Not surprisingly, Squick ensues.
In an Alternate Universe set in the present, celebrity worship has reached its logical end: clinics now harvest diseases from the famous, dilute their infectiousness, and sell them to their fans. The success of the Lucas clinic hinges on their exclusive contract with starlet Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon) - who is also the object of obsession of Lucas sales rep Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones). Unknown to anyone else, March has not only been shooting himself up with celebrity germs on the sly, he's also been sneaking said germs out of the lab and passing them on to bootleggers. His scheme begins to unravel when, after illicitly sampling Hannah's latest disease, March suffers an extreme, hallucination-fueled reaction, and finds himself the pawn of rival clinic owners and back-alley genetic scientists.
This film provides examples of:
- Affably Evil: Dorian, Mira Tesser, and Steiner.
- Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted. As Hannah's disease progresses, she begins bleeding from the mouth.
- Beautiful Dreamer: Hannah - when Syd first encounters her in Real Life, she is asleep in a pricey hotel suite's bed, with a stylish sleep mask on. Her hair and makeup are perfect.
- Bishōnen/Ambiguous Gender: Truth in Television - Caleb Landry Jones is very androgynous-looking.
- Celeb Crush: It's insinuated that much of the world has one on Hannah Geist.
- Copy Protection: Lucas brags that his clinic's method of coding each customer's DNA into the celebrity disease prevents it from infecting others, either accidentally or deliberately. Subverted by Syd, whose home DNA sequencer lets him crack the copy protection and sell the diseases to black marketeers.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Dorian Lucas and Mira Tesser, and probably Vole too, though he or she never appears onscreen.
- Creepy Monotone: Syd.
- Deliberately Monochrome: Of the "Limited Palette" variety. Most of the sets (the Lucas Clinic, Syd's apartment) are all white, and Syd and the other sales reps wear black suits and ties with white shirts. Only in the "real world" - e.g. Hannah's hotel, Dr. Abendroth's country mansion - is a full (if subdued) color palette utilized.
- Determinator: Syd, who ends up with a flu modified to cause hemorrhagic fever symptoms and hallucinations, keeps going no matter how many times he is beaten or collapses.
- Downer Ending: Syd's sanity and health have deteriorated significantly and he now works at the rival company Vole & Tasser, where Hannah's dying body is preserved to harvest more cells and sicknesses.
- Girl in a Box: Hannah becomes this in the last scene, being kept just alive enough to harvest her cells and virii.
- Hemo Erotic: The film ends with an extreme close-up of Syd slicing Hannah's arm with a scalpel and lovingly drinking her blood.
- Kubrick Stare: Syd does this on the cover and throughout most of the film.
- Large Ham: Averted - by Malcolm McDowell, of all people...
- Like Father, Like Son: Also Truth in Television. Like his father, Brandon started out as a "book nerd" and aspiring writer before catching the filmmaking bug.
- Mad Scientist
- Meaningful Name: Hannah Geist who attains an afterlife of sorts.
- Messy Hair: Syd's hair as he gets more and more ill.
- Mustache Vandalism: Syd defaces a wall-sized blowup of Hannah's face - with blood he just puked up.
- Nightmare Sequence: Syd hallucinates that he has fused with his stolen DNA sequencer. Eww.◊
- Nipple and Dimed: Several of the starlets appear as virtual nudes on computer monitors - including Hannah, who discretely covers her naughty bits.
- Paparazzi: In keeping with the movie's themes, they now breathlessly report on celebs' health issues ("ARIA NOBLE's ANAL ANGUISH!").
- Playing with Syringes: Reportedly, all the close-ups of hypodermics puncturing skin were real.
- Syd escapes from Levine's lab by stabbing him with a hypo. In the mouth.
- Science Is Bad
- To Serve Man: A side effect of the celebrity-disease craze: butchers who sell steaks lab-grown from the stars' cells.
"I dont understand how this is not considered cannibalism."
- Lampshaded by Syd:
- Synthetic Plague: The disease that infected Hannah was a genetically modified strain of an illness that had infected her before.
- Tragic Hero
- 20 Minutes into the Future: The setting
- Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Both Syd and Hannah vomit blood on more than one occasion.
- Working Through the Cold: Syd keeps up his official and illicit activities, even as the multiple diseases course through his body. Various co-workers (both legitimate and criminal) comment on how sick he looks; Syd passively insists he's okay.