Infinity Pool (2023) ☆☆☆(3/4): Brendon Cronenberg strikes again

Brendon Cronenberg’s new film “Infinity Pool” is his another striking piece of work which is not only perversely provocative but also gruesomely violent. Like his previous film “Possessor” (2020), it often unsettles us a lot via a series of very disturbing moments of violence and madness, but it still engages and fascinates us under his skillful direction, and the overall result surely confirms that Cronenberg is indeed a talented filmmaker which may have his own genre territory just like his famous filmmaker father David Cronenberg.

At first, we are introduced to James (Alexander Skarsgård) and Em (Cleopatra Coleman), a young married couple enjoying their luxurious summer vacation at a resort located in the seaside area of some fictional Eastern European country. Nothing much has happened around them and many other guests, but we cannot help but observe how insular and isolated the resort really is. For their safety, the guests are not allowed to go outside the resort and its surrounding area which is heavily guarded to say the least, and we come to gather that they are not so welcomed much by those local people out there.

When James and Em later happen to get themselves involved with a young woman named Gabi (Mia Goth) and her older husband, we get to know a bit more about James. Although he published his first novel several years ago, he still does not know what to write next while going nowhere in his supposedly promising career, and it is clear that he feels rather ashamed about how he has depended a lot on his wife, whose father is incidentally the owner of the company which published his first novel.

Anyway, Gabi and her husband suggest that Em and James should have some fun time with them outside the resort, and James and Em eventually go outside along with Gabi and her husband despite their reservation. While these four people are spending some time at a remote place, Gabi suddenly approaches to James when he happens to be alone for a little private business of his at one point, and he soon finds himself in a very embarrassing situation because of what Gabi commits without any hesitation.

However, that turns out to be almost nothing compared to another sudden trouble happening to James and others not long after that. While driving them back to the resort in the middle of the night, James, who happens to be considerably drunk, inadvertently hits some local person on the road, and he is thrown into more panic and fear when he is subsequently arrested by the local police on the next day. According to the local law, he must be executed even though his act of manslaughter was completely accidental, and it seems that there is no way out for him no matter how much he protests.

However, it turns out that there is actually a legal loophole ready for those unfortunate foreign people like him. All James and Em will have to do is paying enough for getting him cloned somehow, and the resulting clone, who is identical to him not only physically but also mentally, will be promptly executed instead as watched by him and several other people including the family members of the victim.

Once the execution is done, James and Em are ready to leave as soon as possible, but, what do you know, James finds himself stuck in the resort due to a small problem with his passport, and then he gets himself involved more with Gabi and her husband and their “special” group. They all had that weird experience of getting themselves cloned for not getting executed, and they are quite ready to make James embrace their depraved lifestyle which is probably resulted from how they have been able to get away with murder more than once.

While understandably reluctant at first, James slowly lets himself tumble into more depravity and debauchery along with his new friends, and the movie throws shocking moments of cruelty and violence to us. Totally free from their legal comeuppance, James’ new friends are willing to do whatever they are pleased to do right now, and they come to look more like monstrous humanoids instead of real human beings. At one point, they commit a heinous act of home invasion just for their twisted fun, and then they kill several persons as a result, but, of course, they soon get freed as their clones are quickly executed.

The movie begins to spin its wheels during the last act, but Cronenberg continues to generate more discomfort and nervousness along the story. There are several psychedelic hallucinogenic moments which powerfully reflect James’ growing confusion and implosion, and everything eventually culminates to a loony bloody moment as he is coerced to go through a sort of transformative act by Gabi and her gangs. Thanks to Alexander Skarsgård’s committed acting, this moment is delivered with full dramatic impact, and Mia Goth, who is no stranger to violent horror films considering her breakout performance in Ti West’s “X” (2022) and “Pearl” (2022), delightfully chews every moment of hers in the film while Cleopatra Coleman is unfortunately under-utilized in contrast as stuck in her thankless supporting role.

Although I think it could delve deeper into its story and characters, “Infinity Pool” is still impressive mainly for its style and mood, and it will be interesting to see what Cronenberg will do next after this film. He shows his considerable potential as he previously did in “Possessor”, and I can only hope that these two films will be regarded as the preludes for better things to come from him in the future.

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