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With 'Infinity Pool,' Brandon Cronenberg cements his own place in genre cinema
The third feature film from Brandon Cronenberg is his most ambitious yet.
For a decade now, Brandon Cronenberg has been carving out his own place in the genre landscape, making engaging, creepy, ambitious sci-fi horror with short films and features like Antiviral and Possessor. The subjects of these films, and the practical effects they contain, have helped the general public to easily tie Brandon to the work of his famous father, body horror legend David Cronenberg, and indeed there are some very clear thematic links between the two.
But Brandon Cronenberg is an artist all his own, and with his new film Infinity Pool, he has firmly and audaciously cemented himself as one of horror's best rising stars, a filmmaker as visually and philosophically gifted as he is provocative. From now on, "Cronenbergian" has two different meanings, one for each prominent genre director who bears the name.
Set in and around a luxury resort in a fictional country, Infinity Pool follows James (Alexander Skarsgard), a writer who's retreated to the resort for "inspiration," bringing his wife (Cleopatra Coleman) along for the ride. When he meets fellow tourist Gabi (Mia Goth), James seems to have found a new muse, a fascinating woman who loves his work and wants to spend time with him. But when an outing goes very, very wrong, James finds himself at the mercy of a foreign justice system which offers a fascinating and brutal alternative: Instead of being executed himself, James can have an exact "double" of himself made, for a price, and watch his own execution before being released free and clear.
This setup carries with it several immediate, meaty, and far-reaching consequences and questions, some of which Infinity Pool spends the rest of its runtime exploring, some of which are giving only glances before the film moves on to the core story of James and the transformation he undergoes after experiencing this phenomenon. I don't want to say all that much more about where Infinity Pool wants to go with that story, because you really should experience it for yourself, but the film does spend quite a bit of time in particular meditating on this idea that, for certain people, even death is something disposal, something you can buy your way out of, something you can come to view as an inconvenience rather than a halt to everything.
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If David Cronenberg's signature genre is "body horror," then Brandon Cronenberg has carved out for himself something I would term "soul horror," not in the religious sense, but in the sense that his films are using these sci-fi concepts to get at questions of identity, spirituality, and the things that make us human. In Infinity Pool, he surrounds these questions with a luxury resort where even the surrounding restaurants and "town" are artificial, where everything has been carefully curated to be as inoffensively nice and comfortable as possible, separated from the outside world of both the nation in which the resort is built and the wider world beyond. Everything here seems disposable, from the poolside cocktails to the attempts at multicultural entertainment which feel forced and shallow.
It's all enough to make James question why he even bothered to come to this place, and what "inspiration" he could possibly find in something so whitewashed and removed from honest human experience. And with that as his backdrop, and the concept of the "double" as the catalyst for his story, Cronenberg begins to pick apart the interior of a man who would make the choices James makes. Why is he drawn to these people? How far is he willing to go? At what point is he no longer himself, no longer recognizable as the man he was when he showed up at the resort? The concept of the double in the film is designed to make you question whether or not the James you're following in the film is real, but Cronenberg goes beyond even that question to ask if the very essence of James as a person can be dismantled and rebuilt by what he goes through.
In that way, though there's certainly a body horror element at work, Infinity Pool is much more about what happens to the souls of certain people when they indulge in the kinds of things this film is examining. It's about carving off pieces of your humanity, reshaping them, maybe putting them back in, maybe discarding them, and that's both terrifying and deeply fascinating thanks in no small part to the phenomenal work of Goth and Skarsgard. It's not easy to watch, and it'll leave certain images bubbling up in your head that you'd rather not have in there, but Infinity Pool is also a singular, jaw-dropping piece of work, and proof that Brandon Cronenberg has earned his own place in genre cinema forever.
Infinity Pool is now in theaters.
Looking for more scares? Stream tons of great horror movies like Nope and Train to Busan on Peacock.