A ridiculous premise for a film about the consequences of our actions , transforms into an incoherent mess becoming more inconsequential as it goes along. “Infinity Pool” is a horror film with a science fiction conceit that gets completed wasted and turns the story into an examination of unpleasantness for no reason whatsoever. This could have been something interesting and important, and it gets less and less of each of those things the longer it goes on.
Alexander Skarsgård is failed novelist James Foster, on holiday at a resort, in a country trapped in poverty and full of the kinds of cultural improprieties that we are supposed to overlook to avoid ethnocentrism. The tribalism and cultural imperative of family honor requires immediate retribution for offenses committed in the nation. So go ahead and trust the people you just met, and venture outside of the resort enclave, meet people from the place you are visiting, and learn their quaint form of justice, except there is a get out of jail card. Maybe the wilder the idea, the more fun we can have with it, after all “Face Off” ,was a blast in spite of being completely bonkers. The problem here is that no one is having fun with the premise, instead there are pretentions of insight into human behavior. That might have also made for a good story, but writer/director Brandon Cronenberg leaves that on the table to wallow in excess revulsion.
The idea of buying your way out of the consequences of your actions is an interesting one. What does that process do to a persons sense of self. Does guilt linger or vanish? Will your morality disappear entirely? These are great questions that the film asks, but it’s answers are muddled by a series of indulgent episodes that become increasingly boring and irritating. Mia Goth, who gave what I thought was a fantastic performance last year in “Pearl”, at risk of being trapped in the same kind of roles in the future if she keeps getting parts like this. She is great here, but her character is just a slightly different twist on the sick mind that cropped up in that earlier film. Her character Gabi, at first is mysterious, but quickly becomes tritely cruel and less and less interesting.
A few examples of the pointless excess that Cronenberg has created here might help you understand why this movie is infuriating. Gabi gives James a reach around after a few hours of picnicking with James and his wife? We get to see his seed spilled on the ground. Why? The sense of unearned intimacy is probably what the writer is seeking here, but that is physical rather than emotional, and the emotional is where this movie needs to be working. The best character in the film when it comes to dealing with the questions being raised by the premise, is James’s wife Em, played by Cleopatra Coleman. Unfortunately, she is removed from the film and the only characters that James has to measure his behavior against, are the ones who are indulging in the reckless excess that will turn off most of the viewers. There is an extended orgy sequence shot as if it is the “stars” sequence from “2001”. It goes on interminably, the lights flash in different colors, and we see hazy images of people entangled in some sort of sexual behavior, but what it is will never become clear. Obtuse abstractness is supposed to be artistic in these moments, rather, it is pretentious diddling. One last thing to irritate you, there are grotesque masks worn by the characters during many of the scenes of violence and lasciviousness. They were introduced early on, without a clear explanation and the cultural symbolism is completely baffling. The art house sensibility can’t be masked by the fact that this is a horror film, it simply makes the film less frightening and more vaguely symbolic. I call bullshit.
There was another potential direction the film could have gone in, one that the director set up and then completely ignored. How do we know that the doppelganger is the one being executed? Maybe the accused has been replaced by the clone. If that is the case, is there in fact a redemption of guilt because the surviving “person” is in fact, blameless? That is an intriguing thought. Unfortunately, it is not the thought Cronenberg wanted to dwell on. Instead, we get violent and emotional cruelty. Trippy visual interludes don’t make the film deep, they simply fill in the time between unpleasant characters doing more unpleasant things. None of it makes any sense, and the symbolism is too trite to be taken seriously, much less understood. Somewhere some cineaste will write about this and make it sound like an artistic breakthrough, I’m sorry, they will be as full of it as this movie was.