M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Three of my decade-long Retro-Best in Horror recap Countdowns begins officially on October 1, 2012 and goes through September 30, 2013. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t!
How did I compile this list? I simply looked through films released between October 1st, 2012 and September 30, 2013 and worked and reworked the list until I had the magic number—31. Again, I never call myself any kind of expert in horror. I simply watch a lot of horror films and love writing about them. Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
Released on April 12, 2013 and available on digital download, On Demand and BluRay/DVD here!
Directed by Brandon Cronenberg
Written by Brandon Cronenberg
Starring Caleb Landry Jones, Sarah Gadon, Lisa Berry, Joe Pingue, Nicholas Campbell, Sheila McCarthy, Wendy Crewson, Nenna Abuwa, Lisa Berry, Malcolm McDowell,
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here
More people these days know about Kim Kardashian than Albert Einstein. Celebrity Twitter feeds are one of the main places many get their news. Once thought to be a trend, it’s pretty clear after thirty years of it, reality TV is more popular than ever. Culture has become obsessed with celebrity to the point of ridiculousness, fawning over the newest shot of a diva drunkenly getting out of a car or who’s screwing who this week. All of the best science fiction is able to comment on things that are occurring in the here and now. David Cronenberg (Brandon’s father) chose to do VIDEODROME as a means to comment on our TV obsessed culture and man’s growing fascination with technology. Looking at current trends is often the best way to make your science fiction film relevant and, if you do it well enough, downright prolific. Brandon Cronenberg has done both with his new sci fi body horror film, ANTIVIRAL.
The story follows Syd (the uber talented Caleb Landry Jones from GET OUT), a salesmen and clinician for the Lucas Clinic which specializes in acquiring samples of the diseases celebrities contract and infecting their high paying clientele with them. Jones is absolutely amazing as Syd who seduces his clients into buying his product with a smooth and whispering voice that clients can’t say no to. Syd is also smuggling diseases out in his own body by infecting himself with the diseases to make money in the black market, but in this excellent character study of a film, Syd’s behavior is not solely for profit. It seems Syd shares his clients’ obsession with his product and this obsession takes him to dark, dark places.
The true highlight of this film besides the imaginative plot is the performance by Caleb Landry Jones. Jones has an intensity in his demeanor that I haven’t seen in an actor since River Phoenix. He’ll definitely be one of those stars who will be going to big places and Cronenberg allows the actor space to shine here with this performance. As the diseases he smuggles out of the clinic begin to tear away at his body, Jones twists his form and stutters his speech in ways that are painful to watch. And though he lives in a secluded, orderly, and sanitary lifestyle, Jones is able to show the weakness underneath that shirt, tie, and whispery voice. The role here requires Jones to be sympathetic, but totally flawed. He’s the good and bad guy in this film and Jones is able to pull it off with nuance few actors possess.
The idea of making celebrity addictive and contagious is genius. That someone would actually infect themselves with a virus a super star has is crazy, but given our current obsession with celebrity, it isn’t any more far-fetched than anything Cronenberg’s father said about cancer in THE FLY or technology in VIDEODROME. It just takes the obsession one step further into the darkness. Here, cell gardens grow meat from celebrity cells which are literally consumed by their rabid fans. Diseases have faces, as seen through the warped lenses of the machinery used by the Lucas Clinic technicians. These are bizarre and twisted designs, the stuff of good horror, but not anything that isn’t feasible given the celebrity obsessed culture we live in. The final moments as organs and blood is harvested from the corpses of celebrities is a haunting revelation as are Sy’s actions when alone with the superstar leftovers. It’s an ending that will be too much for some, too literal for others, but sat just right with me.
ANTIVIRAL is a slow burner of a film, allowing us to sink into the world Cronenberg presents us. The viewer is supposed to absorb what makes this particular world different than ours by showing us a lot of things that are very similar. The sterile blank spaces, reminiscent of Kubrick’s interiors in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE and the spaceship in 2001: A SPACE ODDYSSEY make for a strange world, but one which decompensates as the film goes on into less clean locales. In many ways, the setting, like the lead character, becomes infected with disease and it is reflected as such toward the end.
There’s a lot to love in ANTIVIRAL, Cronenberg’s first feature film. Cronenberg seems to have inherited his father’s unique ability to make movies that crawl under the viewer’s skin and twist and squirm in places that are frustratingly just out of reach.
THE 2012-2013 COUNTDOWN!
#4 – ANTIVIRAL
#5 – THE BATTERY
#6 – STOKER
#7 – AMERICAN MARY
#8 – EVIL DEAD 2013
#9 – RESOLUTION
#10 – SLEEP TIGHT
#11 – WE ARE WHAT WE ARE
#12 – THE CONJURING
#13 – SIGHTSEERS
#14 – WITHER
#15 – KISS OF THE DAMNED
#16 – JUG FACE
#17 – NO ONE LIVES
#18 – YOU’RE NEXT
#19 – HOME SWEET HOME
#20 – THE TAINT
#21 – THE PURGE
#22 – RITUAL/MODUS ANOMALI
#23 – V/H/S/2
#24 – MON AMI
#25 – EUROPA REPORT
#26 – BLIND ALLEY
#27 – MIDNIGHT SON
#28 – DEVIL’S PASS
#29 – COME OUT AND PLAY
#30 – THE LAST WILL & TESTAMENT OF ROSALIND LEIGH
#31 – I DIDN’T COME HERE TO DIE
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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