Thursday, April 21, 2022

Virus: 32, on Shudder

Now that we do not have to wear masks on flights, it ought to be okay to enjoy zombie-like viral-rage outbreak movies again too. If the subject still “triggers” you, you probably shouldn’t be watching horror films in the first place, because mature grown-ups don’t get triggered. Ready or not, mindless berserkers will rampage through the streets of a Latin American city in Gustavo Hernandez’s Uruguayan- and Argentinian-produced Virus:32, which premieres today on Shudder.

Iris is not a great mother, but her ex-husband still needs her to look after their pre-teen daughter Tata for a while. Bad luck that he would drop her off right as a rage-inducing outbreak sweeps the city. Technically, these do not seem to be zombies. Their bite does not appear to be infectious. They have another quirk too. After killing (any creature, so long as it has blood), the infected freeze in a state of Nirvana-like stasis for 32 seconds. That means if they get your buddy next to you, you should have time to make a getaway, or at least get a head start.

Nothing about the premise or twists of
Virus: 32 is shockingly original, but Hernandez’s execution is lethally effective, especially during the first forty minutes or so. Hernandez sets the scene in a decrepit-looking old sports club, where Iris works as a slacker security guard. Since her cell phone is connected to the network of closed-circuit cameras, we get to see the shadowy location, from perspectives that maximize the ominous foreboding.

Hernandez also skillfully employs long tracking shots the build the tension. He carefully blocks and choreographs the action. Admittedly, it is dashed manipulative every time Iris happens to look the wrong way while trying to stealthily evade the mindless infected, but it sure works.

Unfortunately, the last half-hour almost entirely reverts to the tropes and forms of dozens (if not hundreds) of prior films—and the close-out could have benefited a tighter rewrite. Still, the early stuff is impressively creepy and tense. Paula Silva and Pilar Garcia are both pretty good as Iris and Tata, respectively, but not enough to elevate
Virus: 32 to the upper reaches of the subgenre’s bell curve.

Hernandez is a talented filmmaker, who deserved much more attention for
You Shall Not Sleep. This will probably be remembered as a minor work from him and co-writer Juma Fodde (who also collaborated on Sleep), but it gets them back out there and delivers a good number of zombie-ish chills. Recommended as some [bloody] meat and potatoes for fans of outbreak horror, Virus: 32 starts streaming today (4/21) on Shudder (which, fyi, is not yet available in Brazil).