Infinity Pool Review: Mia Goth and Alexander Skarsgard Thriller

Sundance: Alexander Skarsgärd and Mia Goth are fearlessly twisted, but Cronenberg’s explicit psychedelic tourism thriller is cold and clammy.

Filmmaker David’s son, Brandon Cronenberg hasn’t strayed far from the pedigree by conjuring ultra-explicit body horror thrillers that hinge on psychedelic imagery of orifices, organs and limbs being ripped apart. His latest nightmare, dystopian tourism-horror Infinity Pool, strangely continues that tradition, focusing on the destructive power of the pursuit of sensual pleasure.

Stars Alexander Skarsgärd and Mia Goth deliver terrifically off-kilter performances as failing novelist and mysterious tour guide, and Cronenberg is not at all short of original ideas, but the whole thing feels bloodless, cold and clammy like a speculum.

James (Skarsgärd) and Em Foster (Cleopatra Coleman) take an all-inclusive vacation to the fictional state of Li Tolqa, where writer James hopes to get the defibrillators on his writer’s block. The pricey beach vacation is tucked away from the rest of the state’s environs, and this is where the carefree rich can shut out the rest of the world. James and Em’s relationship seems mostly dispassionate – the actors actually seem oddly compatible and lack a lot of chemistry. Exactly the right thing to liven up a dreary vacation: the hip couple Gabi (Gothic) and Al (Jalil Lespert). The vibes immediately ooze menace: on the dance floor, James and Gabi look at each other with insidious hunger, and later it ends with Gabi jerking off James on the beach, Cronenberg’s camera zooms in on his ejaculating penis because, well, that’s a Film by Brandon Cronenberg, and why not?

The moment isn’t as shocking as it wants to be, and it’s certainly not sexy. Despite the accumulation of gore, guts, holes and cocks in a hallucinogenic montage that pierces the otherwise oddly sleepy atmosphere of Infinity Pool, the film is never as horrific as it confidently seems to believe. Things heat up when Gabi decides to take James and Em for a spin, where she’s hurtling down a winding, cliff-lined road in an open convertible and a hit-and-run accident with James at the wheel sends the debauchery screeching to a halt. Despite the obvious ramifications of the looming manslaughter charge, there is a loophole for foreign travelers from James’ status and notoriety: submit to a process of cloning yourself, watch your likeness executed, and you’re free to leave . Unless of course you don’t want that.

infinity pool

“infinity pool”


It’s a unique dystopian concept, and Cronenberg is mostly up to the task of fulfilling his ambition, of which he has plenty. The actual process of doubling takes a slimy, slimy “under the skin” form as James submits to having his body and all its details scaled and archived before being submerged in a bath of bubbling red mud. This is actually the scariest and most clever effect of the movie, because we don’t quite understand how these doubles are made, and that makes it even more intriguing. There’s also the worrying prospect that your double might actually be you, and so on she are the newly created version of yourself. If that makes sense. And the thrill of seeing oneself perish horribly is executed in chilling visual terms when in one scene Skarsgärd’s torso is repeatedly stabbed by a young boy with a sneer on his face, Cronenberg flashing repeatedly into the torrents of blood poured out of James’ stomach.

Like seemingly everyone immersed in this depraved culture to see themselves dying for the sport, James becomes addicted to the spectacle and wants more, more, more while being gifted the ashes of those around him in black urns which he assembles in his suitcase. Oh, and there’s also the problem that Em wants the hell out of Dodge, but James claims he’s lost his passport and urges her to continue without him. And as the excitability of witnessing one’s own death, as in the film, slowly loses its juice, the stakes are raised, and James, Gabi and their horde of nihilistic, pleasure-seeking cohorts embark on criminal ventures involving robberies, attempted assassination, and the seemingly corrupt doctor , who directs the cloning apparatus.

Unfortunately, the director of “Possessor” and “Antiviral” digs too deep and too far into his well-worn bag of tricks in the second half of “Infinity Pool,” which for all its weirdness and twisted visual swagger feels like a makeover. There’s a psychedelic orgy montage steeped in all sorts of body parts, James and Gabi popping out of their skulls on some sort of “religious” drug and pounding each other in ecstasy that feels a lot like the one in “Possessor” where Andrea Riseborough suddenly had a penis. This is probably one of the moments that originally gave Infinity Pool its deserved NC-17 rating. The sequence feels more like a music video dropped in the middle of Cronenberg’s already shaky narrative. But it’s perhaps one of the few moments of truly stunning visual beauty, as cinematographer Karim Hussain insists on shooting the entire film under a gray washed-out glow, perhaps meant to reflect the ugliness at the core of the characters’ souls, but the problem is, that none of them have one.

Neither does this movie. There are sharp ideas here about humanity’s self-replicating and self-sustaining drive for longevity, the hollow, rotten core at the center of the over-rich, etc., etc., but everything is dulled by scruffy execution.

Still, the actors make this film as time ticks down on James’ psycho-sensual odyssey and his attempts to escape the grounds are met at their peak by the madcap antics of a white wine-wielding, vitriol-spitting Mia Goth, who has been an intensely disturbed performance since her last most intensely disturbed performance and the one before. Skarsgärd never dries up from humiliating himself, and a scene where – I say it all here – has him on all fours in a dog collar is a strong scene. But Cronenberg can’t match the fearlessness of his own actors, and it turns out he was just looking into his own Narcissus pool, cloning his own past visions and killing them before attempting to do anything new .

Class: C

Infinity Pool premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Neon opens the film in theaters on Friday, January 27.

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Lindsay Lowe

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