Guests at La Tolqa don masks in "Infinity Pool." Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute
Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Infinity Pool, which premiered Saturday at the Sundance Film Festival, is equal parts horrifying and fascinating. It depicts a vacation from hell that's only a little bit wilder than straying from the designated tourist path.
Em (Cleopatra Coleman) and James Foster (Alexander Skarsgard) are on vacation in a fictional country called La Tolqa. An accident during an excursion with vacationing couple Gabi (Mia Goth) and Alban Bauer (Jalil Lespert) exposes the Fosters to the island's macabre customs.
James killed a local farmer in a hit and run accident at night. La Tolqa customs allow the man's family to commit an honor killing against James.
Fortunately, diplomacy has created an out for tourists. La Tolqa can clone James and let the wronged party murder the clone, for a price.
This immediately raises questions for James and Em. James just witnessed his own death. How does he process that?
What if James is actually the double? How does he know they killed the clone and not the original?
These questions would be enough to form a whole character study, but James' new friends keep getting him into more trouble. Wealthy tourists like Gabi and Alban treat La Tolqa's cloning technology as a free pass and take advantage of this morbid "get out of jail free" card.
Infinity Pool does address why other countries haven't been able to copy La Tolqa's cloning technology. James is naturally distracted from such practical questions.
There is an aspect of addiction to testing the boundaries of La Tolqa. People who have experienced it once need to escalate to capture the same high.
Other resort guests show James even darker activities that use clones in more twisted ways. These are clearly bad influences with whom he should stop associating.
That also makes Infinity Pool a universal dilemma of falling in with a bad crowd that won't let you go. The activities of Infinity Pool go far beyond drugs and sex parties.
It also addresses how Westerners turn a foreign country into their playground. Gabi's crowd raises the question of when you have everything, how far will you go to have new experiences?
Movies like Hostel also explored that question, but Hostel suggested foreign countries would sell wealthy Americans the opportunity to commit straight-up murder. Infinity Pool suggests a technology that poses even more twisted ethical questions.
With graphic violence, psychedelic sexual fantasies and a closeup of a sexual climax it's a wonder Infinity Pool negotiated an R-rating with the MPA. Rest assured, there's no extremity from which Infinity Pool pulls punches.
Writer-director Brandon Cronenberg has crafted another tale of technology that poses horrific possibility to one's body and moral questions to society. He explores it in graphic, twisted ways for which his cast are all game.
Neon will release Infinity Pool in theaters Friday.
Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Read more of his work in Entertainment.