Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Pandemic: Shoot the Infected Hordes

The line between zombie movies and Cabin Fever-style infection horror is becoming increasingly porous. Take for instance, this post-contagion Los Angeles, where infected victims at stage five exhibit distinctly zombie-like symptoms, including the bit where they eat people. However, there is a cure for level one, but it is strictly reserved for irreplaceable personnel like Dr. Lauren Chase, formerly of the CDC. You can bet a lot of her new colleagues will be needing it in John Suits’ Pandemic (trailer here), which opens this Friday in Los Angeles.

Somehow Dr. Chase slipped out of New York before the city collapsed. Of course, the whole premise that LA is more fit to survive than the Big Apple is absolutely ridiculous. Heck, we’ve probably already had several zombie apocalypses here in the City without even noticing them. Regardless, Chase made it out to LA and connected with the band of survivors led by Dr. Greer, a military doctor of some sort.

Chase is about to go out on her first reconnaissance and food foraging mission. It is her job to determine whether healthy-looking survivors are safe to bring back to shelter. It is a simple test. A red dot means take them and a black dot says leave them to their fate—or is it the other way around? Chase also seems to have trouble administering the test, but she is clearly distracted by a personal agenda.

Apparently, Pandemic’s style and narrative were directly inspired by first-person-shooter video games, which maybe the filmmakers shouldn’t be so up-front about. Regardless, Suits (who helmed the greatly underrated comic book adaptation, The Scribbler) keeps the energy level up and maintains enough of the human element so that Pandemic rarely feels like a POV gimmick.

Rachel Nichols does respectable work as Chase, getting solid support from Missi Pyle as Denise, the mission’s navigator and Mekhi Phifer as Gunner, whose job it is to like, shoot infected people. It is also cool to see CSI’s Paul Guilfoyle turn up as the gruff but high-handed Dr. Greer. Genre fans should also keep an eye and ear out for Pat Healy as Dr. Ward, whose transport met with a not so mysterious mishap.

Basically, Pandemic plays like a decent story arc in the Walking Dead universe or a superior new installment of the Contracted franchise. So far, it has been a disappointing year for both zombie and viral outbreak movies (that means you, Anger of the Dead), so Pandemic benefits from a generous curve. Not bad (but nowhere near as smart and stylish as Suits’ The Scribbler), Pandemic opens this Friday (4/1) in Los Angeles at the Arena Cinema.