If you’re familiar with the golden age of horror, you are most likely familiar with David Cronenberg. Director of The Fly, Videodrome, Scanners, and last year’s Crimes of the Future, Cronenberg is most often associated with sci-fi and body horror. His films usually feature visceral and disgusting body transformations that actually have much deeper meaning to them beyond just being gross. He tends to pinpoint the psychological effect brought on by the warping and manipulation of the human body, often being the manifestation of deep trauma in a physical form. His films are certainly out there but his voice is so unique that it’s easy to see how his work has inspired so many horror movies of the past few decades.
And it just so happens that he has a son, the terrifically named Brandon Cronenberg. Brandon has been following in his father’s footsteps by continuing the family tradition of producing trippy, futuristic horror films that use grotesque and frightening imagery to spotlight the human mind and instinct. His latest film Infinity Pool is another notch in the belt, but does it manage to balance the nightmares with the commentary? Let’s find out.
Set in the fictional country of Lakota, a husband and wife, played by Alexander Skarsgard and Cleopatra Coleman respectively, are vacationing together at a lovely inclusive resort. Skarsgard’s James is a writer looking to find inspiration after not releasing a book for six years after his debut was received, well, less than kindly. Yet he is surprised to meet a woman who claims to be a fan of his book, Gabi, played by Mia Goth. The two hit it off and bring their significant others along for a night of drinking, picnicking, and invasive personal questions about their relationships. Yet when the group decides to travel outside the gates of the resort, they are introduced to a dark, twisted practice going on in the country that essentially allows those with money to get away with twisted criminal acts.
And honestly that’s all I really want to say on the plot because I do think this film will be best enjoyed when you go in blind like I did. The central concept is pretty interesting and certainly pulls from the wheelhouse we’ve come to expect from the Cronenbergs. It’s graphic and disturbing while also being humorous and satirical, blending together sci-fi and psychedelic elements to craft an engaging, if not familiar, commentary on the limits humans are willing to go to commit atrocities.
Gotta say, what a 180 to see Alexander Skarsgard go from bloodthirsty, revenge-seeking viking to just a pathetic, malleable, worm of a man. But you know, he sells it. James is one of those guys chasing that dream of success we all strive for, but really he’s benefiting off of the outside forces assisting him rather than his own talent. He’s a bit of a leech considering his wife is wealthy and her father owns a publishing house, and rather than really showing any signs of trying to improve his work or, you know, try anything else for a career, he decides to wallow in his own self-pity, probably hoping it makes him look more like the “starving artist” he probably envisions himself as. Truth be told, I can actually kind of relate to him at times. That’s why he’s a great character to follow, as it’s clear he’s operating from a very real level of discouragement that we often self-inflict upon ourselves. And of course, once he’s accepted into a group of higher social class, he’s willing to go along with whatever they say because of their perceived value in him. Mia Goth’s Gabi is the catalyst for James’ initiation, and she does with her own patented brand of delightfully over-the-top insanity. Goth’s performance is seductive, commanding, and often pretty funny, reveling in weirdness the characters here often find themselves in. Said weirdness ranges from assault, heavy drug use, orgies, and other criminal activities.
While the film isn’t as heavy on bodily deformation like you’d expect from David’s work, there’s still plenty of violence and disturbing imagery that manages to remain grounded and shocking without being too out there. While I think this was the right choice for the graphic imagery, I do wish more could have been done with a lot of the psychedelic scenes we get. Don’t get me wrong, they’re interesting to look at and get the job done, but they also feel a bit too familiar. I was really looking for more that would solidify Brandon’s identity and style; something that would feel unique to his work. Unfortunately, some of these visuals take a very straight-forward approach that I wish could have had a different spin put on them. Where Brandon’s style does come through is in the film’s structure and storytelling. He has a very clear direction of how to present these visceral scenes that goes beyond simple shock value. They showcase genuine anxiety and dig into how far humans are willing to go with doing what they want when repercussions are basically non-existent. It’s an “eat the rich” type tale that presents the undeniable fun that can be had with little limitations, while also showing the evil that comes with this kind of self-indulgent behavior. There’s an invincibility we all wish for that never really feels obtainable unless you have the money and means to do so. These ideas also tie into the aforementioned themes to dissect toxic masculinity, self-doubt, nepotism and even infantilization in such a weird but entertaining way. I do think these ideas don’t exactly come completely full circle in a very interesting way, ending up where you expect and leaving us with a conclusion that felt kind of like wasted potential. Yet it’s clear Cronenberg already has more of a grasp on experimental storytelling than most, taking a very familiar theme of “eat the rich” and attempting to dissect what really causes people like this to do bad things. It reminded me a lot of Parasite in that, and while I don’t think it’s quite as poignant, I do have to give B. Cronenberg props because I’m super excited to see him continue to develop his style.
Overall, I definitely recommend this film if you’re looking for a horror film that’s a bit out there but is still so accessible with a straightforward story and easy to grasp themes. Its dark but underlyingly comedic tone is solid, while its performances are entertaining and off the wall, and it has a lot more to say than most modern horror movies. Maybe we should be keeping an eye on these Cronenbergs.
A root named the Ekki Gate is frequently smoked by the rich delinquents in the film, which leads to multiple acts of violence, adultery and juvenile debauchery. It gave me an idea for a cocktail that matches the perceived smokiness and earthiness that comes with partaking in the root. For this cocktail I’ve achieved these flavors through the mixing of matcha with rye whiskey and coconut water, giving it a vegetal and slightly refreshing profile. Additionally, I’ve used a homemade blueberry puree to add more variety to the drink’s color, while also adding some natural sweetness. Throw in some charred cinnamon, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for your own night of delinquency. Just remember, you’ve only got one life. Unless you have money.
- 2oz rye whiskey
- 3oz coconut water
- 1/4tsp matcha powder
- 1/2oz blueberry puree
- 1 cinnamon stick (additional for garnish)
- Before preparing the drink, ignite a cinnamon stick and trap the smoke inside a rocks glass.
- Add all ingredients (except blueberry puree) to a shaker and shake without ice to incorporate the matcha powder with the liquids.
- Add ice to shaker and shake to chill.
- Pour blueberry puree into prepared rocks glass.
- Add large ice cube.
- Strain cocktail into glass.
- Garnish with smoked cinnamon stick.