Infinity Pool, the new nightmare vision from Possessor writer/director Brandon Cronenberg, finds itself at the intersection of two thematic landscapes that have captured the zeitgeist as of late. Hit shows like The White Lotus and Nine Perfect Strangers involve mystery and intrigue among vacationers on opulent resorts, while movies like The Menu and newly-minted Best Picture nominee Triangle Of Sadness satirize the entitlement of the ultra-wealthy. Even with these touch points intact, viewers should know that Cronenberg’s latest incorporates elements of body horror and hard sci-fi that push his film into territory that will likely make casual audiences uncomfortable. But those who go along for the ride will have their eyes widened and buttons pushed in a mostly productive fashion.
Though it was shot in Croatia, Infinity Pool takes place on the fictional island of Li Tolqa, where author James Foster (Alexander Skarsgård) and his wife of 10 years Em (Cleopatra Coleman) find themselves visiting an all-inclusive resort. While on the beach one day, James is approached by Gabi (Mia Goth), a fellow guest at the resort who professes to James her fandom of his first novel and invites the couple to dinner with her and hubby Alban (Jalil Lespert). The quartet are brought close together after an off-resort jaunt takes them to the crime-addled countryside but the drunken drive back to their hotel yields an unexpected tragedy. After facing charges for their crimes by the local police, an alternative solution of twisted metaphysical justice is proposed to atone for their sins.
The trailers put out by Infinity Pool‘s distributor NEON have given far too many plot details away but it’s enough to say that the fallout from James’ punishment binds him to a group of hedonistic tourists who have their run of the resort and the surrounding area. Cronenberg’s commentary on the super rich and their propensity to operate outside society’s rules isn’t overwhelmingly nuanced but the class critique is only part of what he has on his mind. As with Possessor, this is a film that is meant to provoke our sense of what it means to be human and to live our lives as prisoners inside our own bodies. We see James tempted with desires of the flesh and forced with the decision to either break the cycle of depravity or succumb to its machinations.
Skarsgård is a fine audience surrogate, being slowly drawn into this band of miscreants even after his wife hightails it back to the States and he conveniently can’t find his passport to join her. It’s a 180-degree shift from his testosterone-fueled titular role in The Northman last year, channeling his inner schlub as an emasculated and insecure writer desperate for another hit. Goth was outstanding in companion horror films X and Pearl last year and she continues her winning streak here with a role that starts simple and seductive but morphs into something more sadistic and, at times, hilariously over-the-top. A scene late in the film, in which Gabi is drinking wine on the hood of a very slow-moving car, is scathing and darkly funny but also menacing and deranged at the same time. As with the cinematography in the rest of the movie, DP Karim Hussain nails the claustrophobic close-ups in this sequence.
Though the look of Infinity Pool is far grimier and asymmetrical than the aesthetic Stanley Kubrick favored throughout his filmography, Cronenberg seems to either intentionally or unintentionally channel narrative threads from several of his projects. The criminal atrocities carried out by the privileged ne’er-do-wells ironically mirror the acts of ultraviolence committed by the impoverished droogs in A Clockwork Orange. There are psychedelic sequences — photosensitivity warnings at the beginning of movies and TV shows are becoming more common these days and Infinity Pool certainly earns its disclaimer — that carry overtones from both 2001: A Space Odyssey and Eyes Wide Shut. Naturally, horror masterpiece The Shining is also referenced in shared themes including unraveling of identity and patterns of reincarnation. Infinity Pool may be too unpleasant for general audiences but its shock value is often matched by the heady ambition right below the surface.
Score – 3.5/5
New movies coming this weekend:
Coming only to theaters is Knock At The Cabin, a psychological horror movie starring Dave Bautista and Jonathan Groff about a family of three on vacation that is suddenly held hostage by four strangers who demand they sacrifice one of their own to avert the apocalypse
Also playing only in theaters is 80 For Brady, a sports comedy starring Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda depicting four elderly female friends as they travel to Houston to watch their hero Tom Brady and the New England Patriots play in Super Bowl LI.
Streaming on Netflix is True Spirit, a based-on-a-true-story adventure starring Teagan Croft and Anna Paquin about a tenacious Australian teen who chases her dreams and faces her fears as she sets out to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world.