While staying at an isolated island resort, James (Alexander Skarsgård) and Em (Cleopatra Coleman) are enjoying a perfect vacation of pristine beaches, exceptional staff, and soaking up the sun. But guided by the seductive and mysterious Gabi (Mia Goth), they venture outside the resort grounds and find themselves in a culture filled with violence, hedonism, and untold horror. -Official synopsis
WTF did I see!? What exactly are the filmmakers trying to say? The writer/director of this horror/drama is Brandon, the son of veteran Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg. Like his father, Cronenberg does NOT shy away from controversy; this film contains a LOT of blood, drug use, explicit scenes (w/ nudity), and dark (possibly unsettling) themes. It was originally rated NC-17 for “some graphic violence and sexual content.” After an unsuccessful appeal for an R rating, NEON (the distributing studio) edited it. The uncut version was screened at the Sundance Film Festival; the edited (R-rated) version was released in theaters.
James Foster: I actually came here looking for inspiration. To a resort. It’s quite pathetic.
Alban Bauer: So what do you do for money then? Do you teach, or?
Em Foster: He married rich.
Alban Bauer: That’s a good one. Well, its’ good for an artist to have a patron, isn’t it?
James Foster: Yes.
Em Foster: Oh, sure. I’m in danger of becoming a charitable organization at this point.
Alexander Skarsgard (son Stellan/brother of several other actors) is in his anti-hero stage; I was recently impressed by his (complicated) husband role in HBO’s Big Little Lies. The Swedish actor is considered one the most (classically) handsome men onscreen (V tall, blond, blue-eyed, w/ a trim/sculpted body). Well, there is NOT much “hot” (or even likeable) about the role of James! He’s feeling emasculated, being dependent on Em (his wealthy/young wife). James has been suffering writer’s block (after early success); Gabi Alban (Mia Goth- a Brit w/ a Latina mother) boosts his ego w/ her compliments… and more. I’ve only seen 2 movies w/ Goth; you may know her as the wife of (troubled actor) Shia LaBeouf. In a recent podcast, LaBeouf commented that being w/ him has hurt Goth’s career; she is known for her work in the horror genre. I don’t know the supporting actors; they all play unhinged characters.
I have to admit I did like the scene where Gabi (boldy) touches the hollow of James’ throat to illustrate a point on the beach. Who acts that way w/ a stranger!? When the married couples go out to dinner at the Chinese restaurant, Gabi looks at James like she wants to eat him up! Modern viewers sometimes complain re: the overuse of close-ups; there are TOO many here (and often unsettling). If you are squeamish re: blood, then I recommend you avoid this movie. I just didn’t like the style of directing, incl. the use of (discomforting) graphics. The music is disturbing; if I knew more on this topic, I could say more. It is rumored that Robert Pattinson was offered the lead, but passed; he would’ve made it worse than it already is IMO! The ending is just frustrating, as is most of the film. I learned that some viewers walked out at Sundance.
 I just felt like it didn’t really amount to anything except for shock for the sake of shock and weirdness for the sake of weirdness. […] The visuals were admittedly cool and the overall aesthetic of the movie was well done, but what was the point? It ultimately just amounted to being a very pretentious, try hard, extreme film for commercial audiences.
 The story makes no sense with cloning being the predominant theme. Skarsgard, Goth and the entire cast are wasted with a silly script and story.
 Sad no one spends the time to think things out and develop a scary story and use atmosphere and tension.
This movie has atmosphere and tension, but it’s of the lower kind .
If this movie is trying to say something it’s that people with connections and money get away with murder .
 This film had the potential to be something new and creative in the horror genre, but writer/director Brandon Cronenberg settles for more of the same of his usual style with little in the way of an understanding of why these events are occurring or even caring that they are happening. […]
All the acting is very well done; Mia Goth is always a sure bet when playing a sinister crazy person. Alexander Skarsgård, unfortunately, isn’t given enough material here to truly shine in his role. He’s a practically one dimensional shell of a character, and that is one of the main reasons the film did not work for me. I felt nothing for his character, and the character makes some of the worst decisions I’ve seen on film. Barely any of the film makes sense, if I’m being honest. Best not to ask why to any of the questions you have because, more than likely, they will not be answered.
-Excerpts from IMDb reviews