VOD film review: Antiviral
Ivan Radford | On 15, Jun 2017
Director: Brandon Cronenberg
Cast: Caleb Landry Jones
Watch Antiviral online in the UK: Shudder UK / Amazon Prime / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
Be Bond, James Bond. That’s what adverts have been screaming at audiences for years. But what about catching his cold? Brandon Cronenberg’s Antiviral creates a world in which people’s obsession with celebrities has scaled new lows. Devoted followers can now inject themselves with the same illness as their idols, sharing the symptoms in a synergy of disease.
Working for The Lucas Clinic, Syd (Jones) extracts and mutates the viruses ready for the mass market. He strolls around in a daze, pale-faced and weak – and there’s a reason for that. He smuggles out the bacteria every night in his blood, to sell on to dealers for cash. One injection too many and he finds himself dying from the same mysterious, lethal flu as female superstar Hannah Geist. Can he find a cure? Is it even a real virus?
Antiviral’s portrayal of a sick society is infectious, quickly settling in under your skin. Caleb Landry Jones coughs with all the force of Pete Postlethwaite in Brassed Off, selling his condition with a convincingly pale pallor, while the production design is creepily sterile – and even more terrifying if you hate close-ups of needles.
Once the illness starts to spread, it slips out of focus. Corporate men in suits enter the frame and the pulse sadly drops; a little tighter and this gripping fever could really take hold. Nonetheless, Brandon’s unsettling satire is full of great ideas. The most unsettling goes unspoken: cafés in the background breed steaks spawned from the cells of their favourite stars, literally serving them up to the fans as pieces of meat.
Many of these concepts, you could argue, unintentionally echo those of Brandon’s dad. But if he’s inherited the Cronenberg condition, we’re lucky he’s caught the filmmaking bug too, as he has a voice and style all his own. Antiviral packs a strong punch to the nervous system – a promising prognosis for the director’s future.
Antiviral is available to stream online on Shudder UK, as part of a £4.99 monthly subscription, or £49.99 yearly membership. It is also available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.