Hannah Strong


Infinity Pool – first-look review

Alexander Skarsgård has a pretty bad trip in this vacation nightmare from body horror wunderkind Brandon Cronenberg.

To say he’s 6’4 with the bone structure and physique of a Rodin statue, Alexander Skarsgård plays a loser exceptionally well. We’ve seen glimpses of this talent in The Kingdom Exodus and The Diary of a Teenage Girl, but it’s more common to see him play the role of, say, a vengeful Viking princeling, or a hot brooding scientist, than it is for a filmmaker to utilise his uncanny ability to subvert stereotypes and amp up the pathos. Brandon Cronenberg is perhaps like his father in that regard, who turned handsome devils James Spader and Viggo Mortensen into snarling strangelings.

It’s difficult to avoid comparing Sr. and Jr. full-stop, given that they both make full-tilt body horror that plums the depths of human depravity. Yet where David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future was a twisted, darkly comic look at ‘surgery as the new sex’, Brandon Cronenberg’s third feature takes a more nihilistic line: death is the new life.

At an exclusive resort on the otherwise poor and reportedly unsafe island of La Torqa, writer James Foster (Skarsgård) is searching for artistic inspiration with his heiress wife Em (Cleopatra Coleman). A chance meeting with actress Gabi (Mia Goth) who claims to be a fan of James’ first novel leads to a tragic accident, but when all appears lost, the island provides, and James is offered a chance at redemption via La Torqa’s highly exclusive – highly expensive – scientific programme exclusively available to tourists.

Quickly coming to realise the rules don’t apply so long as you have enough money to fit the bill, James falls in with Gabi and her architect partner Alban (Jalil Laspert) as well as their gang of friends, leading to a knees-up that’s only one shade more depraved than the Costa del Sol sees every summer from the influx of Brits On Tour. Elaborate games play out between the resort’s wealthy guests as the stakes ever increase, until James and Em’s relationship begins to fray as he becomes further seduced by the possibility of enacting twisted fantasies with his new pals.

This could be viewed as yet another recent filmmaking attempt to satirise the uber rich (see also: Triangle of Sadness, The Menu) but Cronenberg is less interested in a general “rich people bad” statement. We already know that. Richard Connell was making that point back in 1924 with The Most Dangerous Game. Instead – like Antiviral and Possessor – Infinity Pool is more of a thought experiment about the (monetary and psychological) value we assign to the self. What do you have to lose when you no longer fear death? What is it about death that truly scares us – the finality or the lack of control?

Although Cronenberg could stand to push himself to even further extremes with his thesis and flesh out the details of this strange world a little more, he’s a refreshingly uncompromising filmmaker, carving out a distinctive aesthetic across his body of work, and choosing actors who have a physicality well-suited to the genre. In Possessor it was the mousey, sad-eyed Christopher Abbott and an eerie Andrea Riseborough; here it’s an against-type Skarsgård and Mia Goth, currently in her Scream Queen era, who oscillates between sultry siren and petulant princess of perversion.

It’s a visually engrossing (and visually gross) slice of nightmare fuel, and though it’s more heavy on vibes than plot, Infinity Pool is an atmospherical, grubby little downer of a holiday movie that takes on dark tourism and even darker desire with seductive, sickening style.

Published 23 Jan 2023

Tags: Alexander Skarsgård Brandon Cronenberg Mia Goth

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