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Originally published Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 3:00 PM

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‘Antiviral’: Chilly look at celebrity obsession

A movie review of “Antiviral,” a clinically chilly thriller about the perversions of celebrity culture from Cronenberg the younger.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie Review 2 stars

‘Antiviral,’ with Caleb Landry Jones, Sarah Gadon, Malcolm McDowell, Nicholas Campbell, Douglas Smith. Written and directed by Brandon Cronenberg. 107 minutes. Not rated; for mature audience (contains violence). Grand Illusion, through Thursday.

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The bloody apple, it turns out, doesn’t fall very far from the tree. Brandon Cronenberg, son of sci-fi horror auteur David Cronenberg (“The Fly,” “Dead Ringers”), makes his feature writing/directing debut with “Antiviral” — a clinically chilly sci-fi horror flick filled to the brim with needles, blood and bodily fluids. It’s got a skin-crawlingly clever idea at its core: Main character Sid (an ashen Caleb Landry Jones, speaking mostly in a mumbly whisper) works in a clinic that harvests cells from sick celebrities, then injects the viruses into paying customers who want a close bond with the rich and famous. Trying to make some extra money on the black market, Sid becomes infected with the mysterious virus that killed a beautiful star (Sarah Gadon) — and must figure out what happened to her.

“Antiviral” began its life as a short film (called “Broken Tulips,” made when Cronenberg was a student), and you can see the growing pains as it stretched to feature length: The pace is uneven, the energy sluggish (even the arrival of Malcolm McDowell in the third act doesn’t pep things up) and the film feels overlong. But Cronenberg gets points for the film’s bits of black humor, and for deftly honing in on our culture’s obsession with celebrity. At one point, two clinic employees discuss a contest, in which the winner gets to infect a movie star with his or her next cold, “and they get a free sample when [the star] gets sick.” Ugh, and touché.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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