Brandon Cronenberg’s Possessor took the horror community by storm with its extraordinarily brutal level of violence. Of course, with a dad like body horror master David Cronenberg, you’d expect nothing less. His newest movie, Infinity Pool gives him free rein, but he seems to confuse excess and intrigue.
The film follows the wealthy guests of an exclusive resort on a fictional island when they discover a dark underground world of hedonism when they step beyond the compound’s walls. As one would expect from the premise, this is a satire of the uber-rich, but in true Cronenberg fashion, taken to every extreme possible.
If there’s one thing about the movie that is almost infallible, it is its unpredictability. The plot unfolds in such a wild, escalating way that you truly can never know where the film is heading. On the one hand, this creates an experience that is genuinely mysterious and often utterly captivating to watch unfold.
Of course, the most interesting thing about any Cronenberg movie — father or son — are its visuals. The cut of the film shown at Sundance is the NC-17 version, whereas the version that will be released in theaters has been edited down to receive an R rating. This more graphic version includes some of the most gratuitously violent and sexual imagery depicted in a non-pornographic movie, yet it perfectly encapsulates the hedonism which Cronenberg intends to capture.
That being said, unlike Possessor, which was much more measured in its themes, Infinity Pool wears its message on its sleeves. It’s almost ironic that a film meant to poke fun at the shallowness of the upper class is so extraordinarily shallow itself, resulting in an experience that is more frustrating and exhausting than it is rewarding and thought-provoking.
There are plenty of movies that have featured unlikable characters as their protagonist, and for the most part, that is not the issue with Infinity Pool. Instead, the audience’s disillusionment with the characters will likely come from the fact that they are, like the film itself, shallowly written. Of course, lack of depth is a recurring motif in almost every aspect of this movie, but the underdevelopment of the characters will likely leave viewers feeling desensitized to what they see rather than horrified or disgusted.
The performances are arguably one of the most intriguing parts of the film. Mia Goth, as usual, is totally unhinged in her role. However, in a character that has elements of a femme fatale, her brand of over-the-top lunacy feels somewhat out of place. Alexander Skarsgård’s performance is much more reactive compared to Goth’s, but there are a few scenes in which his weirdness truly shines.
Infinity Pool has a concept that is extraordinarily strong, but it’s expanded in a way that isn’t as exhilarating as one would hope. In pushing the envelope of provocativeness, Brandon Cronenberg has created a movie that is shockingly dull.
Infinity Pool is playing at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, which runs January 19-29 in-person in Park City, UT and January 24-29 online.