When Brandon Cronenberg started writing the script for "Infinity Pool" back in 2014, he didn't know "resort satire" would become a popular theme in screen entertainment by the time his film came out.
A recent wave of hits including films such as “Triangle of Sadness” and "The Menu" and the TV series "The White Lotus" take an eat-the-rich tone as they display wealthy tourists unleashing their most privileged impulses.
"Infinity Pool" is a horror flick that similarly follows an emotionally distant couple as their luxury vacation turns into a nightmare involving hallucinogenic drugs and murderous crime sprees.
Cronenberg's inspiration for his third feature, which he wrote and directed, came from a trip he took to an all-inclusive about 20 years ago.
“It was a very disturbing resort because you never saw the country around the resort; you were in this compound," he said, noting a razor wire fence preventing guests from leaving the place was a detail he injected into "Infinity Pool."
And while he says he couldn't have predicted "the mood of 2023," he finds it interesting "that all this stuff is kind of synced up right now."
Cronenberg believes the popularity of resort satire can be attributed to the alarming economic divide and the degree to which people are anxious and frustrated about it.
"That could very well be why they're succeeding right now," he said in a Zoom interview. "Certainly that's a part of the climate."
“Infinity Pool,” which opened in theatres Friday, stars Alexander Skarsgard and Cleopatra Coleman as James and Em Foster, and Mia Goth as Gabi, a seductive and mysterious stranger they meet while enjoying a vacation of pristine beaches and exceptional staff.
The group is convinced by Gabi to venture out of the resort grounds where an incident leaves James facing execution for a crime he committed. Due to a government program that allows rich tourists to have a clone killed instead of themselves, they watch a duplicate James die instead. Soon after, James gets swallowed into a playground full of reckless violence and hedonism while exploring his most deranged impulses.
Despite “Infinity Pool” sharing similarities to “White Lotus” and “Triangle of Sadness” of wealthy vacationers behaving horribly, Cronenberg says what makes his film different is that it also explores other themes such as the human psyche and how much the wealthy can get away with.
Visually, the film encompasses horror but adds manic energy the more James feeds his impulses.
“It’s a particular kind of hallucinatory horror film,” he said. “There’s a different kind of arena that it’s playing in.”
Cronenberg said he read J.G. Ballard novels including "High-Rise," which details residents of a high-end building diving into violent chaos as the infrastructure falls apart, and it shared thematic similarities that he applied to his movie. He also said he turned to the 1970s era of filmmaking as a way to figure out the execution of his script.
Cronenberg also currently has space-horror film “Dragon” in development, as well as a limited series adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s novel “Super-Cannes.”
When it comes to how audiences will react to "Infinity Pool," Cronenberg, who previously directed the 2012 feature "Antiviral" and 2020's “Possessor,” said he’d rather people go into the theatre neutrally and explore it for themselves because he doesn't want to tell people how they should react to his film.
“I feel like if you push too hard with one interpretation going into the release of a film, people view it in that context,” he said.