Skip to main content

ALERT: KPBS 89.5FM is undergoing scheduled upgrade work which may result in a temporary signal outage. Click here to listen on our radio stream.

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Racial Justice

Review: ‘Antiviral’

Like Father, Like Son

Brandon Cronenberg's

Credit: Alliance Films

Above: Brandon Cronenberg's "Antiviral" reveals the influence of his father David but with a style all his own.

KPBS film critic Beth Accomando review "Antiviral"


Filmmaker David Cronenberg once told me he’s not interested in "comfortable cinema." Well he's apparently passed that onto his son Brandon Cronenberg whose debut film is "Antiviral" (playing April 26 and 27 at 10pm only at Reading Gaslamp Stadium Theaters).

Originality is a rare commodity in art, so when something fresh and unexpected comes my way, it’s cause for celebration. Brandon Cronenberg’s “Antiviral” is cause for celebration. The son of director David Cronenberg, Brandon reveals his dad’s flair for cold, clinical brilliance; body horror; and a knack for unnerving his audience. Dad's influence is clearly apparent but Brandon does not live in his father's shadow. He definitely displays a cinematic voice of his own -- but you can see the family lineage and in this case it's a good thing.

“Antiviral” is Brandon Cronenberg’s cerebral sci-fi take on the cult of celebrity combined with anxieties over genetic science and big business. In the world of “Antiviral” fans can buy viruses from their favorite celebrities at elite clinics designed to feed their obsessions for a hefty price. The main character, Syd (Caleb Landry Jones, Banshee of "X-Men: First Class") works at the swanky Lucas Clinic where he pitches these viruses as if he were selling a little piece of perfection. It’s big business and corporations want to protect their investments. Here's how the founder of Lucas Clinic explains it in the film: "This advanced form of copy protection affords us control over the distribution of our products as the product cannot spread beyond the infected client."

Imagine if they put all that time, energy, and resources into finding a cure for cancer or AIDS. But where's the profit in that? For those without disposable income, there’s a semi-legal meat market where you can buy steaks grown from the cells of your favorite celebrity. Which prompts Syd to ponder: "I don’t understand how this is not considered cannibalism." The answer he gets is that it's just muscle cells but "We’ll see what happens when we go from growing celebrity cell steaks to growing celebrity bodies."

The film is exquisitely shot, meticulously crafted, and deliciously unsettling. From the opening shot -- of a sickly Syd against the massive billboard of a gorgeous celebrity -- we know we are in the hands of a skilled filmmaker and it's thrilling.

“Antiviral” is a chilly, smart, satiric, and deeply uncomfortable film that dissects the ills of modern society with a very precise scalpel. I can't wait to see more from Brandon Cronenberg, Canadian horror filmmakers (David Cronenberg, The Soska Twins, Vincenzo Natali) are doing some of the most interesting work in the genre because they are not copping out to what's trendy but pursuing something that reveals a more personal obsession with the darkness that makes horror truly scary or disquieting.

Companion viewing: "Videodrome," "eXistenz," "Splice"


San Diego News Now podcast branding

San Diego news; when you want it, where you want it. Get local stories on politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings. Hosted by Anica Colbert and produced by KPBS, San Diego and the Imperial County's NPR and PBS station.

  • Your curated weekly guide to local arts and culture in San Diego, from Arts Calendar Editor Julia Dixon Evans, delivered to your inbox every Thursday afternoon.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Photo of Beth Accomando

Beth Accomando
Arts & Culture Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover arts and culture, from Comic-Con to opera, from pop entertainment to fine art, from zombies to Shakespeare. I am interested in going behind the scenes to explore the creative process; seeing how pop culture reflects social issues; and providing a context for art and entertainment.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.