4 out of 5 stars

Infinity Pool hit the headlines after premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, with one critic describing it as “The White Lotus for sickos.” Brandon Cronenberg’s (son of David) third movie isn’t as grotesque and violent as the hype made it sound, alas, so anyone thinking they’re walking into a stomach-churning body horror may be slightly disappointed.

The film takes place in the fictional state of La Tolqa, an isolated utopian resort where writer James (Alexander Skarsgård) and his wealthy wife Em (Cleopatra Coleman) are staying. James’s last book was published six years ago and didn’t sell well, so he’s hoping these new surroundings will help inspire a hit. A muse appears in the form of a sexually liberal couple who offer to show them the real perks of the island: a young actress who specialises in “failing spectacularly” called Gabi (Mia Goth) and her architect husband Alban (Jalil Lespert).

The guests of the Pa Qlqa Pearl Princess resort are forbidden to venture outside the barbed-wire gates of the compound. Nobody questions this as La Tolqa has everything English-speaking tourists would need, being it’s an all-inclusive hotel on acid and a simulacrum for the experiences of many tourists who refuse to integrate with the native culture.

The fun soon ends when a drunk-driving incident sends James and Em to prison, whereupon they learn crime here is taken very seriously and execution is the punishment for James’s crime. However, if one can afford it, the convicted can instead opt to have a clone created and killed instead…

With its remote setting and intimate cast, Infinity Pool fits into the recent popular trend of giving rich people a bad time on screen (see: The Menu, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, Triangle of Sadness, and the aforementioned The White Lotus), but this is the freshest angle on such an anti-capitalist agenda. Infinity Pool is less about ‘eating the rich’ and more a cautionary tale about escaping to another world.

La Tolqa is a strange place stripped of identity and humanity. James soon finds himself with a group of regular visitors who treat this paradise like a hedonistic playground where nothing is off-limits. Drugs, sexual perversions, and even murder are regular activities for this depraved group of tourists. No matter how heinous their crimes are, they just pay off the police and create a clone. It’s become such common practice that even the local police station has an ATM.

While Brandon Cronenberg’s follow-up to Possessor (2020) is equally as grotesque and graphic, all the bodily fluids serve a narrative function. Asides from a full-frontal psychedelic orgy sequence halfway through, fans of the macabre may be slightly disappointed in the lack of shocks. Is it hedonistic? Yes. Is it voyeuristic? Sure. Will it want to make you want to run out of the cinema aghast and close to throwing up? Well, not really.

Mia Goth has found a niche playing deranged characters, following Ti West’s X (2022) and its prequel Pearl (2022). Here, she continues her streak and Cronenberg takes full advantage of her devious charms. It’s hard to imagine many other actresses being able to deliver such an authentically psychopathic performance. No wonder the online horror community’s declared her the perfect Harley Quinn, should the DC ever need to replace Margot Robbie.

Alexander Skarsgård (The Northman) plays against his good looks as a pathetic subordinate to the island’s chaos. He fully embraces every facet of this role, from the primal glee at watching his clone get executed, to the way his head hangs limply as he crawls around on all fours.

Thomas Kretschmann (The Pianist) also has a brief but memorable role as a severe police officer who frequently crosses paths with James and his gang of hedonists. As if talking to naughty toddlers, he scolds them by saying “our country is not a playground for foreign children.”

Cronenberg’s own screenplay is a sharp mix of dark jokes, sly satire, and weird body horror, but it all works thanks to the audacity of the mix. No matter how weird things inevitably get, everything makes complete sense and nothing is done for the sake of an easy shock.

The satire of Infinity Pool isn’t subtle, even if the ambiguous ending is. The points being made are clear from the moment the entitled Yanks set foot on the island, with the story taking aim at the rich treating other countries like a playground and using their wealth for immunity and unlimited hospitality. The script is also an on-the-nose condemnation of the ignorance of American tourists, but with a sense of deliciously dark humour.

Infinity Pool is endlessly stylish and atmospheric, using the sun-kissed backdrop (shot on location in Hungary and Croatia) in contrast to the drab prison facilities. Some of the psychedelic neon and uncomfortable close-ups feel a little recycled from Possessor, but the atmosphere is only enhanced by the deranged smash-cuts and Tim Hecker’s booming electro score.

The ending neatly ties together the themes and the characters, although is ambiguous enough to not be too clichéd. At times this film is hard to follow and—clocking in at nearly two hours—would have benefited from a judicious edit, but the uneven pacing isn’t enough to spoil such a grotesque send-up of a hedonistic holiday where the rules don’t apply.


frame rated divider universal

Cast & Crew

writer & director: Brandon Cronenberg.
starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Mia Goth, Cleopatra Coleman, Jalil Lespert & Amanda Brugel.