It’s been a very long time since I’ve had to sit with a movie for a few days before I can truly decide how I felt about it and why. The massive influx of Sundance screenings notwithstanding, I’ve gone back and forth on how “Infinity Pool” sits with me, but one thing is clear: the film is an unforgettable experience, one that I have not been about to shake since the credits started rolling. I guess if a film is still rattling around in my brain after 30 films in 5 days and occupying head space rent free, it’s done something right. While I will admit that there is clearly something wrong in the Cronenberg family and their obsession with bodily fluids and body manipulation, the pearl clutching in the wake of each new Cronenberg release is mildly exaggerated.
“Infinity Pool” isn’t for the faint of heart, but isn’t nearly as grotesque as those that love to cry foul would have you believe. This is a scathing, horror satire of very rich people doing very bad things, and begs the question: who will you become when your actions have no recourse? More human or more inhumane?
Written and directed by Brandon Cronenberg (son of body horror icon David Cronenberg and no, I don’t want to have the nepo baby discussion here), “Infinity Pool” follows novelist James Foster (Alexander Skarsgård) and his very wealthy wife Em (Cleopatra Coleman) on a luxurious resort vacation on the fictional island of Latoka. Suffering from writer’s block and a sort of bored slump in his life, they meet Gabi (Mia Goth) and Alban (Jalil Lespert), a couple who frequent the resort every summer and invite them on an excursion that breaks the one rule of the island: guests never, ever leave the resort. Things go terribly wrong when on their way back, James accidentally hits and kills a farmer. The strict laws of Latoka dictate that almost any crime results in execution. Except, of course, for the ultra rich, who for a ridiculous sum of money can pay to have a clone of them pay the price of their crimes. Of course, James becomes fascinated with new found freedom, and thus begins a journey into depravity and indulgence, in which the worst of our worst tendencies explode in vile actions and dark self discovery.
Cronenberg seems to have been paying attention, because he doubles down on all of the strengths of his father’s filmmaking and packs them into “Infinity Pool.” Beautifully visualized psychosexual body horror paired with batshit crazy performances, Cronenberg makes the most of his cast and premise to really assault the audience with wild, gnarly imagery without losing sight of what he’s trying to say on the whole. I don’t know that we need another “rich people are bad and if given the chance to get away with murder, they will” satire film, but “Infinity Pool” is so engaging and stylish that it ends up packing more punches than eye rolls. Again, it’s not without its affronting visual style and near nightmare inducing imagery. But it also isn’t so egregious that those same visuals detract from the film overall. “Infinity Pool” has a lot of artsy fartsy strobe light orgy stuff (yes, really) and bizarre imagery that feels ripped straight from the depth of independent horror, but Cronenberg is smart enough and crafty enough to add a purpose to it all.
The film isn’t without its misgivings, and does suffer from a bit of overindulgence and seizure inducing sequences. And to be fair, rich people on vacation paired with cloning and drug induced orgies (there’s that word again) is, for lack of a better turn of phrase, an acquired taste. “Infinity Pool” isn’t for everyone and I don’t expect everyone to appreciate what Cronenberg is trying to do here. Were it in less capable hands, the film would crumble under the weight of its own ambition, and would be unable to add anything of note behind its wild ideas. The real selling point (Besides the “Eyes Wide Shut” masked orgies) is Mia Goth, who is so delightfully unhinged it’s hard not to love her even when she’s playing a pretty despicable human being. Goth is having a near flawless breakout in the last year, and with “Infinity Pool” showcasing yet another incredible facet to her prowess and “Maxxxine” set to drop later this year, Goth is an undeniable talent who needs to be recognized more than she already has been.
Goth is the glue in “Infinity Pool,” and while a lot of things work, nothing works without her and her committed performance. Everything she’s doing here actually pushes Skarsgård to an elevated level we haven’t seen from him yet. That includes “The Northman,” where I thought he couldn’t get any more aninmalistic. That apparently was only because he hadn’t met Brandon and Goth yet, because the three of them make disturbing, unsettling magic together. Goth is the engine, Skarsgård is the body, and Cronenberg is the driver. The three of the collide with their social commentary and visceral imagery just like the accident portrayed in “Infinity Pool,” and force you to watch everything even when your better instincts are telling you to cover your face and watch through your fingers.
The longer I’ve sat with “Infinity Pool,” the more I think I liked it. I walked out not entirely sure what to do with it all, and questioned whether it truly worked on the levels it sought. But after a few days, I’ve come to the conclusion that I DID like it, and I liked it a lot. It is truly unforgettable, and hasn’t left my mind even after being pretty far removed from it. Cronenberg clearly has an eye for imagery, and Karim Hussain’s cinematography (who also did Brandon’s feature film debut “Possessor“) is stunning. There is a lot of craft for such a bizarre film, and the performances from Skarsgård and Goth really elevate “Infinity Pool” to stand tall in its own genre.
“Infinity Pool” really has a lot to say and chooses some daring ways to say it. Packed with incredible performances and some truly haunting imagery, the questions the film poses will stick with you more than you may expect at first. It is a film that requires some introspection and thought, being something you really can’t make a snap judgement on until you’ve truly internalized its themes and filmmaking as a whole. I don’t know how much you want to internalize and revisit brutal violence, deranged escapades and yes, drug induced orgies, but “Infinity Pool” makes sure it is inescapable no matter how hard you try.
It is not for everyone, and this is a weird film where I don’t know that I can even recommend it but I will still praise it as a must watch. If you’ve got a strong stomach and an unquenched curiosity for the macabre and the truly bizarre, then I would highly recommend “Infinity Pool.” And if that doesn’t do it for you, at least Skarsgård and Goth are hot and naked a lot.
And if I’ve learned anything else from “Infinity Pool” and last year’s “Speak No Evil,” it’s that you never, EVER make friends on vacation.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
“Infinity Pool” is now playing in theaters. You can watch the trailer below.