The Enlightened Screen: Brandon Cronenberg

Antiviral Writer, Director Brandon Cronenberg.
Photo: eOne Films
The CFI gets speculative in their latest edition of The Enlightened Screen! The Canadian Film Institute welcomes filmmaker Brandon Cronenberg to the ongoing Canadian independent film series The Enlightened Screen, which invites Canuck filmmakers to engage with Ottawa audiences following a film screening. Cronenberg, son of Canadian film icon David Cronenberg, brings the next generation of body horror to the CFI with a special screening of his 2012 film Antiviral and two of his recent short films. The screening on June 20th should be especially of interest to local cinephiles since Cronenberg will present a re-edited version of Antiviral. (I have a wedding that night, so unfortunately I can’t attend, but would love to hear feedback from anyone who makes it!) Previous guests of The Enlightened Screen include William D. MacGillivray, Catherine Martin, and Peter Mettler.

Antiviral marks a notable debut for Cronenberg, since the film premiered in the prestigious Un Certain Regard programme at the Cannes Film Festival and it shared the award for Best Canadian First Feature following its North American Premiere at TIFF in 2012. The film also carries a quartet of Canadian Screen Award nominations and a pair of prizes from Sitges—not bad for a debut. Antiviral, though, mostly wins for being an exciting new entry, both from a member of one of Canada’s most notable film families and from a talent who looks to be a worthy filmmaker in his own right. Local audiences can get ready to proclaim ‘Long live the new flesh!’ as Cronenberg’s work shows that the generation of Canadian horror is in good hands.

Synopsis: Syd March, an employee at the Lucas clinic, sells injections of live viruses harvested from sick celebrities to obsessed fans. Biological communion – for a price. He also supplies illegal samples of these viruses to piracy groups, smuggling them from the clinic in his own body. When he becomes infected with the disease that kills super sensation Hannah Geist, Syd becomes a target for collectors and rabid fans and must now unravel the mystery surrounding her death before he suffers the same fate.

Review: Brandon Cronenberg makes a notable directorial debut by keeping the horror sparse and simple. The director draws good work from his cast, especially Jones (in a mostly physical performance) and Gadon, in her second Cronenberg film after this year’s Cosmopolis. Like David Cronenberg, Brandon makes a crafty play on the divide of body and mind, and he uses some strange, elaborate effects to unnerve the viewer. (No heads explode in Antiviral, but the last shot of the film is just as gloriously disgusting.) Unlike some newbies, Cronenberg reigns in the flair and uses the familiarity of genre to offer a sly take upon our mania for movie stars. By preying upon viewers’ insecurity with their bodies, he makes an unsettling, skin-crawling story. The white, aseptic world of Antiviral exploits the ever-burgeoning phobia of germs and uncleanliness that move through society little a little contagion. Dirt and sickness are the only things worse than banality, so Antiviral’s take on body-horror will have any Purell squirting moviegoer feeling creeped out. (Read the full review here.)

Antiviral screens with the Cronenberg and co. at the CFI’s Enlightened Screen series at 7:00pm on Saturday, June 20 at the River Building Theatre, Carleton University.

(Friendly reminder that there's free parking across the street at Brewer Park!)

Please visit the CFI’s website for more  information on showtimes, tickets, and memberships.