Infinity Pool

Brandon Cronenberg’s Infinity Pool explores the ways that the wealthy have different rules than the rest of us. Set against the backdrop of a resort vacation in an otherwise destitute (fictional) country, the film showcases not only how the rich view the less fortunate, but also how the law bends to their will. As one of the locals puts it, they see this place as their “playground.” As long as they are able to bribe their way out of the legal ramifications of their actions, they’re free to do as they please. 

However, with Cronenberg at the helm, you know that the film isn’t going to be as simple as that. As in his prior film Possessor, he presents us with questions of identity and the self. Who am I? What am I capable of? In this way, Infinity Pool embeds deeper psychological challenges within a story that’s essentially a critique of capitalism and classist society. 

While I don’t want to write a whole compare and contrast of Possessor and Infinity Pool, it’s fair to say that some of the former’s themes show up again, but taken from a different perspective. In addition to the themes he’s clearly interested in exploring, Cronenberg also has a very specific aesthetic and there’s a lot of visual overlap between the two films. But I can’t stress enough that this is a separate work that deserves to be appraised on its own terms. Regardless of how many commonalities we may find between the two films, there exists a freshness that will keep viewers interested. 

It’s not hard to remain engaged when Mia Goth gets so much screen time. I’m sure this won’t come to anyone’s surprise, but her performance in this film stands out among even the most captivating casts. Not only can she mesmerize with her skilled line readings and expressions, but her character consistently contains the most mystery and intrigue. 

As much as Goth stands out, I’ll admit there weren’t any performances I was disappointed with. Alexander Skarsgård’s James Foster confronts a multitude of feelings and mental states throughout the film, and Skarsgård’s skilled portrayal can’t be denied, especially when comparing it to the singular emotional experience with The Northman (that emotion being rage, if you haven’t seen it).

Visually, this film can be a challenge. When I bought tickets, I was prompted with a warning that it contains images that can be triggering for people with photosensitive epilepsy. Even beyond that, the way the camera moves is discordant and almost Lynchian, though still done with such an attention to detail that audiences won’t lose their place in the scene. From the opening shots of the resort through the more psychedelic and hallucinatory sequences, Cronenberg challenges audiences to leave, while presenting such an incredible story and setting that it becomes impossible to do so. 

Cronenberg seems to balance whimsical and fun with horror and haunting, never diving too deeply into either tone, which may read as inconsistent or discordant for some. I appreciated the balance, as it makes the viewing experience more enjoyable, given that there are moments of levity. Though I wouldn’t call the movie a fun experience overall, I’d say this tonal discordance plays out in accordance with Skarsgård’s experience, simultaneously dark and twisted while also being a pleasurable joy. 

The rich have played the villain in horror since Dracula wanted to buy up real estate in London. But the difference between then and now is that Dracula was simply a villain who was rich, whereas in the horror films of the last 40 years the villain’s motives often center on their wealth. Films like Society and They Live depict the rich as an entirely separate species, while more contemporary representations focus on the social differences between us and them, as with Ready or Not and The Menu. Infinity Pool builds on the latter representation to hyperbolically demonstrate how the legal system caters to their wealth.

Final Fantasy Tactics, 1997

Trouble Every Day (2001)

Trouble Every Day is quite an experience. For a film with such a slim narrative and brief plot summary, it’s hard to believe how much co-writer/director Claire Denis has managed to pack into it. Initially, I felt that I had more questions than answers after watching it, but one thing remained without question: I wanted to watch it again. I needed to understand what compelled Shane and Coré toward cannibalism.

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Friday the 13th Franchise (ranked)

After listening to a handful of podcasts with lists of the worst to best Friday the 13th movies, most notably Evolution of Horror and With Gourley and Rust, I decided to put my own list together. It’s likely that everyone’s list is different, but what struck me is exactly how different my list is from others. I really go for the self-aware and campy Friday the 13th movies; watching them should be fun—drinking some beers and eating some pizza with friends. So keep that in mind as you go through the list. I think that’s the real metric: how much fun is it?

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Old (2021)

True to most twist-centered media, everything that happens in the beginning is meant to set up things that build towards the twist so that on rewatch it all adds up. The acting is really quite bad. It’s almost a parody of conversation, and the character’s quirks set up everything that happens in this movie, so they just feel unnatural and awkward. Shyamalan consistently takes his films way too seriously for what he actually produces. The first 30 minutes of the movie is like watching robots interact. Every sentence is there to advance the plot.

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The Craft Legacy (2020)

Over the last couple years, film studios have released movies that are not quite sequels and not quite remakes. Movies like Ghostbusters (2016), Suspiria (2018) and The Invisible Man (2020) draw inspiration from classics, but reinterpret them in some way. The Craft Legacy similarly fits into this category, despite essentially being a direct sequel to The Craft (1996).

Throughout the movie there are references to the original film, whether it’s subtle nods like the title card set against a cloudy blue sky or more explicit ones like Tabby saying, “We are the weirdos, mister.” In The Craft, we saw the coven turn against each other, with Nancy playing the villain. The villain in Legacy however is very clearly patriarchy.

Though Adam, Lily’s step-father and leader of a pagan cult, is the most explicit representation of this, as with all systems of oppression, patriarchy’s villainy has numerous actors (and actions that it’s upheld by) throughout the film: from the more extreme instances like Lily being publicly humiliated by Timmy for getting her period in class and then getting in trouble for pushing him away after he threatens her, to the seemingly benign like Jacob dismissing Tabby’s request to play video games with him (this brings to mind the world of women and video games, as well as specific instances like gamergate).

Side note: how awesome is Lily’s shirt!

It’s notable that they come together because of Timmy’s actions. “You’re not alone,” Tabby says; Timmy has made them all cry at some point. What’s brought them together is their oppression, their womanhood. But what’s presented in the movie isn’t just all women against all men. “Way to stick it to the man, mom,” Lily sneers, after her mother doesn’t stand up for her to Adam.

And just like the original, they discover and explore their powers, casting spells and using magic in everyday life—to rather cartoonish effect, such as Tabby’s ability to shoot fire out of her finger to remove some slanderous graffiti from her locker. Testing the limits of their powers, they decide to  cast a spell to “awaken Timmy to his highest self.” 

This presents a host of issues if we take this spell to be literal, but if we consider that his “highest self” would just be an ideal version of Timmy from the point of view of the coven, then his transformation makes a lot more sense. He becomes an anti-patriarchal actor, sort of. Some of the things he says after he’s awoken are laughable, but he’s trying. 

Timmy coming out to the coven

“It’s just hard for dudes. I feel like there’s no room to be…everyone just assumes you’re just gay and that, that’s fine, you know there’s nothing wrong with that at all, I just, I like both.” When Timmy comes out as bisexual to the girls, there is the implication that these are feelings he has had all along, but that he’s kept hidden for fear of losing status or position of power within society.

This movie is so much more queer than the original, which isn’t all that surprising because the original took place in the 90s, when the general public didn’t really talk about queerness. The only person who is explicitly queer is Timmy. Though even this could be considered queerbaiting, given that it’s now 2021 and I think the bar for what passes as actually queer should be elevated to depicting actual relationships/displays of affection, and not just explicitly saying that a character is queer. Nevertheless, bisexual representation is good and necessary.

Still, Timmy’s comments attempt to convince us that even those who seemingly “benefit” from the patriarchy can be negatively impacted by it. I’m not sure this is true, but it does further cement the idea that patriarchy is a system rather than individuals. Yes, they’ve changed Timmy, but the system is still in place. Even after they defeat Adam, the system will go on. What would it take to radically restructure society—unsurprisingly the film doesn’t go into this because that would be a pretty tall order.

But the film does give us a leader, driving patriarchal values and instilling them in the young men of the film—Adam.

Adam justifies the murder of Timmy to the boys, tells them he was weak and they are strong

As the leader of a pagan cult, he gathers and meets with his sons’ friends from school to indoctrinate them into the rituals and belief structures that he’s committed to. In the wake of Timmy’s murder, Adam tells the boys, “We all face tragedy every day. The question is: how do we face it?” Timmy being weak is brought up several times. He was a traitor to the patriarchy and therefore not only weak, but a threat to them. “When one of us is weak, all of us are weak,” Adam commands.

Consistent with the original film, power and the pursuit of power corrupts. It’s notable that Adam has three sons and no wife. His first wife isn’t discussed at all, which makes me wonder: was she Sarah Bailey, the natural-born witch from the first film? This would make sense, given that Adam has a knowledge of who Lily is and given the way Adam tried to steal powers from her. It’s plausible that Adam learned about the events of the original film, sought out the four girls of the coven, and one by one is taking what he can from them.

The biggest question is: what happened to Nancy and how did she give birth to Lily? Nancy has been incarcerated in a mental health institution since high school—1996. Lily is 17 years old in the year 2021, meaning she was born in 2004. How is it that Nancy became pregnant? The implication is disturbing to say the least.

Overall, this movie is a perfectly enjoyable addition to the canon, and I like the way they made it less about in-fighting in the coven and more about fighting an external force of evil. It’s much campier and as mentioned at times cartoonish, but much of that makes it fun even though it deals with some heavy themes.

High Tension (2003)

High Tension could’ve been a perfectly adequate slasher, but the ending is one of the most ruinous I’ve ever seen. While attempting to replicate the 80s style grindhouse low budget slasher film, the film nearly succeeds, but generally feels more like actual low budget horror, rather than an homage. There’ve been so many well done throwbacks, that the ways in which this failed are just that much more pronounced: the poor dubbing, the lackluster camerawork, the incoherent plot. Watch a movie like Death Proof if you want to see a more successful take (and a better film). 

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