Brandon Cronenberg’s latest film Infinity Pool will inevitably draw comparisons to the work of his more (in)famous father David Cronenberg (The Fly, Videodrome) – in fact, all of his films to date seem to have done that, whether he likes it or not.
But why shouldn’t he? Contributing to what might be called a ‘Cronenberg legacy’ of sorts should not be scoffed at. After all, what’s wrong with being compared to one of the greats?
Besides, when it comes to body horror, the younger Cronenberg – at least with Infinity Pool – focuses the lens more on the inner workings of the mind than the functions of the flesh. Though there’s plenty of the latter, too.
Here’s the lowdown on what happens in this caustic thriller: While staying at an isolated island resort, author James Foster (Alexander Skarsgärd) and his wife Em (Cleopatra Coleman) are enjoying a perfect tropical vacation. But after meeting the mysterious Gabi (Mia Goth), they venture outside the resort grounds and find themselves in an isolationist culture filled with violence, hedonism, and untold horror. Then, a tragic accident leaves them facing a ‘zero tolerance policy’ for crime: either you’ll be executed, or, if you’re rich enough to afford it, you can watch yourself die instead.
Infinity Pool is like the rich tourists of White Lotus meeting a Stephen King horror all wrapped up in a disarming David Lynch mystery … but again, why go out of our way to avoid saying ‘Cronenbergian’?
Minor spoilers are ahead.
From the opening scene – actually, from the opening credits – this film sinks its claws in you and doesn’t let up until the end credits roll. There’s a constant sense of foreboding throughout, created by the thumping percussion soundtrack, slo-mo zooms and out of focus foreground shots – all of which are employed liberally to grow that feeling of unease that keeps you from looking away, even when things get particularly gruesome and blood-soaked.
Mia Goth, as Gabi, has an addictive magnetism that we are all used to the actress exuding by now, and her full commitment to the immorality of the role surely means we’ll get see her in plenty of freaky films to come. I personally look forward to watching her play a new psychopath every year.
As her hold on Skarsgärd’s Foster becomes tighter, he loses his way in reality and becomes embroiled in a fever dream of murder, sex and narcotics. This is played out with montages of neon-soaked dream sequences muddled with real memories, enhancing the ‘sexy mystery’ of it all. It’s a little old hat, sure, but it can be forgiven when couple with the inventive sequences of Foster and company being cloned in a bath of blood-like goo. That imagery will stay burned on the brain for a long, long time.
The real downside to all this happening is losing sight of Cleopatra Coleman – a very talented Australian actress – as Em Foster, who immediately disapproves of the debauchery and thus makes her way home. I felt as though we could have seen more from her and her character.
As with most plots involving body doubles, the question of ‘who is the real double?’ comes into play. It’s unavoidable. Perhaps because we as humans are constantly wondering what makes us unique, and what would set us apart from a clone.
Without spoiling everything, I’ll say that doubles of characters in the film get made multiple times. It’s quite evident that the people coming to the island are ‘death tourists’ – that is, they commit heinous crimes at their whim, because they know there are no real consequences beyond having to watch your clone die.
Skarsgärd’s talent is evident as he navigates playing both James Foster and his ‘doubles’. The transformation from put-together author and husband to lost-in-the-sauce libertine is truly something. The final sequence left me shaken.
Infinity Pool is a dark, moody and mysterious film with a sharp cynical edge that is certainly worth seeing if you’re tired of easygoing mainstream movies.
It’s rated R18+ with a 118 minute runtime.
Infinity Pool is in cinemas from 11 May