Friday, September 14, 2012

TIFF 2012: Director Brandon Cronenberg, Sarah Gadon & Caleb Landry Jones "Antiviral"

Today's obsession with celebrity has reached an all-time high. Want George Clooney's chin? How about Jennifer Aniston's nose? Or Kim Kardashian's butt? Real fanatics wouldn't hesitate to visit a plastic surgeon to make themselves appear like their idol. In Antiviral, writer/director Brandon Cronenberg takes this obsession to an even sicker height.

Syd (Caleb Landry Jones) has a most unusual occupation -- he works for Lucas Clinic, a lab that specializes in deliberately infecting willing clients with celebrity diseases. In the opening scene, Syd injects a seemingly healthy boy with Syphilis inside his upper left lip. It's the ultimate devotion that a fan can express for their favourite celebrity -- contracting their viral affliction. But the insanity doesn't end there. Butchers also serve up steaks, engineered from celebrities' human cells.

Despite intense security, Syd smuggles viruses out of the lab to sell his own modified concoctions on the black market. Life goes according to plan for Syd until his superiors ask him to collect the latest virus from his favourite celebrity, Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon). After collecting her blood, Syd doesn't hesitate to inject her virus into his own bloodstream. But things take a turn for the worse for our protagonist after he discovers that Hannah's virus may be life threatening.

With Antiviral, it's obvious to see that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Cronenberg's bleak tone in the film is very similar to his father's (director David Cronenberg) work. And like his dad, Cronenberg's vision is brilliant. Antiviral is original and shocks us to no end -- and not just because of the sight of blood. The idea that celebrity obsession could go the DNA route is not far gone.  Didn't a fan recently buy a lock of Justin Bieber's hair on eBay?

Whether you're squeamish or not, Antiviral will definitely creep you out. And don't just take my word for it; I asked the elder Cronenberg (Videodrome, The Fly) to rate the creep factor on his son's film and he said: "I'd give it 9 out of 10. No, make that 9.5 out of 10."

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Antiviral hits our bloodstream on October 12th.

[Pictured above: Director David Cronenberg]

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