LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Breaking out of a famous parent’s shadow can be daunting, but Brandon Cronenberg, son of Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg, is rising to the challenge with his first feature film, the science-fiction “Antiviral.”
Opening in U.S. movie theaters on Friday, “Antiviral” was written and directed by the 33-year-old Cronenberg and satirizes society’s obsession with celebrity with a horrific twist.
The film stars Caleb Landry Jones as Syd March, an employee at a clinic that harvests viruses from sick celebrities and sells the injections to obsessed fans. When Syd becomes infected with a virus that killed a popular starlet, he has to solve the mystery of her death to save his own life.
Critics are comparing “Antiviral” to David Cronenberg’s early work, which included such classic sci-fi horror films as “Videodrome,” “The Fly” and “Dead Ringers.”
While Brandon Cronenberg acknowledges the connection, he says some of it ”is very legitimate and some of it is kind of overstated.
“This film has horror science fiction elements, technology elements, bodily elements so I get why people make those comparisons,” he said.
However, he noted that his father’s filmography also includes the crime thrillers “The History of Violence” and “Eastern Promises” and the biographical “A Dangerous Method,” which are not in the sci-fi genre at all.
“My dad has had a very broad varied career and it would be very hard for me to make a film that didn’t touch on anything that he hasn’t touched on,” Cronenberg said.
The concept for “Antiviral” came to Cronenberg while he was studying film at university and caught the flu.
“I was obsessing over the fact that I had this thing physically in my body that had come from someone else’s body and how that was a weirdly intimate thing,” the filmmaker said.
Cronenberg wondered if a fan obsessed with Angelina Jolie would want the actress’s cold “as a way of physically feeling connected to her.”
He said he thought it would make “an interesting metaphor for discussing the (celebrity-obsessed) culture” fueled by 24/7 websites such as TMZ.com and magazines like Us Weekly.
Chuck Wilson from The Village Voice wrote that with “Antiviral,” the younger Cronenberg “proves to be just as hide-your-eyes yucky” as his father was in early films.
Kevin Jagernauth, a critic at Indiewire.com’s movie blog The Playlist, called the film “exactly the oddball and crooked tale you’d want and expect from a Cronenberg with all the gratuitous blood, pus, bone and multiple closeups of needles piercing skin you could ask for.”
Brandon Cronenberg decided to pursue film in his early twenties after trying his hand at writing fiction, the visual arts and playing in bands.
While in film school, he made a number of shorts, making a conscious effort to “ignore as much as possible (my father‘s) career and to just do what was interesting to me.”
He said he’s not trying to “embrace deliberately or avoid deliberately” topics that his father might do.
“If I was trying to completely avoid anything that people would see as connected to his stuff, I would be defining myself totally in opposition to his career, which would be still be defining myself in terms of his career,” Cronenberg said.
So is David Cronenberg, 70, proud of his son’s debut?
“Yeah, I think so,” said Brandon Cronenberg before breaking in to a laugh. “But he has to say that.”
Reporting By Zorianna Kit; Editing by Jill Serjeant and Paul Simao