Not all horror movies have something thought provoking to say. Infinity pool is such a film. Written and directed by Brandon Cronenberg, Infinity pool boasts alluring performances by Mia Goth and Alexander Skarsgård, but one can’t help but wonder at the film’s shallowness despite its off-the-wall depravity. It’s meant to shock and disgust – and it does – but while Infinity pool starts off interesting enough, its take on power, corruption and privilege only goes so far.
James Foster (Skarsgård) vacations with his wife Em (Cleopatra Coleman) at a resort on the fictional island of La Tolqa. James is a writer who hasn’t published in six years and struggles to find inspiration on his journey. His marriage to Em, a publishing heiress who supports James financially, is not exactly happy, but everything changes when James meets Gabi (Pearl and x star Mia Goth), a self-proclaimed fan of his book, and her husband Alban (Jalil Lespert). The pair invite James and Em to join them for a night outside the resort, despite not being allowed beyond its wired gates. When James hits one of the locals with his car, he must answer for his crimes – or pay a sum of money to the police to clone him so that his doppelganger dies in his place. As you can imagine, things get so much more interesting after that.
Infinity pool is about style rather than substance. Cronenberg doesn’t seem particularly invested in anything else. The vibes are definitely there and you can get on board with the depraved characters, especially as everything gets more and more twisted over the course of the film. But there is also an emptiness in the story. The film poses intriguing questions, discusses themes of morality and wealth, as well as what it means when death and its consequences are no longer an obstacle, but it is hollow and limited in its scope. The intent is clear, the execution is underwhelming.
Perhaps the most riveting aspect of the film is Skarsgård’s character, who can’t really find his footing and sees himself as a failure. James carries himself in a way that suggests he feels small and weak. Joining Gabi’s group, the only people who understand what he’s going through, is a way for him to feel empowered—at least for a while. But once things get out of hand (really wild and disturbing things happen on the island), James is left to feel even worse about everything and himself.
However, Cronenberg is only half interested in fully exploring James. Most of the characters are underdeveloped and underutilized. That said, Skarsgård and Goth give their all to their characters. They are engaging and willing to lean into nature and the unexpected. Their achievements are exciting. Skarsgård doesn’t aim to charm, and he’s believable as a failed writer who questions his talent. Goth, meanwhile, continues to prove that she can switch between sweet and chaotic with ease. She is magnetic to look at.
More concerned with the body horror and excesses throughout, the film doesn’t even take the time to explore the fictional island that serves as the story’s setting, leaving things vague enough that the characters are free to do whatever they want . The film goes all out in other respects. There are veils, the violence takes on an unsettling sense of joy that does Infinity pool all the more unnerving to watch, and the body horror is intense. It’s like being on a roller coaster that goes off the rails.
There is a certain tension that runs through Infinity pool, mainly because viewers will wonder what weird, insane thing will happen next. In that regard, the film succeeds despite being underwhelming elsewhere. Unfortunately, the story is muddled and the lack of cohesion affects its execution. It happily embraces its quirkiness, though, and if viewers are willing to go along for the ride, it can prove to be somewhat engaging.
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Infinity pool premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival on January 21. The film is 117 minutes long and rated R for graphic violence, disturbing material, strong sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use and some language. It will be released in cinemas on Friday 27 January.