Brandon Cronenberg managed to skirt the criticisms of nepotism with his breakout film Possessor, which saw telepathic assassins committing gruesome violence and destroying the lives of innocent people in the process. He had much to live up to as the son of one of the great horror masters, David Cronenberg, and he managed to create a striking horror thriller without completely disavowing his father’s influence of creating visceral body horror and compelling science fiction.
On paper, Infinity Pool seemed to be the perfect follow-up to Possessor. A tale of class relations, a genre that has seen a significant resurgence in recent mainstream cinema, Infinity Pool has a fascinating premise in which rich people who vacation in a developing nation can literally get away with murder because, instead of being punished, a clone is made of them. Their “punishment” is to watch the clone get executed in horrific ways. Alexander Skarsgard, playing a failed writer who has married rich, finds himself spiraling into a life of crime and debauchery when he becomes involved with a clique of wealthy people who have abused this loophole.
Beyond the basic premise, the elements for an excellent film do exist. Cronenberg manages to make the violence visceral and horrifying, not just through gore but through the way he uses bodies in blocking and compositions, especially in the execution scenes. Mia Goth, as the de facto leader of the depraved rich clique, plays unhinged covered with the thinnest veneer of panache to perfection. She very well may be the scariest part of the film, which has no shortage of surreally horrific scenes such as Skarsgard’s clone being birthed from a pool of blood and a home invasion where the invaders are wearing grotesque masks.
But Infinity Pool is maddeningly vague and cliched. It fits squarely into the aforementioned class satire genre, but it adds nothing significant to it. We get hints of the country in which the resort is located, but all the locals we see are either resort employees, nameless victims, or government bureaucrats. It seems that the film’s restrictive point of view is meant to reflect the rich people’s, and that this deliberate tunnel vision invites us to partake in a voyeurism of the debauchery that the rich commit. This premise could have been an interesting film if that had been Cronenberg’s only goal. Yet even as Infinity Pool devolves into a litany of the crimes of the rich, we become deadened to their atrocities because of their repetitiveness.
Also, there is also enough indication that Cronenberg wants us to criticize these characters and thoughtfully consider the effects that their actions have on everyone around them. Skarsgard (who is woefully miscast) is meant to play a reluctant participant in the rich people’s games and his downfall into that debauchery is to be seen as tragedy. But his handsome looks and charisma betray the uncomfortable underdog role that he is supposed to be playing. His wife (Cleopatra Coleman), the only really sympathetic character, leaves the film early, which means the film is lacking a voice of reason that would invite more of a critical look at the actions of the other characters. And any sort of reflectiveness that Cronenberg wants us to have is immediately overwhelmed by scenes of uninspired gruesomeness.
The two mutually exclusive goals of voyeuristic fantasy and critical excoriation of the rich make Infinity Pool into an unconvincing and dull mess. Despite Cronenberg’s clear desire to shock, the film manages to merely create a dreary predictability leading to a tired conclusion that has been made many times before by much better films.
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