Infinity Pool (2023) Review!!

Synopsis – James and Em Foster are enjoying an all-inclusive beach vacation in the fictional island of La Tolqa, when a fatal accident exposes the resort’s perverse subculture of hedonistic tourism, reckless violence and surreal horrors.

My Take – What would happen if HBO‘s much beloved anthology series ‘The White Lotus’ would get painted all over with a dark layered piece of bizarre and atmospheric horror? Well, you get writer-director Brandon Cronenberg‘s third venture, following the equally bizarre yet enjoyable, Possessor (2020). A mind-bending neon-lit nightmare that bursts at the seams with perverse imagery and embraces the grotesque.

Resulting in an original, hypnotic, disturbing and terrifying feature that will keep your eyes glued to the screen for 118 minutes even during its most violent moments, while consistently defying expectations and relaying a complex panoply of sex, satire, sadism, and class warfare that is at once unnerving and undiluted. It takes on a number of subjects and genres, and blends them together skillfully, going deeper than just some commentary on the rich destroying everything.

Yes, it’s not for everyone, especially those who don’t prefer severe adult content. But the film’s timely messages about class and justice does more to recommend the film than the headline-grabbing content that’s getting all the buzz.

Set on the fictional seaside country of Li Tolqa, the story follows James Foster (Alexander Skarsgård), an author whose first novel was a flop, leaving him with a six-year-long writer’s block. So, looking for inspiration, he’s come on a vacation at a luxury resort with Em (Cleopatra Coleman), his wealthy publishing heiress wife. However, their listless stay gets interesting when he encounters an actress named Gabi (Mia Goth), who is also a fan of his novel, and her husband, Alban (Jalil Lespert).

The four quickly become friends and despite it being prohibited by the rules of the country to never travel off the grounds of the resort, they spend the day on a beautiful beach outside. But what should have ended as a fun time night quickly goes south when James accidentally kills a pedestrian by running him over.

While James is arrested the next day and told that the penalty for his crime is death at the hand of the dead man’s firstborn son, he is also offered another option by detective Thresh (Thomas Kretschmann). An option that allows the wealthy to buy their way out of a death sentence by having a clone of them killed instead in exchange of a huge amount of money. But after witnessing his own execution, James walks out a changed man and finds himself thrust into a fever dream of drugs, sex and violence.

Here on, director Cronenberg dives off the deep end and keeps descending into darker and more malevolent waters, bombarding viewers with schizoid montages of hazy forms, brilliant colors, merging body parts, and dripping blood. As it continues, the film loses more and more sense of what we came here for, just like James. You’re left with a soulless husk that’s been twisted, broken, beaten, scarred, and mangled by the proceedings.

The eat the rich sub-genre has been popular lately, with the second season of The White Lotus, The Menu (2022), and Triangle of Sadness (2022) documenting the comic absurdities of the elite. But instead of just reiterating the universal message that rich people are awful, director Cronenberg focuses on the nightmare of being trapped in, and abused by, privilege. The film borrows a set of film-noir tropes but adds in-body horror and science-fiction elements to that formula.

Gabi is the femme fatale who ensnares James, appealing to everything in his ego and vanity. She provides risk and excitement that his wife does not. She’s also a fan of his work, whereas his wife, Em, is losing her patience with his writing. You’d think the tensest part of the film would be an encounter with the local authorities, but no, that’s only where the film begins.

The title is apt, as it repeats a cycle, an endless flushing of the lives of whatever crimes the rich socialites have committed. James slowly loses his sense of self, privilege, and ego. Plot wise, the film has very going for itself save for the cruel things that keep happening to the characters, that is by design. And director Cronenberg doesn’t seem interested in limiting himself to a story, instead, he trains his gaze on pushing the boundaries of a sensory body-horror experience, experimenting with style and form with a boisterous energy.

One of the film’s undeniable highlights is director Cronenberg’s singular vision, as he excels at making bloodshed look like a thing of beauty, breathlessly blending the disturbing and the gorgeous to construct unforgettable hallucinatory sequences.

Yes, the film does have some faults. For example, some scenes go on too long and are distracting to the overall meaning of the film. Even the ending feels a little abrupt, even though it made sense why director Cronenberg went in that direction.

Nevertheless, his style shines through here, once again rising above the status of his father, the visionary David Cronenberg, and becoming his own filmmaker. This one might be his most accessible to major audiences, but it’s still a disgusting, vile, and reprehensible tale of riches, debauchery, and body horror. Which means genre fans will love it.

Performance wise, Alexander Skarsgård is excellent as he drags viewers on a journey of one man’s descent into madness, and does so flawlessly. He plays James as a tightly wound, emasculated man so enthralled by the idea of wielding any kind of power that he’s willing to degrade himself to any level. Skarsgård‘s turn evokes a wide range of feelings, as you simultaneously root for and despise James.

Mia Goth continues to demonstrate the extent of her range, generating more jaw-dropping moments than most actors can conjure up in a lifetime. It’s to Goth’s credit that it makes sense for her character to, at various points throughout the film, wield a gun while screaming and offer her exposed bloodied breast for sustenance. It’s a role that shouldn’t make any sense, but Goth sells it by committing fully to the film’s absurdity.

In supporting roles, Cleopatra Coleman, Jalil Lespert, Amanda Brugel, Jeffrey Ricketts, Caroline Boulton, John Ralston, Roderick Hill and Thomas Kretschmann add excellent value. On the whole, ‘Infinity Pool’ is a unique, layered and deeply unsettling sci-fi horror that is both terrifying and thought-provoking.

Directed –

Starring – Mia Goth, Alexander Skarsgård, Thomas Kretschmann

Rated – R

Run Time – 118 minutes

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