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Infinity Pool Is Drawing Strong Reactions From Critics

The whole "the rich play by different rules" theme is so prominent in cinema, it seems to have become a sub-genre. "Glass Onion" showcased the conceit, as well as the lack of real-world awareness with a sly wink towards the audience. "The Menu" took it even further with, pardon the pun, a delicious course of social critique. Now, "Infinity Pool" arrives to take socio-economic commentary to new limits of pain and pleasure.

In the film, an author — played by "Succession" and "The Northman" star Alexander Skarsgard – finds himself at an exclusive resort. The resort is located in a country where strict and strange rules apply to murder, which becomes all too clear after a tragic accident involving Skarsgard's character. 

Long before the premiere at 2023's Sundance Film Festival, this entry from Brandon Cronenberg positioned itself as highly anticipated. "Infinity Pool" was in an unenviable position as the filmmaker had to do additional edits to avoid an NC-17 rating upon release (via Collider). While that cut has yet to be seen by the general public, there's plenty of material left to disturb audiences. Cronenberg's film is already creating buzz among critics who are having a powerful response to it.

Many critics are pointing to the film's unrelenting body horror

Early reviews are positioning "Infinity Pool" as a worthy successor to Cronenberg's "Possessor." Roger Ebert.com's Brian Tallerico even suggested ticket buyers make sure they've seen the 2020 film before delving into the current offering. An element connecting both titles is the director's use of body horror to convey various themes and motifs. The tradition seems to be a direct trait passed on from his father, legendary director David Cronenberg. Known for his own unflinching explorations of sexuality and body horror, the elder Cronenberg has directed famous titles like "Shivers," "Videodrome," "Rabid," and, most recently, "Crimes of the Future."

Heather Wixson sees Brendan Cronenberg expanding into areas even his father left unexplored. The Daily Dead reviewer described the film as firmly cementing its place among genre cinema. "Cronenberg has crafted one of the most intoxicatingly perverse films of the last decade," she wrote. She added that it was a "cinematic achievement that is shockingly audacious (still wondering how this managed to get an R rating, to be honest), completely unhinged, and excessively violent, and I could not have loved it more."

Other critics see the film as lacking anything beyond the surface

Not everyone was as positive about the film. One of the most talked about and controversial comments came from critic Scott Menzel; his Twitter post after the screening not only touched on what he disliked about the film, but what he thought filmgoers would say about the project. Menzel's critique included it as among the decade's worst films, before declaring it inaccessible and likely to get an F CinemaScore.

Many took issue with this use of experimental cinema as a negative aspect. "Don't want to keep dunking on that review of INFINITY POOL but need to be serious," wrote Dave Baldwin. "After Antiviral and Possessor [Cronenberg's first two movies, via IMDb], who in their right mind would expect Brandon Cronenberg to make a movie that is anything other than nonsensical, experimental and/or 'inaccessible?'"

Other reviewers found the film to be overboard in its depictions and direction. Award Watch reviewer Kevin L. Lee cited a lack of a purposeful narrative direction throughout, citing vibe over substance. Looper's Reuben Baron felt the same about the shallowness, citing it as satirical but lacking anything substantial beyond shock.