd drinking some of Hannah’s replicated blood.
One of the main issues that the movie had was that it was trying to do just a little too much. It was a semi sci-fi, societal commenting, with bits of horror/torture elements all thrown into one pot. It would hit some of these things well, but not enough.
For the Hannah and Syd story to have worked as they wanted it, we would have had to known much more about them both. Syd was a very cold character, who didn’t even talk that much, and we couldn’t really get behind him. The film never got us rooting for his survival as much as it should have.
Next, there were some major pacing issues. Things would move from Syd being very active, and looking for answers to his problem, to him being thrown around and having no say whatsoever in what he did next. These large swings from active to passive were jarring. It was also tough to believe that they’d (they being Hannah’s assistant and doctor) send Syd, who was having to walk with a cane and was barely alive, out to look for things to cure them both. They made him too sick too early.
That being said, the movie was shot very well and looked beautiful. The performances were great, but the script just wasn’t there. Had the script either built up Syd, as well as Hannah, and made us invest in that or even gone the other way and just done a lot harder sci-fi/horror it would have been good. Playing that middle ground ultimately hurt the movie.
Starring: Caleb Landry Jones, Sarah Gadon
Directed by: Brandon Cronenberg
Runtime: 108 minutes
Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi