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Booth's Blog - Antiviral
By Emily Booth, Saturday 5th November 2016
Emily with meat cleaverIt seems Andy Warhol hit the nail on the head with his prophetic quote 'everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes'. Craving fame has long been a growing concern, but now seems to have reached fever pitch. What with reality TV and social media, dreams of fame are becoming totally achievable. From celebrity-obsessed magazines, to people posting their entire lives on social media to be scored and validated by the rest of us, it seems we are all aiming for perfection and popularity on a grand scale. And are we surprised?! As we're bombarded with images of, for example, Kim Kardashian and her extreme wealth, her fortunate life achieved by simply having her own reality TV show, of course other people with nothing will wish they had the same.

Of course people become addicted to tapping into the kind of life they will probably never have. With envy comes obsession. I find this subject fascinating, and I'm clearly not alone, considering Brandon Cronenberg's astounding Antiviral, which gets its UK TV premiere this Sunday on Horror.

In Cronenberg's vision of a bleakly superficial future, getting closer to your favourite celebrity has never been easier, and it's all at the tip of a needle. Perhaps making a metaphorical comment about people going under the knife to look like their favourite celebrity, in Cronenberg's future common people can now be injected with the diseases and infections of their chosen celebrity, tapped directly from the source, and thereby become contaminated with a part of their actual biology; albeit with some nasty side effects. This sickening service has, in this version of the world, become big business. We follow Syd March, a salesman of celebrity viruses, as he injects himself with various cold sores and flus to take them direct to clients on the black market. However, when he contracts a lethal disease from a very famous actress, he must solve the mystery of her death before his time is up.

Antiviral

Brandon Cronenberg has clearly inherited his father David's love of body horror, and interest in how the body and society integrate with science and technology, as he paints a picture in pure white of a seemingly flawless clinical world; a world devoid of any real human connection, but rather a cold and depressing existence of 'us' and 'them', and our desperation to close that gap. We are taken to a sinister restaurant where customers can eat a steak lined with the cells of their favourite celebrity, another metaphor exploring how utterly we want to consume them, and how willing they are to give themselves to us, for a price of course.

It's not often you find a horror with a completely original story and a fresh social commentary that reflects the world today. I love films that do this, bringing an extra depth that actually gets your grey matter working, and the horror genre provides the perfect stage on which to explore the human condition through fantasy and fear.

The film itself is beautifully shot, albeit rather bleak. Every frame has an intention and is thought out, while the acting of the lead (Caleb Landry Jones, Byzantium and soon to be star of the Twin Peaks remake) is chillingly perfect and underplayed. Brandon Cronenberg is definitely one to watch, and I'm so glad there's a director out there still pushing boundaries and making us think! Look out for his next film currently in pre-production, Possessor, which also follows themes of body, money, and invasion. It's a Brave New World...

Antiviral gets its UK TV premiere on Horror this Sunday 6th November at 9pm.


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