The son also rises
“Yeah, and I was playing in bands. I was trying to do too much,” he drawls. “I needed to pick something I could focus my life upon. Film seemed like a way of gathering it all together. All those things are very satisfying. And this way I could do them all as part of that job. It turned out I was wrong. Film is its own thing. It’s something different and it doesn’t actually help you satisfy all those needs.”
Brandon spent some time in film school, made a few shorts and began plotting his assault on feature cinema. Though Antiviral does throw up uncanny reminders of earlier, first-generation Cronenbergia – if Brandon was no relation, comparisons would still be made – it must be admitted that Antiviral is based around an impressively original high concept. Its cynical antiheroes flog viruses that have recently spent time inconveniencing celebrities. The idea came to Brandon over an uncomfortable, damp weekend.
“I had just started film school and I had the flu,” he remembers. “I was having a semiconscious fever dream. It struck me what a weirdly intimate thing a virus is. It actually comes from within somebody else. I started to think about an obsessed fan who might want Angelina Jolie’s cold or whatever. That seemed like an interesting metaphor to discuss celebrity.”
It is a genuinely fascinating concept. The recreational patient can experience the same aches and effusions that have been plaguing his or her favourite movie star. Cronenberg uses the conceit to make some interesting points about the sleek patina of modern celebrity.
Antiviral is often properly disgusting. It is some time since I’ve seen a film that featured so much vomiting up of blood. It is more common to emulate the famous by buying their signature perfume or copying their handbag.
“Yes. There is a reason that I made it so disgusting,” he says. “There is something grotesque about that culture. So I made it visually grotesque. It’s a culture that fetishises the body. So I wanted the film to highlight the difference between that fetish and the reality. The human body is decaying. It’s dying. We shit.”
All things that are not supposed to affect, say, Ms Jolie? “For sure. Her media construct doesn’t do those things. Many people are fearful of their bodies. They don’t like to consider that stuff.”
Once again, we drift into family concerns. Few theses on “body horror” get through their first paragraphs without mentioning David Cronenberg. Dad was, I would imagine, an influence on Antiviral in another fashion. Brandon grew up in a house that was constantly visited by celebrities. He’s seen them eating potatoes and drinking beer (and, presumably, observed them retreating to the lavatory afterwards.) He, therefore, has some grasp of the gap between reality and perception in these areas. Indeed, his dad has been a victim of such misrepresentations. The godfather of contemporary horror is the most mild-mannered, well-spoken and quietly spoken of individuals.