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Antiviral

There's something weird about Canada. It's not that they speak French or wear plaid. It's not even their freezing cold winters or their socialized health care. On second thought, their socialized health care may actually have something to do with it.

Take a look back at "Death Takes A Holiday, Sort Of" where Vickie Goldberg examines the "nearness of death to life" and how that affects the portrayal of death in media; the gist being that a lower mortality rate in life means a higher mortality rate in media. Perhaps available health care for Canadian citizens has bred the wealth of extreme body-horror movies that Canada produces.

Let me segue from that thought into today's movie adventure: Antiviral. Written and directed by Brandon Cronenberg (son of the legendary David Cronenberg). The movie fared well on the festival circuit but hasn't quite reach the popularity of any of his father's works. (And I'm sure that's an unfair comparison that he'll have to live with forever...)

I have to admit that I went into this movie with very high expectations; I'd read a great article about it in Rue Morgue a while back and I love (many) of Cronenberg's films so I wanted this movie to be nothing short of grotesque. Like, vomit-inducing.

The long and short of it is as follows:

The visual aesthetic starts in a stark, clinical landscape and contrasts that with a dirty, almost post apocalyptic look (like that of Demolition Man.) The emotional aesthetic is a nearly cringe-worthy blend of sensuality and disgust.

I kept waiting for something truly horrific to happen but it never did. Every step of the way I would say to myself, "it's coming. Something truly gross is going to happen now." 30 minutes, nothing disgusting yet. 45 minutes, nothing.

... ::sigh::

What it does have is copious amounts of blood, lots of injections, and no small amount of herpes. Yes, herpes. And a bit of the melding of human and machine (a la Videodrome or Nightmare on Elm Street 5.) And why this flesh meets machine mix? It's calling out technology as the catalyst for our cultural manias, or making it the scapegoat for our emotional disconnection from human elements.

Overall, the story felt like something Chuck Palahniuk wrote with a few shades of Repo Men (another Canadian film!) mixed in. With a strong focus on the nature of obsession (some mutated version of passion and fascination) and equal parts embracing sickness and portraying it as abhorrent, Antiviral mirrors our need to embrace and reject our mortality.

Yup. Definitely the son of the godfather of body horror.

But he also calls into question our ability to love in any traditional way. The nature of collecting, particularly in this movie, is truly self-fulfilling; an ego-stroking way to prove your devotion to someone without having to actually have a relationship with them wherein you recognize their needs and wants and feelings.

And the main character was developed in a shadowy way so that you can't really identify his motives; probably not money. Perhaps the same obsession that drives the "masses" in the movie. Maybe it's simple masochism. And really, do we care?

Wrap up time.
Antiviral is a quiet, understated, meditation on desire and addiction while still shouting loudly about the absurdity of how we create and treat celebrities.

I 90% enjoyed it and may even watch it a second time.

You can watch the Antiviral trailer here:

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