“Infinity Pool,” the new horror film from director Brandon Cronenberg, now playing in theatres, takes place in the beach resort of your dreams… if you are prone to nightmares.
The action in “Infinity Pool” takes place against a sun-drenched all-inclusive beach resort in the fictional country of Li Tolqa. The exclusive, and very pricey, vacation spot offers a safe and secluded place for the wealthy to wine, dine and have fun. Imagine a kinkier “White Lotus.”
Just don’t go beyond the barbed wire gates.
That’s a lesson James (Alexander Skarsgård) and Em (Cleopatra Coleman) learn too late. He’s a writer, looking for inspiration; she is his wife, an heiress to a publishing fortune. Their lives take a turn when they meet Gabi (Mia Goth) and Al (Jalil Lespert), an adventurous couple who convince them to leave the compound for a beachside BBQ. “It’s one day,” James says. “Let’s mix things up a bit.”
Some grilled sausage and a graphic sex scene later, it’s night. Time to pile into the car and return to the resort. On the way James accidentally hits and kills a local man. Distraught, he wants to call the police.
“No police,” says Gabi. “Do you know anything about the police in Li Tolqa? This isn’t a civilized country. It’s brutal and it is filthy. We’re not getting picked up for this.”
They skedaddle, but soon enough the law catches up with them, questioning Em and arresting James for murder. After a night in jail, he is sentenced. “Here, the punishment for any crime committed is death.”
But even though Li Tolqa is an eye for an eye kind of place, the rules are different for wealthy tourists. By law someone must atone for the crime, but instead of putting James to death, they offer to make a clone of him. The replica will have his memories and will believe it is being killed for James’s crimes.
It is agreed the son of the dead man will even the score by killing the clone. Justice and vengeance will have been served. But there is a caveat. James and Em must watch the execution. After that, they’re free to go, with the clone’s ashes in hand. “Consider it a souvenir.”
Trouble is, James doesn’t want to leave.
“Infinity Pool” is a deep dive into depravity. Sensuality, violence and horror merge, as death becomes a spectator sport, sex becomes hallucinogenic as James becomes seduced by the hedonism of Li Tolqa and his new friends.
Fittingly, there is an unhinged quality to the filmmaking. In a story where anything could happen, and often does, director Brandon Cronenberg ups the debauchery with slick filmmaking, gorgeous cinematography from Karim Hussain and the kind of nihilism not seen since the days of Michael Haneke’s “Funny Games.”
By design it is an unpleasant movie, a Grand-Guignol commentary on the privilege of wealth and the evil men do. Blood—and other bodily fluids—spurt, cruelty is celebrated and the moral compass is left spinning. It is, in its reflection of the foulness of society, also kind of a singular cinematic experience.
We will see better performances this year, but I doubt that we will see two more committed performances than the ones handed in by Skarsgård and Goth. As James, Skarsgård has few boundaries, pushing the character to disturbing places. Goth is the personification of bored debauchery; a person who treats heartlessness as recreation.
“Infinity Pool’s” mix of sadism and satire will not be for everyone. The gratuitous grotesqueries on display will put many viewers off, but adventurous moviegoers may find something new and compelling in Cronenberg’s nightmarish vision.