Infinity Pool – A Deep Dive
by Thom Ernst – Film Correspondent
(January 26, 2023 – Toronto, ON) Brandon Cronenberg’s films are distinct. Distinct, even more so than the reputation the name implies. It’s worth noting because comparisons, even when favourable, are only valued if the comparison isn’t looming over the compared. But it would take a conscious effort to ignore the similarities between Brandon’s work and that of his iconic father, David Cronenberg.
Infinity Pool, Brandon’s latest in science-fiction horror, has a sensibility, not unlike the older Cronenberg. But there is enough of Brandon in Infinity Pool to separate father and son.
Brandon sets the story in a vacation resort on La Tolqa, a fictional island along a warm undetermined coast.
Alexander Skarsgard plays James, an author in search of inspiration. His first book was a flop, and there is speculation that it was only published because he married Em (Cleopatra Coleman), the daughter of the publisher. If so, the publisher/father-in-law does not seem inclined to repeat the favour. The couple, who have been together for at least six years, appears to be fighting the urge to drift apart. Although the search for inspiration is named as the reason for the vacation, there’s a possibility that it might also rekindle a tattered romance.
James meets Gabi (Mia Goth) while witnessing a local terrorizing guest of the resort by tearing up the beach with an ATV. Gabi and James start a conversation claiming to be a fan of James’ book. Kudos to Brandon for resisting the urge to have James say, “So, you’re the one.”
Gabi introduces James to Thresh (Thomas Kretschmann), and James introduces Gabi to Em. An awkward friendship forms until an accident throws them into a perilous journey more odyssey than adventure.
Infinity Pool is arthouse horror leaning towards a vacation horror sub-genre. The hook here is the film’s graphic scenes of violence, nudity, and sex. It’s not the story, but it is the hook. At times the film seems to exist to shock, to push expectations beyond the edge. But the film remains grounded despite efforts to send things hurling beyond redemption. There are reins in Brandon’s no-limits approach. That Brandon is the only one who knows when those reins are pulled carries us from one wtf moment to the next.
Infinity Pool is well served by its leads, Skarsgard, Coleman, Kretschmann, and Goth commit fully to their performances. Skarsgard, not traditionally known to wear wounded so easily, carries James with the weight of a man dragged down by self-pity. And Goth, an actor who (since we’re open to comparisons) retrieves some of the wide-eyed madness of a young Sissy Spacek.
With an unintentional anti-White Lotus charm, Infinity Pool is not easily forgotten and is an effortless film to return to should such a thing happen. It opens wide, from Victoria to Halifax, tomorrow January 27, 2023. Watch the trailer and learn more about the cast and crew.
Thom Ernst is a Toronto based film critic and writer and an active member of the (TFCA) Toronto Film Critics’ Association. His work has appeared in various publications including Playback Magazine, The Toronto Star, and The National Post. He is known to CBC Radio listeners for his lively contributions to Fresh Air, Metro Morning, and CBC Syndication as well as appearing on-air for CTV News Channel and The Agenda with Steve Paikin. He was host, interviewer and producer of televisions’ longest running movie program Saturday Night at the Movies. Currently he can be heard interviewing Canadian filmmakers on the Kingston Canadian Film Festival podcast, Rewind, Fast-Forward