For the cinematically daring, 'Infinity Pool' worth the plunge
Combining blood, sex and clones, the latest from Brandon Cronenberg is not for the squeamish.
The psycho sicko shocker "Infinity Pool" is such a work of hysterical debauchery that in any other hands it would hail the arrival of a gnarly new cinematic voice. But since it comes from Brandon Cronenberg, son of button pushing Canadian auteur David Cronenberg, it simply confirms he's a chip off the old block.
Don't hold that against Cronenberg, or "Infinity Pool." The disturbing, funny, twisted, strange sci-fi nightmare is a dark plunge into the human condition, or possibly just an exercise in extreme boundary pushing. Either way, it's tough to take your eyes off of it, or the film's central figure of terror.
That's Mia Goth, who last year double dipped with "X" and "Pearl" and became the film world's reigning queen of indie scream. Here she's back, her eyebrows either dyed or shaved off (it's hard to tell which), playing Gabi, a seductive figure at a far off vacation resort who beguiles new arrival James (Alexander Skarsgård).
James is an author six years removed from his only work, which was both critically and commercially ignored, and he's struggling to find inspiration for a follow-up. Enter the trip to Li Tolqa (it's a fictional European state, don't bother looking it up, though once you learn what happens there you won't want to go anyway), which James takes with his wife Em (Cleopatra Coleman), hoping to clear up his mental fog.
What he finds is adulation from Gabi, a professed superfan of James' work, who convinces James and Em to join her and her husband Alban (Jalil Lespert) on an excursion outside the grounds of their swanky resort. Weirdness ensues — Gabi's not really one for respecting one's personal space, let's say — and on the way back to the resort at night there's an accident involving a dark road, a drifter and a body that they suddenly need to figure out, and fast.
It's not long before James is picked up by authorities, and sadly the punishment for crimes in Li Tolqa is execution. But they do things a little bit differently here: James is presented with the option of being cloned and having his double take the fall for the crime, all while he gets to watch as a spectator. Better than the alternative, he figures. So he witnesses his own execution, which offers a strange sensation, and James likes it — more than a little.
It turns out Gabi and Alban are well acquainted with the clone-crime loophole, and are actually part of a gang of lawless heathens who make a sport out of exploiting the system. As James falls in deep with them, Cronenberg cranks up everything — the volume, the intensity, the bloodletting — and along the way signals the works of Eli Roth, Gaspar Noe and of course, his father.
The daring Skarsgård cuts a swath somewhere between sympathetic and psychotic, and Goth gets to sink her teeth deep into her part, ramping up every bit of the crazy that she brought to "Pearl." Here she's even more unglued, comfortable in Cronenberg's state of unreality, and the scene where she berates Skarsgård's character while drinking wine and laying on the hood of a slow-moving convertible won't soon be forgotten.
Neither will "Infinity Pool." Cronenberg, who also directed 2020's similarly disturbing "Possessor," has a knack for creating moody, tense, unnerving atmospheres and shock cinema that genuinely shocks. Eventually his pool will have to get a little deeper. But for now, the joy is in watching him and his characters willfully cascade over the edge.
Rated R: for graphic violence, disturbing material, strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and some language
Running time: 117 minutes