Directed by Brandon Cronenberg.
Starring Caleb Landry Jones, Sarah Gabon, Malcolm McDowell, Douglas Smith, Joseph Pingue and Nicholas Campbell. 105 mins.
It is always nice to see the son take over the family business. Though David Cronenberg has largely moved on to more rarefied topics, he made his name in the 70s/80s in the area of body horror, movies where the protagonists were menaced by internal rather than external threats - from grafting a blood sucking phallus to Marilyn Chambers armpit (Rabid) to slowly having Jeff Goldblum mutate into an insect (The Fly.) In his debut feature, Cronenberg Jr sends another lead character through a slow, remorseless course of physical disintegration. The father has passed down his sickness to the son.
Syd Marsh is a disease mule. In a world where people pay to be infected with the same disease as their celebrity heroes, he infects himself with the samples so that he can smuggle them out of the clinic where he works and sell them on to the black market.
The recurring Cronenberg family narrative is to turn an abstract social critique into a grotesque physical reality. Antiviral’s metaphor for the excesses of celebrity identification may seem far fetched but it is handled in such a deadpan, low key way that the credibility of this world is never challenged. This present day future is beautifully realised, all antiseptic whites and grubby backstreet meat markets.
The film isn’t just a dark satire on the absurdity of celebrity adulation but on pharmaceutical companies operating in a free market, the enforcement of intellectual property and the need for worship. It is packed with elegant ideas such as the clinic making sure that the diseases they give to their clients aren’t infectious in order to protect their copyright.