Hello kweens and kings. This is a review for Infinity Pool. Infinity Pool is a science fiction horror film directed by Brandon Cronenberg. I enjoyed this movie a lot more than I thought I would. I was skeptical of its trailer and premise but it turned out to be a lot of fun. There are two things I want to talk about with this movie. I want to talk about Brandon Cronenberg’s commitment to aesthetics and I want to talk about the genre of this movie and how it might be closer to a comedy.
Brandon Cronenberg is the son of David Cronenberg — the visionary director who birthed the body horror genre with movies like Scanners, Videodrome, and The Fly. I think there is an obvious influence on Brandon’s films from his father’s work but I think it would be inaccurate to say they make the same types of movies. They’re both their own artists with some shared interests but different approaches.
Brandon Cronenberg has made two movies prior to Infinity Pool but the one most people are familiar with is Possessor — a film that came out during the peak of the pandemic. That movie was about a woman who possesses another person’s body to carry out an assassination. Possessor has themes of dissociated identity, the trauma of violence, and classist societal structure. It also had a very grim tone and an unsurprising amount of gory violence. Possessor was a unique film but I felt it was kind of shallow. It was one of those movies that had a lot of interesting themes but no real point. I’d give it a 2 out of 5.
The defining success of Possessor was the visual artistry. Unlike David Cronenberg, Brandon Cronenberg seems to have embraced the full breadth of filmic techniques. Possessor had a combination of complex computer generated graphics and practical effects resulting in iconic moments in an otherwise forgettable film. It was clear there was a unique talent in Brandon Cronenberg’s filmmaking but he still needed to work on it a bit. Although let me say, the critical reception for Possessor is universally positive so I am – once again – the outlier in this case.
Infinity Pool follows the story of James Foster — a writer who hasn’t written a book in more than six years. He travels to a fictional country called Latoka so he can gain inspiration for his next novel by living outside traditional society. While vacationing at a resort he runs into a woman named Gabi who says she was a fan of his first book. James is flattered by her fandom and decides to get to know her and her husband over the course of his time at the resort. I don’t want to explain too much more about the story, but what you need to know is James gets into trouble with the local authorities which results in him spending significantly more time with Gabi. Through their time together, James meets many other westerners who all frequent Latoka as a destination vacation specifically because the rule of law is so relaxed in this country which naturally leads to progressively more deranged debaucheries.
Commitment to aesthetics
Brandon Cronenberg is both blessed and cursed because he will forever be compared to his father David Cronenberg. Brandon has only made three films but with Infinity Pool I believe he has distinguished himself from his father in one meaningful way which is his preference for aesthetics. I usually react negatively to directors who focus on aesthetics too much but I think Infinity Pool feels more confident about what it wants to be.
David Cronenberg’s films are naturally cerebral. His work begins with an intellectual curiosity and his films are demonstrations of what might happen if such a concept were to exist. He’s focused on depicting the events in a way that relies on practical effects or intense emotional drama, but even with this focus on the tangible I think the older Cronenberg is more of a thinker. He creates these interesting ideas to see where they go. Brandon Cronenberg is more interested in the end result. It feels like his movies are an excuse to get to a particular visual or atmosphere he wants to construct. As if he had the visual in mind first and made the movie around getting to that visual.
At times during Infinity Pool this felt like a weakness — in the same way it was a weakness for Bradon’s earlier work on Possessor. I think the central narrative of Infinity Pool is murky for almost all of it. Especially because pretty early on there is a David Cronenberg-esque philosophical question posed to the main character James. James is asked if he was sentenced to death and instead of dying himself he cloned himself and watched his clone die… how could he be certain he didn’t switch places with the clone? Maybe you are the clone and you watched the real you die. This is like the transporter thought experiment from Star Trek but with the technological confusion stripped out. It’s an interesting idea but Infinity Pool isn’t about that. If you hold onto that concept waiting for it to come up again, you’re going to be disappointed. We don’t spend any time dwelling on that question beyond that one scene. To make matters more confusing, there are other things that Infinity Pool suggests it could be about. There’s some suggestions this movie is about class as exemplified through the poor country and the rich tourists. Or maybe it’s about family dynamics for a variety of influencing factors in the first half. Ultimately, Infinity Pool isn’t about any of that. The reason this movie exists is to get to the cool visuals and to its credit, the visuals are pretty cool.
Brandon Cronenberg’s interest in visuals is more diverse than his father’s because it’s more reliant on filmic techniques. There are still a lot of practical effects in this movie, but there is also way more artistry in the editing, lighting, digital effects, and montage sequences. I personally commend this movie for dropping a rarely seen epilepsy warning at the beginning of this film. I understand the value of making mainstream film accessible to everyone, but I also know creating for mass markets is a type of limitation. Infinity Pool is not limited by this restriction and it has been so long since I’ve seen a truly spastic lighting-oriented montage sequence. These sequences were not only novel, but appropriately disorienting given the general tone of the film. Brandon Cronenberg is willing to do more with the filmic toolkit available to him as a filmmaker and he’s even willing to go beyond what’s conventionally accepted which is what made this film feel so unique.
Not every sequence is a slam dunk. There is a moment in the film where the characters take drugs and have sex and it’s just a drug-infused sex montage. I’ve seen that a dozen times and it has never been interesting. It was especially uninteresting in this movie because it felt like it could do better than that. In fact, it does do better than that most of the time.
But really the best part of the film is something I never expected to say about a Cronenberg movie.
It took me the entire movie to figure this out, but I think Infinity Pool is a comedy. If it’s not, it is the most unintentionally hilarious movie I’ve ever seen. I was really surprised by this aspect of the film. I never thought I would describe a Cronenberg film as “funny.” Especially a Brandon Cronenberg film. Possessor was notably humorless and Infinity Pool certainly begins with an identical tone. I’m still not even certain if Brandon Cronenberg was trying to make a funny movie or if he just loves leaning into the real out-there stuff that it became comedic.
The best example of this is the presence of Mia Goth. Mia Goth is a ridiculous person to put on screen. Her actual voice sounds like a Victorian era ghoul. If you’ve seen X or Pearl, that’s not Mia Goth’s actual voice. She’s putting on an accent because she knows her actual voice sounds like a BioShock NPC. She sounds insane. She also looks like a maniac. I don’t think she has any eyebrows for most of this movie. If you were to place Mia Goth with her normal voice in a regular horror movie it would be so distracting, but for Infinity Pool it’s perfect because everything about this movie is comedic.
Many of the creative decisions in Infinity Pool can only be described as punchlines. For example, this movie has one of the funniest smash cuts I’ve ever seen. A smash cut is distinct from a jump cut because it is meant to contrast the emotion of two different scenes to heighten the impact of the latter. Most commonly it’s used to defuse tension. Stranger Things season 1 did this maybe ten times where a character is getting caught by some horrible thing but we transition back to one of the boys slamming down a DnD figurine. Infinity Pool has a moment where we’re following a group of characters who have gotten into trouble with the authorities. At this point in the movie, it’s been established it is very bad to be in trouble with the authorities so the audience knows this could go very wrong very quickly. So we’re watching this situation unfold and the event that caused their troubles just happened and the pace of the film is such that we’re just getting familiar with what’s at stake and what options the characters have available to them. The placement of the smash cut is at the exact height of the drama where we understand what’s going on and we have a real sense of anticipation for what will happen next. That is when it jumps to many hours later when it’s very clear everything went as badly as it could’ve gone and now they’re screwed. The decision to place the cut at the moment of total uncertainty directly into immediate and unambiguous failure is simply hilarious. I was cracking up in the theater while other people in my row were starring at me like I was crazy.
I was laughing so much because the entire movie is just funny. Early on in the film we see James go through the cloning process which for some reason involves inserting these plastic tools to open his mouth and expose his teeth. There’s a solid 5 minutes of the camera looking at James like he’s a deer in headlights in the most ridiculous facial expression possible. It’s just silly. And the early grim tone may make the movie feel more unsettling than funny, but by the end of it I was pretty certain this was all for laughs. I could rattle off half a dozen other moments that made me laugh but it’s important to say the movie rarely plays its moments for laughs. It plays it straight. As if we’re watching another Cronenberg movie with weird stuff going on, but it’s more than that it’s actually meant to be comedic.
I was on the fence for Infinity Pool for most of it but the presence of its humor really shifted my expectations for what I wanted to get out of the experience. If I was approaching this movie like a David Cronenberg film I might be disappointed with its murky plot or shallow storytelling, but that’s not what this movie is. This is a Brandon Cronenberg movie and we’re here to have a good time.
Infinity Pool’s value is in its visual artistry and it’s dark sense of humor. I think this movie continues Brandon Cronenberg’s unique interest in classist structure and the amorality of high class individuals — as well as their insatiable desire for perverted novelties. That’s an interesting theme, but it’s not the goal of this film to provide a societal critique. Infinity Pool’s appeal is the aesthetics and the humor. I’d give this movie a 4 out of 5. It took me more than half the runtime to come around to it, but I think it is a uniquely entertaining film. It’s also not slacking in the horror aspects. There’s one scene with a smiling kid toward the end which is one of the creepiest things I’ve seen, but it just so happens to be sandwiched between two of the funnier set pieces in the movie. I think if you approach Infinity Pool with the right mindset it has a lot to offer. It didn’t make me think. It’s not especially scary. It’s not a body horror film. But I had a lot of fun with it.
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