In Sex Reviews, writers offer a sober critical assessment of the sex scenes in new films. This installment contains spoilers for Infinity Pool.
Over the weekend, the New York Times reported that writer-director Brandon Cronenberg’s new horror movie, Infinity Pool, starring Alexander Skarsgård and Mia Goth, had narrowly avoided the dreaded NC-17 rating. The movie, the Times wrote, included such sex acts as a psychedelics-fueled orgy, some mysterious activity with Goth’s breast (not described by the Times, possibly to avoid the article itself being rated NC-17), and “a close-up shot of Skarsgård’s character ejaculating.”
Such news was chum in the water to the Sex Reviews crew. We knew from stills released by the production company that Skarsgård would end up in a dog collar at one point in the movie, but Vampire Eric in a film that was apparently so horny its producers needed to pay a consultant to pull off a couple tricks of editing and politicking so that the film could enter theaters with an R? We must review!
17:50: Gabi Gives James a Hand Job at the Beach
Rebecca: This film is mostly about James Foster, Skarsgård’s character—a failed novelist married to a wealthy woman who treats him with contempt—getting toyed with by a group of even wealthier people who are visiting the same resort in some unnamed, underdeveloped country with good weather and rocky coastlines. (This was filmed in Croatia, and it’s nice!) James came to the resort for inspiration, and boy, does he get it.
Isabelle: I would like to add that it’s also about extreme close-up shots, non-stop wincing, and a medically concerning amount of facial sweat. James is constantly wet from the neck up. He looks like he has scurvy, but everyone else is normal? Anyway, please continue.
Rebecca: Gabi, the main bully of this group of rich freaks, is played by Goth (who’s excellent). So most of the sex involves Goth absolutely owning Skarsgård.
This little hand-job situation is the first “sex” scene in the movie, and I’m putting that in quotes because it’s more of an interlude? James is peeing on the beach, and Gabi comes around behind him, rests her cheek on his shoulder, and summarily jerks him off. He likes it! He really likes it!
Isabelle: I think it’s important to note that this hand job is foreshadowed by a grotesque close-up shot of sizzling sausages, and then a mind-bogglingly stupid conversation about who wants more sausages. Gabi comes looking for more “sausage” when James goes to pee (an act, by the way, that we both see and hear). She’s pretty bold about it too—she just walks up to him mid-piss and starts jerking him off, no lube in sight.
From the primal squeals he makes, you’d think this was his first HJ. A few seconds in, he starts gurgling and choking like he just swallowed a cocktail onion or got his cheek stuck on a fly-fishing hook. Bro, there’s no way a hand job feels that good! Gabi remains clinical and unblinking throughout, implying that she holds the power.
As luck would have it, she also holds the dick, which we soon get to see. It’s of average length and width, and appears to be circumcised. But just as we’re acclimating to Peen On Screen, it ejaculates before our very eyes, raining down semen on the same gravelly spot where James peed seconds earlier. As he climaxes, he makes a sound like he’s holding in a sneeze.
I, uh … I mean … sure. I guess semen is pretty explicit, and it probably explains the near-NC-17 rating, but it feels more gratuitous than electrifying.
Rebecca: You know what’s funny? Or lucky for us, maybe? I think the peen we saw here was exactly the shot that got cut. I saw the film in the theater, and I’m pretty sure those frames were not in there. But then, when we got screeners and I watched the scene over again for the purpose of our Deep Critique, I saw it!
I thought James’ enjoyment of this HJ was so over-the-top that it looked abject on purpose. James’ entire character throughout this movie is just abhorrent. He is a handsome man with square shoulders, no moral compass, and no purpose in life, who laps up praise wherever he can get it. Goth’s blank face during the whole first encounter is broadcasting “I got him.”
Isabelle: Points for the cumshot—a rare occurrence in mainstream film—but negative points for the pandering sausage innuendo, the unbelievable sounds he makes, and the fact that it’s very, very, very hard for people with penises to quickly switch from pee to cum. I just don’t buy it. And yeah, fuck James.
58:55: An Anonymous Woman Is in Reverse Cowgirl When the Group of Rich Assholes Breaks Into a House
Isabelle: Have you ever noticed how every time there’s a home invasion in a movie, a beautiful woman is having sex with a toad-like rich man? No one’s ever just, like, making a salad.
Rebecca: Yes! That’s so true, and this particular instance was pretty upsetting, since all this girl does is fuck, scream, and then get caught in the crossfire and die. Can’t say I loved it!
Isabelle: Another ding for reverse cowgirl, the worst sex position ever.
1:10:40: The Famous Orgy
Rebecca: At the start of the movie’s third act, Gabi gives James some kind of “root drug” that she has gotten from a guard at the resort. This hallucinogen is supposed to be for religious ceremonies, but you better believe that Gabi and her wealthy friends are going to take it for fun, especially since it’s also an aphrodisiac. Gabi and James huff the smoke together, and then the orgy commences. We see Gabi in the woman-on-top position, bare-breasted, intercut with images of James’ face as he lies back, looking, well, drugged up and slightly in shock. Then you start to see flashing images of the other rich people, who may or may not really be in the room, slithering all over one another, with bright colors zapping. (The movie opens with a warning that this sequence may trigger epileptic responses, and they’re not kidding.)
Isabelle: I just want to point out that the whole time this Apple Music–ad orgy is taking place, everyone fucks each other in every possible way … except for James. James stays on his back the entire time, looking shellshocked and febrile. He doesn’t participate at all! It’s so disappointing, because there’s a veritable buffet of sex happening in front of him, and he could have whatever he wanted. Instead, he just dead-fishes. Gross! I hate James.
Rebecca: If this group of rich people thought he’d be a good target to bully and fuck, they got one of those things right.
Isabelle: They could have at least picked a good lay, though! Instead, they chose to bully a vegetable. More importantly, the same dick from before makes an appearance. It’s baaaack! I’m not sure if it’s an actor or a prosthetic, but good on them for puttin’ in work.
Rebecca: I could barely see that! Good eye!
Isabelle: Stop it—I’m blushing. Speaking of, there’s also a nipple in this scene that pulses, becomes erect, and then leaks some sort of viscous, clear fluid that’s obviously not supposed to be breast milk. What do you think it is?
Rebecca: I have to be honest. I like Brandon Cronenberg, but sometimes his whole body-horror thing (yes, he’s David’s son) gives me serious “it’s the last night before the crit in my undergrad sculpture class, I have to come up with something, and I just watched a Matthew Barney movie” vibes. In other words, this boob thing maybe didn’t have much of a point. Maybe it foreshadowed Scene 4, though!
Isabelle: True! I also need to talk about the part where the dick comes out of the vagina, but the reverse way. It’s shot out headfirst, like some sort of vaginal Evel Knievel, which means the balls are inside near the cervix, and the tip of the head is near her opening. She essentially gives birth to a penis. Freud would shit his pants.
That said, I love that they showed hole. I’ve been asking for hole! We all have! I’m not so precious about hole that I need it to be doing anything biologically expected—it can totally be doing some sort of psychedelic reverse-penetration thing. I’m down with that. I’m just glad we got to see it, if even for a microsecond.
1:38:10: James Breaks, and Gets a Boob as a Reward
Isabelle: In this scene, James literally wrestles with himself when he’s attacked by his own feral clone, who’s naked, collared, and attached to a leash like a dog. (It’s a long story, but: The authorities in this country have a rule where if you kill someone, you must be killed, except that there’s a loophole that allows rich people to pay to create a double to be killed instead, right in front of you, a thing these wealthy foreigners find to be a total turn-on.) This, ostensibly, is his “inner demon,” some part of himself he must confront in order to break through to … writerly inspiration? It’s such a poorly disguised and unbearably literal metaphor for the creative process—I mean, the guy comes to this resort looking for inspiration, then has to (literally) wrestle with and/or kill himself multiple times so he can conquer his writer’s block.
Rebecca: You liked this movie a lot less than I did, and your hatred for it is now infecting me! There is one scene where Gabi is trying to goad James into rejoining their game, where she tries to entice him by proposing that he and his double might “fuck her at the same time.” “Have you ever done that?” she asks—which is kind of funny, because of course he hasn’t? Anyway I was bummed out that this scene never came to pass. Instead we got … this.
Isabelle: Once James finally “shows his strength” by caving his clone’s head in with his fist, he’s rewarded with a bloody boob suck from Gabi: Having successfully forced him to confront himself, she transforms from menace to mother, smearing the blood from his dripping fist onto her tit before pulling his mouth toward it. For a few stupid seconds, you see her nurse him as he reverts to some sort of infantile baby-man state. He’s exhausted from all his ego wrestling, and he just wants a little sucky before going bye-bye.
This isn’t really a sex scene per se. Sure, it’s intimate, and yes, there are boobies, but it’s not really done for sexual gratification. It’s to represent James’ breakthrough and ultimate submission to “the process.” Also, I really think Cronenberg just wanted to piss you off with bodily fluids one more time. Mission accomplished, asshole.
Rebecca: I feel like I know what you’re going to say, but on a scale of one to 10, how horny did Infinity Pool leave you? Me? ZERO.
Isabelle: Well, this movie made me feel like I wanted to throw my laptop in a lake and then slap both Cronenbergs across the face with a sausage. So, 10?