Ever just sit around and think of off-the-wall horror flick ideas? C’mon, of course you do — it’s something we Fellow Fans just hardwired to do. So…there you are, pondering ideas — hey! What if you took 28 Days Later, tossed in some elements from the REC films, and…and…hmmmm. What could we fold in with that? I’ve got it! Let’s toss in some Call Of Duty-type video game moments, and see what happens!
Sound crazy? Exciting, perhaps? Well, that’s a large part of what John Suits latest offering Pandemic does, peppering in a couple more interesting bits.
Things are bad, we find — some strange contagion is burning like wildfire across the country. New York has already fallen, and Los Angeles is a barely-contained quarantine zone, the military and CDC are battened-down in camps, struggling to find a cure for the affliction whilst treating what survivors they can. Into this mess comes Dr. Lauren Chase, arriving in L.A. from the ruins of Manhattan, one of the very last of the field-qualified CDC doctors that can accurately assess levels of infection. She is quickly attached to a team of specialists that typically enter the quarantined city to search for supplies, samples, and survivors — in this case, it’s a group of uninfected survivors that is their mission. A previous team had gone in, but been incapacitated in their attempt to find the people and return safely.
The small group, consisting of a driver, navigator, gunner, and Dr. Chase, head into the zone via a prison bus outfitted to keep outsiders from getting in — important, you see, because the threats are abundant in the former City of Angels: the disease, in it’s early stages, causes aberrant, violent behavior in individuals — they’ll attack, set up traps, and devise whatever means they can to get food, water, or treatment. As the virus takes hold, the infected become hyper-violent, mindless killing machines, destroying anyone in their path. Add to this the many who may or may not be infected, but are nonetheless turned away from safety because of paranoia, are also driven to desperate ends — it’s an intensely dangerous place to be. As the team moves through the city to find the survivors, ulterior motivations become apparent, and personalities clash…and Dr. Chase herself may just be holding the biggest secret of all.
This film comes out of the box as just another zombie flick, albeit with some super virus causing the living to become the monsters instead of inexplicable un-death. You’ve got what amounts to the stock setting and characters (military and scientists…cold, clinical approach to the crisis by authorities…deserted streets, burning skyscrapers…and zombies), and a plot that is reminiscent of 28 Days Later mixed with a little Day of the Dead — just for flavor, y’know.
The FX are well-done for the most part; although a little of the CGI used for the burning city is a little obvious, contextually it’s quite forgivable. There’s a found-footage element to it (the team all wears helmet-cams) that also adds in the aforementioned first-person “video game” type sequences, but overall this is well-utilized and actually serves it’s purpose to generate some frenetic (occasionally, too frenetic), suspenseful moments. There are a couple of genuinely creepy scenes, but as I alluded to earlier, you’ll really be reminded of the last reel of REC or Quarantine.
Despite all this “been there, done that” familiarity, I have to say that the film still hooked me and reeled me in — and I credit the script and the performances with this. Sure, we’ve all seen similar elements, but the actors in this story deliver nuance that is often absent from lower-budget offerings. Alfie Allen and Mekhi Phifer create characters that I immediately had strong feelings for, both good and bad. As the film went on, I found a lot of those feelings changing, and a definite connection to these people was made. Missi Pyle’s character is criminally under-utilized, but still racks up some big points for emotional investment. Rachel Nichols, as Dr. Chase, creates a desperate but strong lead that I cheered for, despite (or perhaps because of) her revelations later in the film.
She plays out a very emotional performance, but neither this nor the script has her unrealistically transforming into Ripley or Rambo for the last act. This resulted in a character I felt drawn to, and overall I found myself giving a damn about the entire cast — something that’s become quite rare in this type of film for me.
At the end of the day, I found Pandemic to be a film I started out just hoping to get through, and wound up invested in the story, anxious for a resolution but not necessarily an end. It’s nothing you haven’t seen in terms of concept, and if you’re looking for another blood ‘n’ guts zombie munch-o-rama, this isn’t it — but the relatable human drama played out in this flick is something that hasn’t been handled quite as well in many others of its ilk lately, and I for one found it refreshing and entertaining.
My two cents.
XLRator Media will release in theaters Friday, April the 1st, and on VOD and iTunes April 5th.
JUST CLICK HERE
Latest posts by Andrew Thompson (see all)
- IN MEMORIAM — GEORGE ROMERO 1940 – 2017 - July 17, 2017
- Anticipated PITCHFORK Hits DVD / Blu-ray This Month - May 3, 2017
- Filmmakers Unleash Terrifying OWLMAN On Unsuspecting Urban Explorers - May 2, 2017