Writers: Brandon Croneburg
Starring: Caleb Landry Jones
Jesus fucking Christ…
That’s the only adequate way of verbally capturing the reaction to the disturba-thon which is Antiviral, the debut feature from Brandon Croneburg.
The concept itself is unnerving; a future world where the cultural obsession with celebrities has reached disturbing extremes where companies infect superstars with unique designer virus’s and then sell them to the public who feel they are somehow being brought physically closer to their idols.
Its a purposely absurd idea (hopefully) which revels in the darkest of black humour but its also one which stems from a quite real obsessive behaviour which is already indulged in by fans and the media. Anitviral takes this reality and turns it into a twisted nightmare.
Syd March is at the center of this nightmare, employed as a salesman who’s interesting line of work requires him to persuade the deluded and obsessive fans which cue up around the block of his office that the latest virus on release is the one for them. Played by Caleb Landry Jones with the levels of chilling awkwardness turned up to 11, and worthy of an award if there was an one for skin crawling creepiness. March is a character not easily forgotten and hidden not too far under his intense and creepy work persona lies a suitably demented world of obsession all of his own.
Cronenberg Jr displays a highly skilled art-house directorial approach with a keen eye for stunning cinematography. A multitude of methods are used to ramp up the atmospheric uneasiness which overwhelms from the opening shots, with some particularly disorientating shots of repeating slow motion, and an uncanny mastery of a tension building sound track. His true triumph though is to create several unforgettable scenes infused with surreal horror which will be etched into your mind for a long time. The final scene in particular leaves an awful sense of confusion, transcending any conventional manner of description… it simply is something nobody has ever imagined before, and hopefully never will again. Little Croneberg, like his father, seems to have an intuitive ability to render that sense of confusion mixed with anxiety which forms our nightmares. It’s hard to imagine he will be crossing over into the mainstream any time soon.
This is undoubtedly not so much enjoyed as much as it is to be admired… and then somehow wiped from your mind… if you’re lucky. It’s also not one which should ever be recommended to friends or run the risk of being sectioned. Dark, bleak, awkward, squeemish, and not a little demented, Anitvrial will push your consciousness into realms of disturbing scifi nobody other than Cronenberg Jr could have achieved.
Which all begs the question – was daddy proud to see what his son has created?