The body horror genre passes to the next generation as Brandon 'son of David' Cronenberg makes his writing/directing debut with this yucky tale set in a world where celebrity obsession has literally become a disease. When superstars get sick, they sell their infections to clinics where reps like Syd (Caleb Landry Jones) inject them into their besotted fans - at a price. But when Syd uses his own body to smuggle the world's most sought-after virus onto the black market, it plunges him into a feverish mystery that looks set to cost him his life. Unless...
Caleb Landry Jones
"From the mind of Brandon Cronenberg" scream the posters for Antiviral. Which, given this is his first feature, is pretty meaningless to anyone who's never met him.
Of course it's a cheap marketing gambit designed to cash in on young Brandon's family name - a name that conjures up some of the most disgusting images in 20th century cinema.
In that sense, Cronenberg Jr is evidently keen to follow in daddy David's footsteps, starting out with a cautionary horror yarn oozing with body fluids, nasty probings and creeping madness.
The premise is encouragingly icky, plunging us into an all-too-credible near future where licensed clinics allow the celebrity-obsessed to get closer to their idols... by infecting them with viruses harvested from the stars whenever they fall ill.
The suitably anaemic-looking Caleb Landry Jones plays Syd March, a representative of the pioneering Lucas Clinic who runs a risky sideline. While advising clients on the coolest place to grow their celebrity cold sores, Syd acts as his own bug mule, injecting himself with the hottest lurgies to sell on the outside.
His main buyer is Arvid (Joe Pingue), a butcher who also gives his customers a taste of stardom - by selling meat cloned from real celebrity tissue. Kardashian kutlet, anyone?
Anyway, all's (un)well until Syd poaches a mystery virus from megastar Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon). This lands him in the middle of a murky - and potentially deadly - bio-conspiracy that couldn't get any more sinister if Malcolm McDowell was to pop up as some kind of shady doctor...
Cronenberg conducts the intrigue in some style. Unfortunately it's all someone else's. Male styling by Tarantino, industrial music cues from Aronofsky, surreal pauses and interludes courtesy of David Lynch.
However, by resurrecting the flesh-warping horrors and sterile trappings of Shivers, Rabid, Videodrome, Dead Ringers and The Brood, Antiviral mostly comes across like a woozy collage of sweepings from his dad's cutting room floor.
Going some way to proving that the ability to shock is not hereditary, young Cronenberg allows a good idea to slip away on a tide of self-indulgence and vague plotting. Queasiness abounds but there are no real jolts; the words "foreskin", "anus" and "vulva" are unlikely to disturb anyone under the age of 97.
But if you don't like syringes, be afraid... be very afraid.