Don’t miss one of horror’s leading ladies, Denise Gossett, the actress and beloved founder and festival director of Los Angele’s SHRIEKFEST, talk about horror, Halloween, acting, Mel Gibson, and much more.
[108 minutes. Unrated. Director: Brandon Cronenberg]
On one hand, it’s a highly ironic (and apt) metaphor for our global obsession with celebrity culture: if injecting diseases carried by soon-to-be-deceased stars brings fans closer to their icons, the question is not “why” but “why not?”
Continuing this superficial attitude: for all the faux celebs mentioned throughout the film, we never know why any one is famous. In a very literal example of “conspicuous consumption,” grayish meat products derived from celebrity cells are consumed in an act of (assumed) synthesis.
Heck, even ANTIVIRAL’s notion of encrypting diseases to make them accessible only to the purchaser is like a tongue-in-cheek riff on the anti-piracy warning that prefaces every DVD nowadays.
Furthermore, the film is about subverting the conventions of beauty and masculinity that cinema has flaunted since the days before Marilyn Monroe and James Dean.
Take Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones – THE LAST EXORCISM), for instance: a homely, pale, and pony-tailed salesman for celebrity viruses, working within the bright-white walls of the Lucas Clinic, he is the antithesis of a desirable protagonist. On a moral level, this persuasive yet sleazy character is not above using himself as a vessel to smuggle viruses for distribution on the black market. When he infects himself with whatever’s befallen blonde beauty Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon – COSMOPOLIS), he finds himself entangled in a conspiracy between rival disease hucksters while trying to stay alive. The way Syd’s physical appearance gels with his moral duplicity and his eventual descent into a wheezing, blood-spitting aberration of humanity is handled with proper queasiness – he transmutes into his own distinctive metaphor.
Writer-director Brandon Cronenberg (son of David) shows great interest in satirizing common perceptions of “cool” and “sexy.” Syd is frequently seen taking his temperature with an electronic thermometer – a replacement for the cigarette as cinema’s long-loved symbol of rugged bad-assery; when a walking-cane is used, it may as well be standing in for a motorcycle; and when a hand smeared in disease-infested blood is raised to a healthy face, it’s the equivalent of a young rebel aiming a gun at a small-town store clerk.
Hell, Jones even speaks in a gravelly, Brandoesque baritone to drive the point home. It’s a physically expressive performance that signals the promise of an up-and-coming character actor.
That being said, ANTIVIRAL is sometimes too brainy – and too preoccupied with establishing its “difference” from typical genre fare – for its own good. Villainous characters hash out their conflicts with five-dollar words instead of the venereal aberrations associated with the elder Cronenberg’s films (alas, no cancer-guns to be found here). In other words: a little less talk and a little more creative grotesquery would have gone a long way. Additionally, the pacing is awkward – after a strong opening, things drag for 30 minutes before building up again (less of the ironic, water-cooler banter between Lucas Clinic employees and fewer sinister subplots would have helped tighten things up).
While ANTIVIRAL won’t make anyone forget the more renowned Cronenberg, it’s still exciting to witness the cinematic birth of an intriguing new talent. Here’s hoping this new flesh only strengthens with time.
3 out of 5 stars
Jonny Numb (aka Jonathan Weidler) is co-host of THE LAST KNOCK podcast.
Find his movie reviews at: http://numbviews.livejournal.com
(Photo from Flicks.co of New Zealand)
Are horror-comedies a good thing for the horror genre? You’ll find out when Billy Crash and Jonny Numb explore some of horror’s best juxtapositions, and explore why such contrasts work – and help us fend off our fear of death. What are your thoughts on horror-comedy?
Check us out on iTunes and leave us a review if you enjoy our show!
David Paul Baker has taken on one ambitious challenge: to make one movie a month for a year, starting this month. Find out how he’s going to do it during our special episode of “The Last Knock.” We’ll also discuss his film, MISSION X, and the forthcoming horror SCREEN, as well as his appearance in CRAWL BITCH CRAWL. Want more information? Check out his website here to keep up with whirlwind progress over the next year!
In today’s podcast Women’s Rites PartII: Wicked Women, Billy Crash and Jonny Numb explore how women are treated in horror films, this time from the perspective of the villainous. Or are they? Misogyny and stereotypes may still play a role, which could also lead to more ambiguous characters of the genre. Come join us for Episode 12 of The Last Knock. And keep an eye out for a bonus podcast this week: Billy Crash’s interview with Director David Paul Baker.
If you enjoy our podcasts, leave us a review on iTunes! Reviews help us climb the charts and let more people know about us!
Ghost stories are the number one sub-genre of horror. After all, tales of spirits and hauntings have permeated cultures around the globe for millennia. And whether literature, comic books, radio or television shows, or stage and cinema, ghostly productions abound to the point where many may not even notice that zombies and vampires, and any other creatures in horror, pale in comparison.
In the recent craze over THE CONJURING, it seems that many horror fans are in desperate need of a decent genre film to rally behind, and have placed James Wan’s “good” movie up on a very high pedestal. Sadly, for all its greatness, a trite story will keep this feature from scaring up super stardom in the end, regardless of what critics and fans think who are emotionally caught up in the furor.
However, the following ten have tremendous staying power because of their foundation, which is the same for every story: excellent storytelling. As THE CONJURING proved, wonderful directing, acting, cinematography, music, and special effects can only go so far. Story is king. These ten have it – and I’m sure you’ll see a bit of THE CONJURING in each one of them.
To learn more, check out “The Last Knock” episode: “If the Spirit Moves You”: http://crashpalaceproductions.com/crash-discussion-if-the-spirit-moves-you-the-last-knock-looks-at-ghost-stories/
Paranormal Activity (2007)
A young couple monitors a haunting in their home that only gets worse…
With a word of mouth campaign that brought it to screens around the world, Oren Peli’s found footage film relies on the simple fears that many of us may have experienced in our childhood. And all these elements add up to one suspenseful trip that doesn’t end until the lights come on.
Shutter (Thailand, 2004)
Involved in a hit and run, a photographer’s pictures begin to reveal strange images…
The creep factor is high in Thailand’s best horror tale to date. Directors Banjong Pisanthanaku and Parkpoom Wongpoom keep the audience on alert as Ananda Everingham leads us through his own murky misadventure. Forget the third-rate and laughable American version.
The Haunting (UK/USA, 1963)
A group investigation of Hill House is a nightmare for an immature woman…
Director Robert Wise adhered to Shirley Jackson’s novel as best he could, and he delivered on the creepiness. This thrilling haunted house tale features Nell (Julie Harris), a socially awkward soul who feels she belongs to Hill House. Should she escape, or is she right where she belongs?
The Legend of Hell House (UK, 1973)
When a wealthy gentleman wants you to prove ghost exists, the money isn’t enough…
Whether the music, cinematography, or the late, great Richard Matheson’s penchant for not letting an audience catch its breath, John Hough’s film is designed to take major bites out of one’s soul. And like the characters, the audience is trapped in claustrophobia.
The Shining (UK/USA, 1980)
A man’s overcome by the spiritual weight of a hotel, and attacks his family…
There isn’t much left to be said about one of the most celebrated ghost films of all time, except that the more you watch it, the more you learn about Kubrick’s attention to imagery. And the Overlook will maintain a hold on you whether you’ve seen the movie once or a hundred times.
A Tale of Two Sisters (South Korea, 2003)
A ghost and a nasty stepmother prevent two sisters from healing emotionally…
Kim Jee-Woon’s masterpiece is as overwhelming as it is beautiful. And for any horror, Mo-gae Lee’s cinematography outshines all comers. The acting, spectacle, and emotional torment is enough to keep one frozen as this dramatic and intriguing tale unfurls to a riveting conclusion.
The Sixth Sense (1999)
A boy works with a therapist to stop ghosts from visiting him…
“I see dead people” is one of cinema’s most recognized catch phrases, but for first timers, this shocker of a movie will have you standing up wondering what the hell happened – before you watch it again. Shyamalan’s best. And one of only two horror films that ever made me cry.
The Orphanage (Spain, 2007)
A mother is on a mission to find her missing son at the orphanage where she was raised…
Belén Rueda shines as the mother who won’t give up even well all seems lost. The beauty of this film, from JA Bayona’s directing to the cinematography and music, is enough to make this one of the very best dramatic ghost stories of all time. This is the second horror to make me cry.
The Ring (Japan/USA, 2002)
People who watch a videotape will die in seven days…
While Rachel (Naomi Watts) tries to solve this intriguing mystery, others may be indulging in the original RINGU (Japan, 1998) – and find themselves falling asleep. This sobering thriller, however, will definitely keep you awake, and the makeup effects are mindblowing.
The Changeling (Canada, 1980)
The ghost of a dead boy has volunteered you to help him…
George C. Scott stars as a man who lost it all, and tries to find solid ground in a house with a story to tell. The scares in this one are so strong, even thinking about them is enough to give me a chill. This is a must see ghost tale of suspense and mystery, and the ugliness of the bitter truth.
Check these out. Leave a note, and let me know what you think. And never fear, I already know some of you despise PARANORMAL ACTIVITY because “nothing happened.” Well, that movie brings me right back to the horrific nightmares that kept me awake night after night as a boy – and that power’s hard to deny.
Regardless, I did like THE CONJURING, but didn’t love it. James Wan hasn’t directed his best movie yet, but he’s certainly closer. And I can’t wait for that day to happen. After all, INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 will be released on September 13…
(Photo from Movie Poster Shop.)
In Women’s Rites, Part I: Heroines of Horror, Billy Crash and Jonny Numb explore the treatment of female characters in the genre, from screamers and fainters who need to be saved by men, to women who can win the day on their own terms. Misogyny: be damned!
Next week’s Wicked Women, Part II not only focuses on the villain, but the ambiguous female characters of horror cinema.