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Photo: Courtesy of Neon
There’s something especially shocking about a close-up of a stabbing. Even with movies trying to find more creative and extreme ways to kill people on screen, there is a visceral intimacy that comes with watching a knife penetrate flesh.
If you find that unnecessarily gross, I’d advise staying away from Brandon Croneberg’s Infinity Pool
. Cronenberg certainly understands the power of a good stabbing, but it’s far from the only trick he’s got up his considerably disgusting sleeve.
The film has been branded as one of the most shocking horror movies ever, and while it falls short of that standard in the way that most hyperbole does, it does provide a supremely nasty trip to the theater.
Set in an unclear period of time in a fictional Eastern European country, Infinity Pool
follows James and Em Foster (Alexander Skarsgård and Cleopatra Coleman), a couple fraying at the seams. They head to an all-inclusive resort where James, a writer failing creatively, and financially and propped up by his wealthy wife, meets superfan Gabi (Mia Goth), who convinces the couple to join her and her husband on some off-the-rails debauchery. A drunken accident leads to all kinds of revelations about the island, its people, and the characters we thought we knew.
Cronenberg deals with a lot of ideas and plot threads here, including, but certainly not limited to orgies, the corruption of the tourism industry, the corruption of the rich, whether or not we know if we’re really who we think we are, the creepiest masks ever, and lots of the aforementioned stabbings.
Unfortunately, like in his gorgeous, but shallow film Possessor
, Cronenberg never fully commits to the film's most interesting idea (no spoilers here, but it makes for a wild twist). Cronenberg also lacks any true focus on demonizing the rich, never really expanding on the theme enough to make it deserving of occupying so much screen time.
click to enlarge
Photo: Courtesy of Neon
Alexander Skarsgård in Infinity Pool
People naturally keep comparing Cronenberg to his famous father, but so far, his style veers closer to Alex Garland: a master technician who explores fascinating ideas, occasionally trying to say so much that he’s saying nothing at all.
Still, it's worth overlooking any shortcomings to enjoy the visual treat that is Infinity Pool
. While much will be centered around the staggering violence (seriously, the queasy should not attend), more impressive is the formal control on display here, the representation of futuristic weirdness through hypnotic practical effects, disorientation, and clever lighting effects (those prone to epilepsy should also exercise caution).
Cronenberg also draws out delirious performances from game actors here, with Skarsgård and Goth both delivering standout lead performances. Skarsgård once again proves he’s willing to demean himself, both physically and mentally, to uncover a new layer of his humanity, or lack thereof, as well as provide a lot of new internet material related to him in a leather dog collar.
Goth continues her full transformation into the modern queen of horror, her baby-doll voice, alien-like features, and seeming ability to flip between quirky and unhinged at any given moment making her one of the most unpredictable actors working today. Her energy matches the film as a whole, a blistering trainwreck of bodily fluids and general unpleasantness.
The willingness to be uncompromising and unflinching instantly makes Infinity Pool
more interesting than 90% of the films coming out (some credit should also go to Neon for trusting audiences to have enough interest in it to give it a wide release). But, at this point, after making several films, Cronenberg should focus less on indulgence and more on making a stone-cold Great Movie. With Infinity Pool
, he keeps dancing around it, but never quite finds the gear to get him there.
is now playing at theaters in Pittsburgh and nationwide.