Failed author James Foster and his affluent wife Em depart for a relaxing beach vacation. As James listlessly searches for his next writing inspiration, he befriends Gabby - an admitted fan who lures James into joining her posse of wealthy socialites. James soon realizes that all isn't as it seems with Gabby in the surrealist sci-fi horror film Infinity Pool.
I assure you that my intentionally vague plot description for Infinity Pool does not come close to capturing the depravity and untamed horrors lurking within writer/director Brandon Cronenberg's latest feature. Cronenberg, the son of famed body horror filmmaker David Cronenberg, is already proving to be a fascinating extension of his father's nihilistic sensibilities. His 2020 debut, Possessor, was one of that year's most overlooked features. Cronenberg skillfully evoked a transfixing atmosphere defined by alienation and anonymity in a feature that married vivid style with savvy meditations.
With Infinity Pool, Cronenberg dreams up another perverse nightmare as a shocking incident introduces James to a new world of hedonistic behaviors. The film's provocative and kinetic vision endures some thematic inconsistencies, but Cronenberg's technical verve still elicits a compelling descent into human degradation.
Cronenberg defines an evocative worldview from the film's ominous opening frames. Like all renowned science-fiction works, Infinity Pool meshes ripped-from-reality developments with infusions of inventive flourishes. Cronenberg's blending of sensibilities is especially felt in his expressive setting. The fictional seaside island of Latoka boasts picture-perfect vistas and high-class amenities within the confines of its opulent vacation resort. Outside the resort's restrictive walls, Latoka and its voiceless population are juxtaposed as disenfranchised objects for the resort's affluent clientele to torture in pursuit of their own pleasure.
As James immerses into Gabby and her peers' nightly escapades, Infinity Pool opens the door for searing indictments on the callous behaviors perpetrated by social elites. Cronenberg knowingly understands the inherent farce of his characters' actions, deploying a sardonic sense of humor to compliment the film's oppressively dour worldview. He also seasons his concepts with a few fascinating wrinkles. Whether it is the resort's morphing of respected cultural practices as dispensable tools for entertainment or the malicious hijinks committed by the central ensemble, Infinity Pool defines several intriguing avenues for fortifying its thesis.
Additionally, Cronenberg remains a distinctive visionary behind the camera. Similar to Possessor, Infinity Pool adopts a hypnotic visual presentation that merges vibrant collages with uncomfortably tight framing choices. Cronenberg and cinematographer Karim Hussain particularly excel at summoning the inescapable horrors lingering under the material's surface. Several psychedelic sequences showcase a kaleidoscope of moody neon colors and disorienting edits, commodifying genuine unease as James aimlessly descends into the rabbit hole of startling behaviors. Of course, it would not be a Cronenberg production without disorienting imagery and buckets of bloodshed - elements that Infinity Pool provides with genuinely disturbing results. Cronenberg's healthy dose of surrealism and composer Tim Hecker's alluring score also help extenuate the film's auteur-driven voice.
I will say - Infinity Pool's pursuit of worthwhile meditations can be a hit-or-miss odyssey. Cronenberg suffers from the commonplace critique of favoring style over substance. While the director and his creative team define mesmerizing imagery to bolster his ideas, the film ultimately offers little nuance in its reflections on class disparity, ego and the inevitable destruction buried within a lifestyle of endlessly self-indulgent decisions. There are enough inspired blips for viewers to grasp some of the simmering ideas, but Cronenberg's half-realized script is not nearly as astute as his creative filmmaking choices.
Thankfully, the well-realized performances in Infinity Pool always steer the film toward genuine truths. As the emotionally vacant protagonist James, Alexander Skarsgård forms into the film's ever-beating heart. Skarsgård conveys a raw and destructive performance that showcases the gradual deterioration of his character. The intimate vulnerabilities and meaningful textures he imbues skillfully showcase James as a man stuck in an endless cycle of volatile decisions. Following her breakout performances in X and Pearl, Mia Goth continues to be a powerful force of nature onscreen. The actress's unkempt magnetism and enigmatic delivery help elevate Grace into an irresistible scene-stealer throughout the film.
Infinity Pool will certainly not be for everyone. The opening night screening I went to featured seven walkouts as viewers were openly bewildered by some of the film's abrasive decisions. However, fans of Cronenberg and other challenging horror/sci-fi works will likely latch onto Infinity Pool's pungent dose of amorality.
Infinity Pool is now playing in theaters.