Writer/director Brandon Cronenberg returns to the silver screen with the twisted Infinity Pool after the stunningly violent and innovative Possessor. He once again blends horror and sci-fi in a fictional society with no shortage of heightened ferocity with a shift to a bit of a more personal focus. Infinity Pool has no shortage of style, but it falls short of his previous efforts.
‘Infinity Pool’ finds surreal horrors in an all-inclusive beach resort
Writer James Foster (Alexander Skarsgård) and his wife, Em (Cleopatra Coleman), arrive at an all-inclusive beach resort for a vacation on the fictional island of La Tolqa. It’s a must-needed trip in the pursuit of inspiration for his next book after having an artistic crisis. There, James and Em meet vacation friends in Gabi (Mia Goth) and her husband, Alban (Jalil Lespert).
The two couples get involved in a fatal accident that lands them in serious trouble in a harshly-run country. There’s a legal loophole that gives them the opportunity to set things right, but the cost ultimately results in their undoing. The group falls into a hedonistic sense of tourism that brings out their most primal behaviors.
Artistic ego, privilege, and sacrifice
Infinity Pool sets the scene with La Tolqa, soaking the viewer in the environment. The surroundings are gorgeous and the resort is high-end, but it’s remarkably dangerous outside of the barbed wire-fenced walls. The hotel staff introduces some La Tolaqan customs, such as some eerie-looking Ekki masks used in “the summoning.” Some locals seek to scare off tourists, as Gabi suggests that their intention is to kill guests and hang them up as a warning for other tourists to return to wherever they came from.
The setting and laws of La Tolqa are where the sci-fi influences bleed into Cronenberg’s screenplay. However, it isn’t void of our society’s uneven gender politics. Gabi talks with James about how some modern women “weaken” men, and it takes some work to revert the damage. La Tolqa itself holds traditions and laws that emphasize patriarchal control, which directly feeds into the male ego of those who are able to take advantage of the system.
Privilege is a key motif throughout Infinity Pool. The beach resort is for the wealthy, as James, Gabi, and their partners splurge on food and other amenities. They ultimately cause trouble with no concern for local customs. Meanwhile, James admits that he’s a broke writer, but he floats along on Em’s wealthy father, who owns a publishing house.
The longer that James, Gabi, and their partners spend in La Tulqa, the more lost they become in its grasp. James and Gabi, in particular, have a chemistry that draws them to one another. However, this connection proves to be deadly, as this beach resort becomes a locale for pure chaos.
‘Infinity Pool’ is a stylistic nightmare with limited meaning
The Infinity Pool marketing rightfully puts Skarsgård and Goth front and center. They fully embrace the wild nature of Cronenberg’s style, never backing down from the film’s more outlandish moments. Skarsgård is the perspective character from who we see this world, and he successfully carries that weight on his shoulders. Meanwhile, Goth delivered a brilliant performance in 2022’s Pearl, which is an energy that she also brings here. Together, they drive the entire film, even through the narrative’s underwhelming moments.
Cronenberg returns to some intriguing uses of color, emphasizing nightmarish drug and alcohol benders with dizzying visuals. Cinematographer James Vandewater contrasts the beauty of their holiday surroundings with the disturbing imagery that comes to life at night. These moments pop with neon colors that bring the viewer right along on James’ trip.
Infinity Pool is sure to make some viewers uncomfortable, yet it still feels like it could have gone harder. This isn’t necessarily regarding the level of sex or violence, but rather how far down the rabbit hole it’s willing to go. Cronenberg raises some compelling ideas about the artistic ego and privilege, yet they remain fairly hollow.
Cronenberg’s third feature film brings to mind a combination between Springs Breakers and his father, David Cronenberg’s, Crimes of the Future. The story is stylistically fascinating, but its narrative feels more like an afterthought. Infinity Pool is a hallucinogenic playground of sex and violence that’s easy to dive into, but it’s not quite as deep as it wants to be.
Infinity Pool comes to theaters on Jan. 27.