Friday, April 01, 2016

A Stronger Reason is Needed to Face this Pandemic: A Film Review

*an online screener of this film was provided by XLRator Media.

Director: John Suits.

Writers: Dustin T. Benson.

Cast: Rachel Nichols, Missi Pyle, Alfie Allen, Mekhi Phifer and Paul Guilfoyle.

There are a number of zombie themed films in the horror genre. Some are better than others. Writer Dustin T. Benson borrows some of the better ideas from films such as 28 Days Later (2002), Dawn of the Dead (2004) and [Rec] (2007). Meanwhile, director John Suits shows all of the action through helmet cams'. This helps amp up thrills in these scenes. However, the film lacks believability, with a four man crew entering into the zombie Heart of Darkness. A pretty standard zombie thriller, Pandemic strings together a number of thought experiments; the result is slightly flat.

A doctor has escaped the ravages of a viral pandemic in New York. In Los Angeles, Lauren (Rachel Nichols) is not much better off. The violent infected are roaming the streets, attacking others. The heroine is then teamed up with three others, in order to head into the center of Los Angeles. A greater fool's errand has never been created. Along the way, those carrying the Philo Virus do everything in their power to put act as living speedbumps. A character reveal changes the mission, with the film ending on a sour note.

Most of the film is shot through a first person perspective. Helmet cams' are almost used exclusively to put the viewer into the shoes of the characters. This almost makes the film feel like a video game. Numerous action elements add to the video game feel. This close-in approach to filmmaking puts the film viewer into the middle of the bloody action. This directing approach also reduces any potential complex shots. In the end, the film plays out much like a video diary.

The film's believability is reduced via a few errors or inconsistencies. The biggest foible, for this viewer, is the film's suicide mission. Four characters are sent into the midst of millions of infected. Their survival rate would be on the lowest end of the scale. As well, they are tasked with returning several survivors to a quarantine zone. The survivors, stationed in a school, number in the hundreds and their bus would comfortably seat about twenty. After the failure of the mission, the characters are separated from each other. Strangely, the character Wheeler (Alfie Allen) finds Lauren and Denise (Missi Pyle) not much later and several blocks away, in the dark; this is an impossibility. Characters make other poor decisions. And, this viewer was not drawn into the film's dark reality.

Writer Dustin T. Benson has strung a series of thought experiments together and the plot suffers. The film just has this feeling of separation as one scene stands alone, amongst others. One scene, obviously lifted from Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza's [Rec], is shot with night vision. A creature seeks out Lauren, with two characters choosing to stand still and silent, rather than striking out. In an earlier, better scene, the bus halts for a stranded survivor. She has been chained there as bait, by the infected. Conflict is consistently shown onscreen. Another scene, reminiscent of one from Dawn of the Dead, involves an underground parking garage and characters struggling to escape. The infected show up in time to add in more action. Each of these scenes is not really linked together by a larger message or purpose. And, the film does not transition well from one scene to the next.

Pandemic is releasing today at various theatres via XLRator Media and zombie fans might find something here to entertain them. However, this viewer felt little for the characters, nor for the story. Backstories for the characters are undeveloped. And, though full of action elements, the scenes come across as interchangeable. Believability is low, even with the helmet cams' adding more to the realism. The story might have been better for a video game. Here, plot shallowness can be forgotten in favour of interactive bloodspray.

Overall: 6 out of 10.

*aka Viral.

**strangely, the character in the film's official poster (above) is not actually in the film.

A movie clip from the film is available here, on 28DLA:

A Pandemic Clip on 28DLA

Recommended release: Watch Dawn of the Dead at Amazon

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