“Celebrities are not people. They’re group hallucinations.”
I wanted to double-feature this with a Jennifer Chamber Lynch movie, the children of my favorite horror filmmakers, but couldn’t get a copy of Boxing Helena in time so I settled for the Xan Cassavetes instead. Pretty sure that even if I hadn’t known the Cronenberg connection I’d have been able to spot it: a total body-horror flick with a cool and clinical atmosphere. Plus someone says “shivers” within the first five minutes, and lead actor Caleb Landry Jones even reminded me of Cosmopolis star Robert Pattinson.
Speaking of Pattinson, the movie is about a future where the public’s hunger for celebrities has become literal, buying lunchmeat grown from the stars’ cells and getting themselves sickened by viruses that come from the stars’ bloodstreams. I think the movie is acknowledging that this is farfetched by having the virus thing be a premium specialty business (no huge lines out the door) run by a small staff of technicians also acting as salesmen.
Caleb is magnetic as Syd, whose celeb-virus business contracts exclusively with star Hannah Geist, and who is always trying to turn a buck in black-market virus sales while trying to get close to Geist himself. The black-market aspect already brings mystery to the movie before the new twist where Syd has injected himself with Geist’s newest illness, which kills her – or so the story goes, but really she’s being kept alive while people in the Geist business fake her death while trying to figure out the poison plot and deal with the leak perpetrated by Syd. Really it’s more complicated than this, and either I missed some information or the big picture is never fully revealed, while Syd ends up where he wanted to be, selling Geist by day and having (parts of) her to himself by night.
Plus: viral copy-protection hacking, viruses represented with blurred, manipulated photographs, man-machine-fusing nightmares (and realities), and doctor Malcolm McDowell.