It’s time to shed that disgusting larval mind of yours and find out what a creature you really are.
A negative of paradise, soaking in a blood-tinted darkroom. Inverted existence, detached from reality and slowly discovering just how deep the depravity gets. A razor sharp blade skinning yourself of your humanity, or maybe just torching the expectations until your real self emerges from the ashes. A bloody, orgiastic mess of violence, sex, agony, and ecstasy, repeated ad nauseum with ever increasing voracity until it all becomes one indistinguishable kaleidoscopic mess. Strike the match and ignite the sticky pitch, inhale the fumes and disappear into the inky black depths of your privilege, resurfacing in the safety of your infinite pool of resources.
A potent and destructive blend of violent satire and phantasmagoric character study, Brandon Cronenberg’s Infinity Pool packs its hedonistic island resort full of unending nightmares before setting it all on fire and reveling in the flickering chaos. The exclusive resort, sterile and devoid of personality, appropriates all of its flair in flagrant and consistently distasteful ways, catering to its audience of the unfathomably rich by providing them with as much stolen culture as possible within the barbed wire fences that isolate it from the destitute island society outside. James Foster (Alexander Skarsgård), an unsuccessful and unmotivated author, leeches off of his wife Em (Cleopatra Coleman), their loveless marriage born out of spite for her publishing mogul father. Such is the cycle of wretched, money fueled distaste, parasites who all detest each other and feed off of the flow of cash as they float down a lazy river of entitlement.
Cronenberg’s lithe setup sets the key for the rest of the film, a register of constant buzzing discomfort and unreality, a place where everything is a thinly sketched construct that isn’t rooted in the real world. The handful of resort employees exist perpetually in the background of the frame, donning masks of offensive caricatures to appease the guests; the framing concocts a persistent source of unease, an off kilter angle or an ever so slightly too close zoom that creates an otherworldly pit in the stomach through its slight misuse of convention; and the island government harnesses a technology capable of cloning humans, memories intact, that it uses to exploit the aggressive tendencies of the wealthy visitors through a bloody symbiosis of unending death. When James encounters resort guest Gabi (Mia Goth, continuing a streak of increasingly unhinged horror performances that one can only hope doesn’t end here), he’s instantly seduced by her infatuation with him and his writing, intoxicated and sucked into her destructive vortex of domination.
After a drunken hit and run kills a pedestrian, James is soon caught by the authorities, who offer him the bargain that seems to fuel the economy of the island – they can execute him, or for a sizable fee they will create a perfect replica of him that they’ll execute instead. Here, the film begins to spiral, now completely untethered and unreal, loosening its grip on reality as James blacks out during the procedure. A James is stabbed brutally to death in a dingy barn as another James watches on, an unease blanketing the film as we lose our grasp on which James has persisted. Emotionally severed from the realities of consequence or now just a deranged clone, the difference seems unimportant the further James dives into the lawless oblivion he’s come face to face with.
The escalation is a sensory overload in a film that’s already been dead set on twisting your insides into knots, an onslaught of chaotic abundance both grotesquely indulgent and immaculately Cronenbergian. The once off balance resort of shimmering sun and blinding blue sky erased, flooded with inky night darkness and bloody guttural violence but its lens now somehow centered and calm, a commitment to the hedonism as it flies out of control and releases into a kaleidoscopic orgy of unending skin and fluid. Channeling Brian Yuzna’s Society (1989) by way of contemporary neon gloss from the perspective of the fleshy mass of wealth completely consumed by their own desire for pleasure. While the film commits further to its obsession with the cycle of death and rebirth, a recursive psychedelic trip of orchestrated insanity through Gabi’s twisted fetishization of violence, James becomes more and more detached from it all. Slowly dissociating from the whirlwind of madness as his loss of humanity renders him a broken mess, staring into the cold dead void in his clone’s eyes as he bribes his way out of countless crimes.
When the dust settles and the sun begins to hang lower in the evening sky, pattering rain marking the end of the sweltering summer, it seems an end must come to the phantasmagoric hedonism. Back to reality, to what the rest of the world recognizes as normality, back to the cacophony of existence, back to a world that presupposes some kind of façade of consequence for the wealthy, back to waking up and facing yourself in the mirror every day only to be reminded that you are just a miserable parasitic larva sucking the life from a woman who married you out of some twisted notion of spite. Maybe it’s all you’re meant to be. Maybe there’s no going back. It’s all the same. Let the blood and the acid and the scent of death wash all over you. You found out, and you’ll never be rid of it.