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Director Brandon Cronenberg attends the IMDb Studio at the Sundance Film Festival on Jan, 25, 2020 in Park City, Utah.Rich Polk/Getty Images for IMDb

Like an episode of The White Lotus set in Hell, Canadian director Brandon Cronenberg’s new film Infinity Pool imagines a world in which resorts are luxury prisons for the privileged, and where inhibitions and morals go to wither and die.

The extremely gross and incredibly ambitious follow-up to his 2020 sci-fi freak-out Possessor, Cronenberg’s thriller follows one wealthy couple (played by Alexander Skarsgard and Cleopatra Coleman) whose trip to a fictional European nation ends up descending into blood- and other-bodily-fluid-soaked madness. (The short summary can be reduced to such key words as “clones,” “murder,” “orgies,” and “breastfeeding.”)

Ahead of the film’s Canadian release – and coming just off a Sundance Film Festival world premiere that left audiences both impressed and nauseous – Cronenberg talked with The Globe and Mail about vacations and ratings.

This film arrives only two years after your most recent film, a much shorter gap than the eight years it took to go from your debut feature Antiviral to Possessor. How did you get Infinity Pool off the ground so quickly?

Well, it was only slightly quicker because I actually wrote the script for this before we even shot Possessor. It’s been in development for about six years. After Antiviral, I didn’t have anything in development at all because I didn’t have a career, and had to start over from scratch. But I realized at a certain point that you have to have a bunch of projects going at the same time because so much stuff doesn’t go anywhere, or can take a decade to go anywhere.

How much of you is in Alexander’s character, then, an author who is struggling to write his second novel six years after publishing his first?

I wouldn’t say that he’s a stand-in for me in general, but certainly there is a thread of self-mockery in that character.

Alexander Skarsgård as James in Infinity Pool.Courtesy of Neon / Elevation Pictures

One of the things that stood out here, aside from the film’s more intense moments, are the cultural-appropriation gags that the resort staff put on: the Chinese restaurant, the Bollywood Indian dancing. These feel born out of a particular experience you might’ve had while on vacation …

The resort is loosely based on an experience that I had while on vacation a long time ago at an all-inclusive. It didn’t have barbed-wire fences like the one in this film, but there was this razor wire that was loosely hidden by palm trees. It was a very sinister experience that stuck with me, and yeah, in that resort there was a Chinese restaurant that is essentially from the film. It had white staff dressed in these offensive “Chinese man” Halloween costumes, basically. At the time I thought of course that’s grotesque and anachronistic, but it also said a lot about resort culture – the political blindness of it, and how resorts will take local culture and process them through this tacky Disneyland filter.

The film that premiered in Sundance was the unrated or NC-17 version, featuring full-frontal nudity during a scene between Skarsgard and Mia Goth, among other things. But the one I watched during my Toronto screening seemed to be different, the R-rated cut perhaps …

That’s interesting, because there was this question of whether that was accidentally the “R” screening here.

Is Canada going to be getting the uncut version, as we did with Possessor?

For a long time, I thought that we would with no problems, because that’s the way it worked with Possessor. But I recently learned that for the Canadian theatrical release, we’ll be playing the equivalent of the U.S. “R” version. The films are very similar, so I’d prefer that people just go see it in theatres, I don’t want anyone to wait for it. I’m told it all has something to do with the state of the ratings boards in Canada. Ontario no longer has one, so we had to get it rated in B.C. The home release will be the unrated version.

The film’s release lucks into this timing of new eat-the-rich satires. The White Lotus is the obvious example, but there’s also Triangle of Sadness, The Menu, Glass Onion. How much of this film was born out of its satirical elements, and how much was it just a vehicle for this kind of hallucinatory horror?

It was initially not so much the horror or satire but the question of identity and punishment. It started off as a short story about the film’s first execution scene, where James sees a clone of himself being killed in his place, and then I started to look at the broader setting and the tourist resort satire. Of course, film moves at this incredibly glacial pace, and you can’t time these things. It’s the same way how you get two asteroid apocalypse movies coming out at the same time.

I would love to see your take on an asteroid apocalypse movie.

Maybe the wheel has come around and we’re ready for another one of those.

This interview has been condensed and edited.

Infinity Pool opens in theatres Jan. 27