Frame Rating: Baby Cronenberg makes his wet debut with “Infinity Pool”

A man's distressed face sinks into a pool of red liquid.
(Tania Azhang • The Student Life)

After almost a year in exile, (just managing TSL. No big deal) I’m back to my movie reviewing roots — and this one’s an extra damp one.

At the tail end of 2022, Brandon Cronenberg, son of cult horror director David Cronenberg, dropped his first film, “Infinity Pool.” I can’t stress this enough: This is the single wettest film I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen Finding Nemo).

The film stars the third scariest Skarsgård (Alexander), indie-horror darling Mia Goth and nine — count ’em — nine bodily fluids. I kept very careful count. Blood, sweat, tears, pus, vomit, urine, semen, breast milk and what can only be described as dubious cranial goo all make an appearance.

“Infinity Pool” follows James Foster — played by Skarsgård — an unsuccessful novelist financially held aloft by his wealthy wife, Em — played by Cleopatra Coleman. While vacationing at a ritzy beachfront (more liquid!) resort in the fictional nation of Li Tolqa, James accidentally hits a local man with his car, and, in accordance with the country’s Hammurabian judicial system, is sentenced to death.

The twist? The nation’s government offers a way to circumvent the death penalty: By coughing up a large sum of money, wealthy tourists can clone themselves, sending their genetically identical scapegoats to be ritually executed in their place.

With this newfound knowledge, James falls in with a group of fellow one-percenters who, no longer afraid of legal consequences, terrorize the beachfront country in an escalating and inescapable spree of orgies, drugs and horrific crimes.

There’s a lot that “Infinity Pool” does right. For a film commenting on the depraved, carnal, consequence-free indulgence of the uber-rich, the visuals deliver. This is a violent, sensory kaleidoscope of a film. The editing is sharp, the shots are vibrant and, in the footsteps of Cronenberg’s father, the practical effects are gorgeously grotesque.

The film is as disgusting as it is gorgeous. As much as I’ve joked about it, the goopiness of “Infinity Pool” is one of its biggest strengths. Watching James sink into the titular pool of thick red genetic sludge (yet another liquid!) is nothing less than a visual treat.

It’s a dirty, hideous, beautiful movie, and one that I desperately want to love. Unfortunately, the younger Cronenberg’s debut is messy, and not just because of the fluids.

The premise of “Infinity Pool” is an interesting one, but for a film that overtly paints itself as class commentary, it isn’t nearly as conscious as it wants to be.

The big wet elephant in the room is the film’s fictional third-world nation, Li Tolqa, a bizarre cultural blend of the Mediterranean, Eastern Bloc Europe and some vague tropical island locale. It seems clear that Cronenberg wanted to escape the baggage of setting the film in an real-world country, but with its scary, exotic, legally “backwards” chimera nation, “Infinity Pool” is soaked with an uncomfortable amount of vague, indiscriminate xenophobia.

The film’s depictions of women aren’t much better. James’s wife Em doesn’t do much other than provide a plausible reason why an unsuccessful novelist could find himself surrounded by wealth above his caliber, and Goth’s character, Gabi, isn’t much better. She inducts James into the destructive spiral of violent hedonism, but lacks any real character or motivation outside of being a cruel, femme-fatale succubus.

The movie isn’t all that tight either. The setup is more plodding and convoluted than it needs to be. Though the momentum eventually picks up, the plot isn’t half as slick as the visuals. Cronenberg’s father’s films aren’t for everyone, but I appreciate his ability to take a far-out concept and execute it in as cleanly as possible. It seems like that trait might not be genetic.

For each step it wants to take forward, it takes another step backwards. It’s a shame “Infinity Pool” is bogged down by its sloppy commentary. It’s a gruesome, stimulating, psychedelic rollercoaster, and a fun one at that. I just wish its social and narrative screws were a bit tighter.

Gerrit Punt PO 23 has recently acquired a bunch of liquid latex and a styrofoam mannequin, and is eager to make some Cronenbergian special effects of his own. This isn’t a bit or anything, he just wants you to wish him luck.

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