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[Sundance Review] ‘Infinity Pool’ is a Bleak Examination of Identity

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Infinity Pool

Brandon Cronenberg’s Infinity Pool arrived at Sundance Film Festival with a not-so-surprisingly bleak look at wealth, sex, and identity with body horror to spare.

Alexander Skarsgard stars as James Foster, an author suffering from writer’s block, who travels with his wife Em (Cleopatra Coleman) to the fictional island of La Tolqa. Visitors to the island are required by law to stay inside their resort compound, but after meeting up with the mysterious uber-wealthy couple Alban and Gabi (Jalil Espert and Mia Goth), they find themselves outside the gates.

On their way back to the compound, James hits a man with his car, killing him instantly, and is subsequently–without trial–sentenced to death. That’s when they offer him a deal. They have the technology to create a complete replica of him, with all his memories intact, who can die in his place.

Who would turn down a deal like that?

It begs the question, however: What does one do after you’ve seen yourself die? How do you recover from that?

Of course, James struggles with the answers for the next two hours. Skarsgard gives a brilliant performance in the role. Watching him break over and over and over again is terrifying and heart-breaking. And yet, there was more than one occasion where I wanted to shake him and tell him to snap out of it.

This is, in large part, due to Cronenberg’s writing and direction. He has taken a page out of his father’s handbook, broadly painting a canvas in which the wealthy cannot be trusted (duh), the poor will continue to do what’s bad for them because the rich tell them to (again, duh), and the only person who will suffer consequences of their actions are the poor who allowed themselves to be manipulated by the wealthy.

Sex is bad. Abstaining is bad. Wealth is bad. Being poor is bad. Life is bad. Death is bad. Making mistakes is bad. There is no such thing as a moral high ground except where Cronenberg, himself, is standing as the director/writer/god of the world he’s created.

Bleak, bleak, bleak, bleak, bleak.

Don’t get me wrong. It works. I enjoy the darkness of this kind of story. The visuals in the film will stick with you long after the credits roll. The body horror, itself, puts his father’s work to shame at times, as does his handling of the sex in Infinity Pool.

The problem was, as I sat considering the film afterward, I couldn’t help feel that I’d seen it all before, so the question becomes, “Was it all really necessary and could the same story be told in a way that was more effective?”

Mostly, I would say yes. Along with Skarsgard’s performance, Mia Goth is ravenous and wild in the role of Gabi. She is unhinged in interesting ways, often taking on the role of aggressor in unexpected twists. She is, ultimately, James’s foil, and she knows it almost from the moment they meet.

Goth reportedly received the sript for Infinity Pool while filming Pearl, the sequel to Ti West’s X. One can see a bit of overlap in the characters. The only real difference is that Pearl is the opposite of wealthy and therefore, her decisions come from an entirely different place.

Unfortunately, there’s not much else to be discussed without getting into heavy spoilers, and I do try to avoid those as much as possible. The only question that really remains is: Was it good?

Well…

It’s Cronenberg.

For some, this will be the best movie of the year. For others, it will be hated on principle. For this viewer, there is only one unforgivable sin a horror film can commit, and that is to be boring. Whatever else it is, Infinity Pool is not boring.

Check out the trailer below!

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Movie Reviews

‘Skinwalkers: American Werewolves 2’ is Packed with Cryptid Tales [Movie Review]

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The Skinwalkers Werewolves

As a longtime werewolf enthusiast, I’m immediately drawn to anything featuring the word “werewolf”. Adding Skinwalkers into the mix? Now, you’ve truly captured my interest. Needless to say, I was thrilled to check out Small Town Monsters’ new documentary ‘Skinwalkers: American Werewolves 2’. Below is the synopsis:

“Across the four corners of the American Southwest, there is said to exist an ancient, supernatural evil that preys on the fear of its victims to gain greater power. Now, witnesses lift the veil on the most terrifying encounters with modern-day werewolves ever heard. These stories intertwine legends of upright canids with hellhounds, poltergeists, and even the mythical Skinwalker, promising true terror.”

The Skinwalkers: American Werewolves 2

Centered around shapeshifting and told through firsthand accounts from the Southwest, the film brims with chilling stories. (Note: iHorror has not independently verified any claims made in the film.) These narratives are the heart of the film’s entertainment value. Despite the mostly basic backdrops and transitions—notably lacking in special effects—the film maintains a steady pace, thanks largely to its focus on witness accounts.

While the documentary lacks concrete evidence to support the tales, it remains a captivating watch, especially for cryptid enthusiasts. Skeptics may not be converted, but the stories are intriguing.

After watching, am I convinced? Not entirely. Did it make me question my reality for a while? Absolutely. And isn’t that, after all, part of the fun?

‘Skinwalkers: American Werewolves 2’ is now available on VOD and Digital HD, with Blu-ray and DVD formats offered exclusively by Small Town Monsters.

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‘Slay’ is Wonderful, It’s Like if ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ Met ‘Too Wong Foo’

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Slay Horror Movie

Before you dismiss Slay as a gimmick, we can tell you, it is. But it’s a damn good one. 

Four drag queens are mistakenly booked at a stereotypical biker bar in the desert where they have to combat bigots…and vampires. You read that right. Think, Too Wong Foo at the Titty Twister. Even if you don’t get those references, you will still have a good time.

Before you sashay away from this Tubi offering, here is why you shouldn’t. It’s surprisingly funny and manages to have a few scary moments along the way. It’s a midnight movie at its core and if those bookings were still a thing, Slay would probably have a successful run. 

The premise is simple, again, four drag queens played by Trinity the Tuck, Heidi N Closet, Crystal Methyd, and Cara Mell find themselves at a biker bar unaware that an alpha vampire is on the loose in the woods and has already bitten one of the townsfolk. The turned man makes his way to the old roadside saloon and begins turning the patrons into the undead right in the middle of the drag show. The queens, along with the local barflies, barricade themselves inside the bar and must defend themselves against the growing hoard outside.

“Slay”

The contrast between the denim and leather of the bikers, and the ball gowns and Swarovski crystals of the queens, is a sight gag I can appreciate. During the whole ordeal, none of the queens gets out of costume or sheds their drag personas except at the beginning. You forget they have other lives outside of their costumes.

All four of the leading ladies have had their time on Ru Paul’s Drag Race, But Slay is a lot more polished than a Drag Race acting challenge, and the leads elevate the camp when called for and tone it down when necessary. It is a well-balanced scale of comedy and horror.

Trinity the Tuck is primed with one-liners and double entendres which rat-a-tat from her mouth in gleeful succession. It’s not a cringy screenplay so every joke lands naturally with a required beat and professional timing.

There is one questionable joke made by a biker about who comes from Transylvania and it isn’t the highest brow but it doesn’t feel like punching down either. 

This might be the guiltiest pleasure of the year! It’s hilarious! 

Slay

Heidi N Closet is surprisingly well cast. It’s not that it’s surprising to see she can act, it’s just most people know her from Drag Race which doesn’t allow much range. Comically she’s on fire. In one scene she flips her hair behind her ear with a large baguette and then uses it as a weapon. The garlic, you see. It’s surprises like that that make this film so charming. 

The weaker actor here is Methyd who plays the dimwitted Bella Da Boys. Her creaky performance shaves a little off the rhythm but the other ladies take up her slack so it just becomes part of the chemistry.

Slay has some great special effects too. Despite using CGI blood, none of them take you out of the element. Some great work went into this movie from everyone involved.

The vampire rules are the same, stake through the heart, sunlight., etc. But what’s really neat is when the monsters are killed, they explode into a glitter-tinted dust cloud. 

It’s just as fun and silly as any Robert Rodriguez movie with probably a quarter of his budget. 

Director Jem Garrard keeps everything going at a rapid pace. She even throws in a dramatic twist which is played with as much seriousness as a soap opera, but it does pack a punch thanks to Trinity and Cara Melle. Oh, and they manage to squeeze in a message about hate during it all. Not a smooth transition but even the lumps in this film are made of buttercream.

Another twist, handled much more delicately is better thanks to veteran actor Neil Sandilands. I’m not going to spoil anything but let’s just say there are plenty of twists and, ahem, turns, which all add to the fun. 

Robyn Scott who plays barmaid Shiela is the standout comedian here. Her lines and gusto provide the most belly laughs. There should be a special award for her performance alone.

Slay is a delicious recipe with just the right amount of camp, gore, action, and originality. It’s the best horror comedy to come along in a while.

It’s no secret that independent films have to do a lot more for less. When they are this good it’s a reminder that big studios could be doing better.

With movies like Slay, every penny counts and just because the paychecks might be smaller it doesn’t mean the final product has to be. When the talent puts this much effort into a film, they deserve more, even if that recognition comes in the form of a review. Sometimes smaller movies like Slay have hearts too big for an IMAX screen.

And that’s the tea. 

You can stream Slay on Tubi right now.

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Review: Is There ‘No Way Up’ For This Shark Film?

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A flock of birds flies into the jet engine of a commercial airliner making it crash into the ocean with only a handful of survivors tasked with escaping the sinking plane while also enduring depleting oxygen and nasty sharks in No Way Up. But does this low-budget film rise above its shopworn monster trope or sink beneath the weight of its shoestring budget?

First, this film obviously isn’t on the level of another popular survival film, Society of the Snow, but surprisingly it isn’t Sharknado either. You can tell a lot of good direction went into making it and its stars are up for the task. The histrionics are kept at a bare minimum and unfortunately the same can be said about the suspense. That isn’t to say that No Way Up is a limp noodle, there is plenty here to keep you watching until the end, even if the last two minutes is offensive to your suspension of disbelief.

Let’s start with the good. No Way Up has plenty of good acting, especially from its lead Sophie McIntosh who plays Ava, a rich governor’s daughter with a heart of gold. Inside, she is struggling with the memory of her mother’s drowning and is never far from her overprotective older bodyguard Brandon played with nannyish diligence by Colm Meaney. McIntosh doesn’t reduce herself to the size of a B-movie, she is fully committed and gives a strong performance even if the material is trodden.

No Way Up

Another standout is Grace Nettle playing the 12-year-old Rosa who is traveling with her grandparents Hank (James Caroll Jordan) and Mardy (Phyllis Logan). Nettle doesn’t reduce her character to a delicate tween. She’s scared yes, but she also has some input and pretty good advice about surviving the situation.

Will Attenborough plays the unfiltered Kyle who I imagine was there for comic relief, but the young actor never successfully tempers his meanness with nuance, therefore he just comes across as a die-cut archetypical asshole inserted to complete the diverse ensemble.

Rounding out the cast is Manuel Pacific who plays Danilo the flight attendant who is the mark of Kyle’s homophobic aggressions. That whole interaction feels a bit outdated, but again Attenborough hasn’t fleshed out his character well enough to warrant any.

No Way Up

Continuing on with what is good in the film are the special effects. The plane crash scene, as they always are, is terrifying and realistic. Director Claudio Fäh has spared no expense in that department. You have seen it all before, but here, since you know they are crashing into the Pacific it’s more tense and when the plane hits the water you’ll wonder how they did it.

As for the sharks they are equally impressive. It’s hard to tell if they used live ones. There are no hints of CGI, no uncanny valley to speak of and the fish are genuinely threatening, although they don’t get the screentime you might be expecting.

Now with the bad. No Way Up is a great idea on paper, but the reality is something like this couldn’t happen in real life, especially with a jumbo jet crashing into the Pacific Ocean at such a fast speed. And even though the director has successfully made it seem like it could happen, there are so many factors that just don’t make sense when you think about it. Underwater air pressure is the first to come to mind.

It also lacks a cinematic polish. It has this straight-to-video feel, but the effects are so good that you can’t help but feel the cinematography, especially inside the plane should have been slightly elevated. But I’m being pedantic, No Way Up is a good time.

The ending doesn’t quite live up to the film’s potential and you will be questioning the limits of the human respiratory system, but again, that’s nitpicking.

Overall, No Way Up is a great way to spend an evening watching a survival horror movie with the family. There are some bloody images, but nothing too bad, and the shark scenes can be mildly intense. It is rated R on the low end.

No Way Up might not be the “next great shark” movie, but it is a thrilling drama that rises above the other chum so easily thrown into the waters of Hollywood thanks to the dedication of its stars and believable special effects.

No Way Up is now available to rent on digital platforms.

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