Writer/director Brandon Cronenberg’s latest body fluid-forward sci-fi parable further adds to the recent influx of movies about how rich people are simply the worst. What Benoit Blanc satirized with his Snagglepussian southern accent in “Glass Onion” gets slathered in a wide variety of lubricants and secretions in “Infinity Pool.” We are, at best, weeks away from “Guillotines: The Movie,” written, directed, and produced by the sons and daughters of the titular blade’s targets. The whole thing is hilarious, and only partly in the good way.
The self-loathing at the core of “Infinity Pool” does help mitigate a skewering of the imperviousness associated with wealth that is authored by the son of a legendary director. James (Alexander Skarsgård) isn’t Cronenberg’s doppelganger, but daddy issues and creative insecurities do abound in the film. Set at the kind of resort where cultures of the world are just another buffet to sample, the story hinges on cloning technology, something we can’t 100% be sure that rich people don’t already have.
James and his wife, Em (Cleopatra Coleman), get in a real murdery pickle after drinking with Gabi (Mia Goth) and her husband, Alban (Jalil Lespert). As a result, they discover that the fictional island nation they’re visiting allows outsiders to pay big money to create an exact replica of themselves, complete with the same memories all the way to and through the legal infraction. That replica then receives the punishment with a capital P. A club of resort guests who have experienced the duplication process welcome James in and begin doing increasingly grotesque and upsetting stuff. That journey peaks with an epilepsy-inducing drug/orgy sequence that is absolutely going to sexually confuse some folks.
Although it lacks the precision and cohesion of Cronenberg’s previous film, “Possessor,” the riff on “The Most Dangerous Game” still has plenty of charm. That is, if you consider vile deviants in horrifying masks violating all codes of moral decency “charming.” Goth and Skarsgård are performers absolutely born for this material. She knows precisely when to surrender to the blatant bonkers of it all; he cuts a very convincing martyr/satyr hybrid. The much-hyped gore is actually fairly purposeful, and the icky-gross “erotic” stuff is pretty hilarious, purposeful or not.
What sucks, pun intended for those who finish this one, is that “Infinity Pool” so clearly deserved a superior conclusion and final act. Nobody expected a final thesis that said anything other than “These people are irredeemably awful.” But instead of feeling simply obvious, the resolution feels like the imagination ran out, all creativity having been spent in figuring out the most literal symbolic imagery possible.
When it clicks, “Infinity Pool” conjures a body horror “Spring Breakers” infused with a salient-but-obvious criminal justice critique. When it collapses, it feels like yet-another artist’s meta-lament, albeit one that acknowledges the creator’s own privilege. It’s a mixed bag filled to the brim with grotesqueries, like a Ziploc full of eyeballs and breast milk. If that image alone was too much, consider it your litmus test for avoiding this one.
Grade = B-
Other Critical Voices to Consider
Dolores Quintana at Nightmarish Conjurings says it is “an astonishing and completely self-confident work from an immensely talented creator and creative team. It can be taken just as a thrill ride but is packed with psychological and ethical questions that seek to break through to the viewer, like the characters in the film.”
Mary Beth McAndrews at Dread Central says “At once a critique of the behavior of the ultra-rich and also a look at the delicate male ego, Cronenberg creates another disgusting masterpiece of genre cinema that has no problem reveling and rolling in bodily fluids.”
Karl Delossantos at Smash Cut says “Cronenberg’s intentions with the story are perhaps sometimes drowned out by the devilish uncomfortable horror or the high-camp shenanigans of Mia Goth’s Gabi—another incredible entry in her pantheon of horror characters. Still, the tale of masculinity and emotional escape emerge in tact—themes movies like ‘The Hunt’ or ‘The Purge’ try and fail to mine.”