by Hope Madden
Brandon Cronenberg + Mia Goth + Alexander Skarsgård … for a very specific set of people, the sum there is hell yes.
Riding my favorite wave in horror – that rich people are unspeakably diabolical – writer/director Cronenberg takes us on a strange journey through privilege, debauchery, entitlement, boredom, narcissism, psychotropic drugs and more in his trippy new flick, Infinity Pool.
Skarsgård is James Foster, a writer of very little renown who’s vacationing on a fictional island nation with his wealthy wife (Cleopatra Coleman). They’re bored, but as luck would have it, James’s number one fan Gabi (Goth) and her husband have vowed to show them a good time.
Cronenberg’s ultimate concept is clearly, wildly his own, but moments sometimes call to mind ideas from last year’s Speak No Evil, as well as Society, Kill List, Hour of the Wolf, and A Serbian Film (no, not that part). Still, the film never feels borrowed. Uncomfortable, yes. Borrowed? No.
James represents the regular Joe – yes, a very good-looking version, but regular, nonetheless. And no matter how long he plays the part, he’s an outsider. The truly wealthy are alien. Beyond the sci-fi insanity, beyond the outright body horror, this is the most horrific element of the film because feels honest. It touches a nerve.
In 2020, Jeff Bezos racked up more than 16k in parking tickets. Because, why not? He wanted to park there. Once you reach a certain tax bracket – which is the one where you pay no taxes at all – no rules apply. And that does not create better people.
It’s fascinating and refreshing, this particular approach to the story. These particular villains. And Goth proves once again to be a seductive menace and a force to be reckoned with.
There are certain scenes in this – one in a group holding cell at the island prison, for instance – that are as insightful, impressive and memorably horrific as anything any Cronenberg has filmed.
It’s hard to believe this is only Brandon Cronenberg’s third feature. It does not pack the visceral punch of 2020’s Possessor, but it is a satisfyingly surreal piece of class warfare and an outstanding way for the genre to kick off 2023.