‘Divinity’ Review: Inject This Sci-Fi Horror Ride Into Your Veins
The Big Picture
- Divinity is a sci-fi horror film that takes you on a surreal and wonderfully ridiculous journey, filled with fearsome flourishes and boundary-pushing elements.
- The film revolves around a man named Jaxxon Pierce, played by Stephen Dorff, who becomes obsessed with achieving immortality and ends up causing widespread infertility due to a serum he creates.
- Shot in black and white, Divinity is more focused on vibes rather than following a strict narrative. It builds to a finale that is a wild and electrifying escalation.
There are so many moments in Divinity, the new film from writer-director Eddie Alcazar executive-produced by Steven Soderbergh, that feel like you’re getting taken into a sci-fi horror fever dream. This is very much a compliment as it is an experience that thrives based on its fearsome flourishes that are as oddly riveting as they are wonderfully ridiculous. Like other good recent science fiction that pushes boundaries, it operates on a wavelength all its own and is never interested in holding your hand too much. First premiering back at the Sundance Film Festival and now getting a wider release, it is one worth putting on your radar even as it magnificently goes all over the map into the cosmos the longer you get lost in it.
What Is ‘Divinity’ About?
To encapsulate the journey of what happens in the film is both a simultaneously simple and complex undertaking. On the one hand, it is about a man named Jaxxon Pierce, played by a fully committed Stephen Dorff, who is attempting to achieve immortality by working on some sort of serum known as Divinity at his luxurious home in the desert. He is a bit of a loser who is so wrapped up in his own ego and self-importance that he doesn’t seem to care much at all about what impact this could have on the world. As a result, Divinity has made everyone infertile. The world is then one of incessant advertising, cartoonishly muscly people, and sex that itself feels devoid of passion. However, this is all about to be upended when two otherworldly beings, played by Moises Arias and Jason Genao, break into his home and hook him up to his own serum that begins to wreak havoc on his body. When Nikita (Karrueche Tran), a sex worker by trade hired to come to the house, enters into the picture, they’ll all become drawn together before chaos once again comes knocking. Oh, and Bella Thorne also frequently pops up as the mysterious Ziva who seems to reside primarily on another plane with a group of followers in the hopes of finding women who can still give birth.
Shot almost entirely in black and white, the film is built around an evocative focus rather than a narrative one. There is much that can be beautiful to behold and the point is letting yourself drift through its often nightmarish visions without feeling a need to make it 100 percent comprehensible. It can be reductive to say a piece of art like this is about the vibes, but that is honestly the best way to express what it is that Divinity is going for. If anything, the moments where it attempts to explain things threaten to undercut what works best about it.
There could be a temptation to lump it in with other masterful recent works of experimental horror, but that would end up doing both a disservice. Not only is this film much more interested in how sex and pleasure can be commodified, with a brief yet standout appearance by Better Call Saul’s Steven Ogg that dials this up a thousand percent, but it is also about the potential to reclaim it. This can sound a bit heady for how absurd the film is, but this actually serves it rather well. Everything feels of a piece as it makes clear biblical references just as it can become absolutely bonkers in how far it pushes the sci-fi transformation.
Moises Arias Leads ‘Divinity’s Wonderfully Wacky Finale
Even after everything that it takes us through, including one particularly striking nightmare sequence, there is truly nothing that can prepare you for where this all ends up in the final act. This is best experienced with as little information as possible, but suffice it to say it is an electrifying escalation that feels like it has taken elements from something like Mortal Kombat and crossed it with the stop-motion work of someone like Henry Selick. It is a bit rough around the edges, but that only makes it that much more delightfully charming. It is the type of scene that goes for broke without reservation, ripping away from all the measured and meditative elements to let loose. While all the cast are great in navigating the film, it is Dorff and Arias who especially shine here. Though the spectacle is what will draw most of the attention, it can’t be minimized how important every single thing this duo does remains.
Dorff is, almost literally, a beast of an actor who captures how Jaxxon is becoming increasingly detached from the man he once was into something that feels most like an embodiment of humanity’s violent and roided-up id. As a counterbalance, Arias captures the necessary emotional moments as his being from another world goes from experiencing love to heartbreak and eventual loss all in the span of what feels like a day. It is a performance that could get overlooked in the film’s many shifts, but it is also what holds it together just as much when we zoom in on a simple scene of him sitting alone. He is a grounding force of grace in the swirling chaos that gets more and more frenetic until it all bursts free.
Though there is a commitment to the craft that went into it, Divinity is a film that isn’t afraid to poke fun at itself and take wild swings. With elements of body horror and a heaping of sci-fi, it defies easy categorization yet is all the better for it. The phrase cult classic can be thrown around a bit too much when it comes to films like this that may not find their audience right away or even alienate some viewers upon its first release. However, in this case, that feels like a good descriptor of what Divinity may end up being. The film importantly never contorts itself in an attempt to become this, as such an approach can become all too grating, and instead brings a sense of genuine sincerity that is key to ensuring it takes flight when it counts.
There are many that may end up hating the experience, yet it never feels like it compromises. Even as it may not rise to the level of other stunning science fiction visions from this year, there is still so much to appreciate in every single moment of Alcazar’s latest. It’s an experience you’ll only wish you could inject right into your veins even as it may end up leaving your head spinning and possibly painfully stretching from what you just witnessed.
Divinity is now showing in theaters in the U.S. Click here for showtimes near you.