Brandon Cronenberg's Bizarre Body Horror Infinity Pool Was Inspired By A True Story

As much as he is indebted to his father, David Cronenberg's legacy as one of cinema's most beloved horror directors, Brandon Cronenberg ("Antiviral," "Possessor") has still managed to forge a path as a sleek and stylish modern provocateur in his own right. His newest outing, "Infinity Pool" has pretty much everything you're looking for from the Cronenberg name — it's a sexy, bloody, and debaucherous satire of the upper class and their nihilistic amount of apathy.

Set in an idyllic resort in the fictional country of Li Tolqua, "Infinity Pool" follows a novelist named James Foster (Alexander Skarsgård) and his wealthy wife Em (Cleopatra Coleman) who are on vacation searching for inspiration. They are soon joined by Gabi (Mia Goth), an aspiring actress (who coincidentally is a huge fan of James's only published novel), and her husband, Alban (Jalil Lespert). Together, the two couples go to dinner and spend time by the shore past the resort's explicit borders. On a drunken drive back to the resort, things take a turn for the worse as James accidentally runs over a local man, killing him.

Once James is arrested, however, he's given a choice by the government. He can either choose to accept the death penalty or for a significant fee, opt for an "alternative form of justice." Through a "doubling" process, those charged by the country can be fully cloned and watch as their duplicates are murdered for their crimes. Of course, James chooses to go forward with the process — sending him on a dark and obsessive path to uncovering Li Tolqua's doubling community and their excessive culture.

In the April 2023 issue of Empire magazine, Brandon Cronenberg shared that "Infinity Pool" was inspired by true events, specifically, one of his own personal vacations to an all-inclusive resort.

Inspired by a real vacation

Well, the fictional setting and vibe of "Infinity Pool" is inspired by true events. But the act of "doubling" is purely fictional and is Cronenberg's own invention — the writer/director was very clear about that. However, as Cronenberg tried to conceptualize the rest of the film's setting around the concept of "doubling," he thought back to one "strange vacation" he took to the Dominican Republic:

"I'd been writing a short story about the doubling executions specifically. In the film's world, there's a death penalty for certain crimes, but if you're rich you can pay to be cloned and watch 'yourself' be killed instead. As I started trying to expand it into a film, I kept remembering this strange vacation to the Dominican Republic that I had many years ago. It was the only time I went to a traditional all-inclusive resort. I got talked into going there. It was totally weird because they would bus you in, in the middle of the night so you wouldn't see any of the surrounding area. You would be dropped off directly into a resort compound, which was surrounded by [a] razor-wire fence and completely contained. You weren't allowed to leave the compound."

As we're zeroed in on James's perspective as a man who married into money, Cronenberg draws attention to some things that break the illusion of tranquility and peace. In the first act of "Infinity Pool," it's established that the upper-class folk vacationing in the resort see Li Tolqua as "uncivilized" and "third-world." It is seen as a dangerous act to leave the confines of the resort, which is guarded by an electric fence. When James is arrested and sees the outskirts of Li Tolqua in the daytime, it's a whole different world from the resort bubble.

'A weird Disneyland version of reality'

"At the end of this week, they bus you back during the day, and you see that just outside the compound there's this incredible poverty, people living in shacks," Cronenberg said. "And that contrast is incredibly disturbing and grotesque. It's almost like you were at the embassy for this nation of tourism. Or it was an alternate dimension that grew up in this host country."

Cronenberg shoots the resort in "Infinity Pool" with a surreal amount of sterility. It's too clean, too luxurious, and too generic to imagine why James is looking for "inspiration" here. But, that makes it a natural fit for a story about the rich and vapid. Cronenberg elaborated on the contrast between the resort bubble and the outside world:

"And as long as you're in the growth, you're experiencing a weird Disneyland version of reality where there's no culture and there's no history, or the world is just reprocessed in this really tacky resort way. I kept going back to that experience because it seemed like an obvious setting for a story about people living without consequences."

The irony of critiquing and depicting wealth

Ironically, the process of shooting "Infinity Pool" led to the cast and crew temporarily living in a resort in Croatia. In the process of making a film critiquing materialism and the insatiable wealth, Cronenberg and company partook in it. "It was almost like living this weird mirror image of the film because we were all there eating at the buffet and living at this surreal place," Cronenberg said. "And so we were sort of completely immersed and being the characters in a sort of insane way."

As shallow as Cronenberg felt he was in that moment, indulging in fruit and hors d'oeuvres in a controlled environment is not even half as criminal as the gratuitous actions his characters in "Infinity Pool" engage in, rest assured.

If you're interested in a grizzly tale of what the rich and powerful are capable of in a world without consequence, "Infinity Pool" is now available on VOD.