RogerBW's Blog

Antiviral 07 September 2014

2012, dir. Brandon Cronenberg, Caleb Landry Jones: IMDb / allmovie

In a world where the cult of celebrity involves taking on their diseases… pretty much everything that can go wrong with such a setup does.

Brandon Cronenberg is of course the son of David, and this is his first full-length film; his father's influence is very clear not only in the overall subject matter, but in such things as the medical closeups, the odd shot angles, the juxtaposition of diseased and sexy images, the hallucinations, the body horror in general, the oppressive soundtrack, and the black and white (and blue-tinted) set dressing. If you'd told me this film was made by David Cronenberg, I'd have had no trouble believing you.

Which is not a terrible thing: I quite enjoy many of the films of David Cronenberg. But it's a little disappointing that Brandon hasn't found a more distinctive voice; and it feels like an early Cronenberg, before he'd really got the hang of it.

I at least never really cared about Syd March, the protagonist. In Videodrome we may not have liked Max Renn but we did at least take some interest in what happened to him. Syd's dying, and is being exploited by everyone he meets? Meh, so what? I think it's a matter of contrasts: we never see Syd being nice to anyone, or having a pleasant time, so we have no reason to feel sad when bad things happen to him because that's just the baseline of his life.

There are plenty of evocative scenes as Syd gradually spirals down towards his inevitable Bad End (the only real question is what form that bad end will take), but somehow I was never quite grabbed. This isn't the sort of film you watch to find out what happens; it's a film you watch to produce in yourself the conceptual and emotional state that the filmmaker desired. Which happened a bit, to me, but not as much as I'd have liked.

Yes, it's a very effective send-up of the cult of celebrity and the conclusions to which it can lead, but it's much more about saying "hey, I've got some neat ideas" than working out ant of the implications of those ideas. Aggressive cutting would have helped, or maybe just a better writer to help with working things out, but even this imperfect piece shows definite promise. Eh, Brandon's young; he'll learn. Long live the new flesh.

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