There’s no denying the connective tissue of filmmaking between heralded auteur David Cronenberg and his son Brandon. In the grand scheme though, while David’s use of body horror is used to convey his life long theme of humanities evolutions; Brandon’s path leads down a slightly more conventional road. While not mainstream pieces of fluff, his storytelling has been much tighter than the majority of his father’s work. Brandon’s new film, Infinity Pool, continues that trend–but does that make it a brilliant work of art?
Struggling author James Foster (Alexander Skarsgård) and his wife Em (Cleopatra Coleman) are on vacation at an isolated resort. The resort is itself a compound. Fenced in from the rest of the world with guards at the exit and razor wire on top the perimeter, guests are shielded from what is described as the poverty stricken, criminally infested villages that surround it. James chose this destination in the hopes it would spark his writers block.
When a fan (Mia Goth) of his first novel recognizes James, she offers to take James and Em to parts of the city the resort won’t let them access. Along the way, an accident occurs and James could be in for quite the punishment if the local police catch up to him. When they do, James is offered an ultimatum to his possible punishment which leads him down a strange a twisted road.
Look at any marketing for Infinity Pool and you’ll already know a large part of the film’s plot. Luckily, I was able to avoid seeing the trailer and looking at the synopsis before seeing the film. That is why this review will be void of specific details. If someone comes across this review and it persuades them to see the film, but they still don’t know what the whole concept is; that is a win. Much like James, not knowing what is about to come helps the viewer get lost in the journey along with him.
Part of Infinity Pool are straight up brilliant. While the film opens up to a black screen with some mumbled dialog that is hard to understand and shifts straight into a very on the nose shot of James’s world turning upside down, it felt like Cronenberg was trying too hard to be clever. But as soon as the story officially kicks off there are strokes of a genius both technically and narratively. The rack focus on Skarsgård during his initial interrogation putting him front and center and turning Thomas Kretschmann who plays police inspector Thresh into globule black mass alien is worth the price of entry alone.
What Infinity Pool lacks is cohesiveness. Themes of hedonism, violence, and excess are forefront. And while the final shots of the film can tie together a familiar visual flair of regret and misunderstanding reminiscent of The Graduate; their connection to the story as a whole feels a miss. Whether it’s David or Brandon Cronenberg, shocking images of blood and gore can be expected.
But in a David C. film, the grotesque and gruesome are somewhat fleeting and tied tightly to the film’s theme. Infinity Pool on the other hand, while tied to the story itself, focuses on the specifics and detail of both brutality and sexuality for just a little too long. Making it feel like excess for excess’s sake. Sure, that is in way what the whole film is about, but it still feels disjointed in ways.
At certain points Skarsgård’s performance is perfectly on point and subdued in all the right ways, while still being emotional. Then at other time’s he’s forcing the levels of inebriation and glee just a little too far. Goth also suffers from this issue as she is restrained, walking a fine line for most of the film. Then she is let off the reigns and goes into full Mia Goth mode, and she steps so far over the line, it becomes a joke.
Infinity Pool certainly isn’t for everyone. There is the blood and gore factor for some. But it only occurs so often. There is a lot of graphic sexual content that may turn some viewers off too. And if you think you know you’re ok with it, you may not be ready for a penis to shoot outwards from a vagina like it was the smaller mouth of the Xenomorph from Alien attacking it’s prey. Then again, what I was shown was the NC-17 version. Some of these items might be missing from the rated R release.
In many ways, Infinity Pool is an amalgamation of Nature Born Killers meets The Trial, but way of Riley Stearns, Dual. On initially thinking about that, Infinity Pool should be a straight up success. Though, in the end, it is more of a great try that just doesn’t hit the target perfectly.
Final Grade: C+