This is no denying we are a society overly obsessed with fame. Andy Warhol once mused that everyone would get their fifteen minutes of the greatly desired, the ephemeral quality we call fame. It drives people to suffer humiliation before an audience of millions to obtain that slice of notoriety and perhaps some paltry financial boon. There is nothing new about this. In the height of the Roman Empire successful gladiators, that is ones that manage to survive longer than usual, were publically lauded much like the fan adoration heaped upon modern sports heroes. In the thirties and forties, the age of the celebrity tabloid began with publications prying into the private lives of movie stars with hopes of uncovering some salacious tidbit that will drive sales upward. Now with high-quality cameras on almost every phone and the internet as an immediate means of distribution celebrities are hunted for that photo or video that will greatly embarrass them; the more the mortification, the great the fee received. An extremely lucrative business dealing in multi-millions of dollars has sprung up to satisfy this exaggerated need to know every detail of lives you will never personally encounter. The recent independent film, ‘Antiviral’ takes this trend to a potentially possible and highly repugnant extrapolation, a business dealing with celebrity diseases. There is no better way to feel the object of your obsession is part of your life than to infected with something taken directly from that person of fame.
This film is extremely bizarre, beyond what the high concept premise would suggest. It cast an eye of this invasive trait that arguably is an intrinsic aspect of the human psyche. People who stand out above the common throng has always existed; and so have those that become extremely infatuated with every minuscule detail of their lives, ‘Antiviral’ does manage to fulfill the requirements of a broad range of genres; horror, science fiction and in very real fashion, dystopia. You might think this is a ridiculous idea, but you can prove it easily to yourself; see how many people can name the members of the Presidential cabinet and compare it to the number that can recite the roster of the so-called reality television, the Kardashians. One group makes crucial decisions that affect the state of the globe, the other manufacture photo opportunity and populate the lineup of the ‘E!’ basic cable network. The results of such a survey are easy to predict and, quite disheartening as an indication of what is important in the zeitgeist of our culture.
Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones) is a man living in the not too distant future. In his time the science of genetic manipulation has achieved unprecedented level. It is now possible to make targeted changes on any strand of DNA to modify characteristics of a virus to cloning individual muscle groups of a mammal. Of course, such advances could be employed to eradicate many diseases or fend off world hunger. Perhaps such uses have been made the focus of this brave new world is not on the beneficial applications of this advanced technology; it explores a completely gratuitous use of this precise understanding of the fundamental workings of life. Syd works for a company called, the Lucas Clinic. Their business is to harvest viruses and other pathogens from celebrities and infect the discerning, obsessed fan with extensive disposable income with a disease from the celebrity of their choice. You can feel closer than ever to the object of our desire by sharing their disease. If this seems entirely prosperous, remember that celebrity obsession has driven people to murder and women to marry convicted serial killers on death role. We are an unfathomable and enigmatic species. The possibility of the technology becoming available in a decade or two combined with the track record of the extent fans will go to establish some connection with their idol infuses this story with a frightening potential. If you can be scared by a guy in a bad sweater and sharp blades on his fingers; completely impossible, then even the remote potential for this to come to pass your scare you to the core of your being.
Syd has a multifaceted job description at the Lucas Clinic; he obtains the infectious samples from the celebrities and then serves as a salesman with an incentive to push his assigned brand. Syd is one of the company’s best employees; a status rewarded with his assignment of harvesting from one of the world’s most coveted celebrity, Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon). She has an exclusive contract with Lucas Clinic inferring there are competitors with access to the same technology. As it turns out Syd is an excellent salesman, able to steer his customer to a package more expensive than they originally wanted. What Is upsetting here is not only does this technology exists but the demand for celebrity diseases is significant to support some companies each with their exclusive designer product lines.
The need becomes infatuated with the famous is not the only dark recess of the human psyche to be examined in this unsettling movie. There are other facets of humanity that are ingrained in our core; greed and the need to cheat the system. Although it is obvious that Syd is remunerated amply for his services he has lucrative and highly illegal side businesses. Despite the elaborate security precautions Syd injects samples of the infectious agent into his own body to smuggle the out of the facility. The company inserts a form of copy protection; an addition to the genome to render it non-communicable, this way nonpaying people cannot catch the company’s property for free. In a hidden compartment in his bedroom closet, Syd has a console and work area to remove the copy protection so he can sell them on his own. His means to distribute accomplished through another celebrity oriented business, Astral Bodies, a company that clones the flesh and muscle of the famous for human consumption; "eat your favorite celebrity." The perfect scheme falls apart when Hannah Geist dies from an untreatable disease, one that Syd just smuggled out. It results in an increase in the prices for her samples but is bad for Syd.
Fundamentally the literary device behind this story is reductio ad absurdum, taking a concept to a ridiculous extreme to highlight how absurd the concept is to any degree. Here TMZ, The Enquirer and the plethora of other celebrity gossip sources have been propelled by feasible advancements in the actual science of genetics. The slice of the human personality on display here is the source of horror conveyed in this thought-provoking and highly disturbing movie.
Posted 08/20/2013 07/09/2017