Dean's pick of the month
Alexander Skarsgård and Mia Goth rip open the infinity pool...
February 2023's Pick
Infinity Pool, starring Alexander Skarsgård and Mia Goth, directed by Brandon Cronenberg
by Dean Patrick
As of this entry, I'm calling Infinity Pool this decade's best horror film.
True, we're only entering the 3rd year of the 2020's, and this decade has produced such horror masterpieces as The Invisible Man, The Night House, Men, X (also starring Goth), Ethan Hawke's The Black Phone, The Empty Man, and Last Night in Soho. But what Mia Goth and Alexander Skarsgård have done in Brandon Cronenberg's Infinity Pool bests them all.
This is horror at its fiercest and most ruthless assault. From the opening scene when Skarsgård’s protagonist and writer, James Foster, and his wife, Em (downplayed brilliantly by Cleopatra Coleman) are greeted at their resort getaway by greeters wearing brutal masks depicting torment and body horror, you feel a sudden vice grip around your emotions where the screw never stops tightening.
This is only Brandon Cronenberg's 3rd feature. Son of the legendary David Cronenberg (The Fly, Eastern Promises, Dead Ringers to name a few) with Infinity Pool Brandon Cronenberg will never again stand in his father's shadows, regardless of his father's filmography.
Quickly, it’s a story of cloning. “Doubling” as it’s referred to here. One night after Foster meets perhaps his only writing fan, Mia Goth’s Gabbi, the Fosters agree to leave the resort (which is absolutely forbidden) and venture out with Gabbi and her husband, Alban, played by Jalil Lespert.
After a long day of drinking and sunning, Gabbi’s first effortless sexual assault on James takes place while he thinks he’s alone and away from the group to relieve himself. Stunned to a point of fear, he ends up being the designated driver back to the resort that same evening. Foster ends up running down one of the locals due to faulty headlamps. It is here when Mia Goth takes full control of the film with a terrifyingly controlled rampage that’s astonishing in almost every scene until the film’s baffling conclusion.
Foster’s punishment for the accident, and what he thought would be covered up, is either death, or to be cloned and watch his double be put to death with all the memories of Foster’s real life. After choosing the latter (forcibly by the twisted dictator who rules the surrounding land), Goth and Skarsgård devour the screenplay and spew it back out in an endless bloodlust of torture, psychedelic drug orgies, sexual depravity, and murder. Goth's Gabbi as ringleader commands each awful scene almost in glee. It is a ruthless and exhausting performance, one where you can feel the assault while in the audience that she delivers to Skarsgård's James on screen.
Frame after frame Cronenberg’s controlled brutality is a metaphoric battering ram of Faust’s bargain and the cost of selling one’s soul to the devil. Goth’s demon woman rapes and pillages Skarsgård’s body, mind, and spirit that’s been bought and paid for many times over via each of his doubles.
Such horror must be handled by masters of their craft in order to keep the film from imploding into an incoherent mess. Here the director and his stars produce a tightly driven hellscape that blasts across the screen that when over, leaves you sitting in your seat wondering what in God’s name just happened.
Maybe it’s Colonel Kurtz crying out, “The horror. The horror,” with Joseph Conrad grinning from his grave in delight. What Goth has created in Infinity Pool as she terrorizes Skarsgård is the definition of the Heart of Darkness.