Pandemic is a zombie movie whose greatest battle isn’t with the undead, but a gimmicky directing style that constantly threatens to derail the mostly enjoyable experience.
Doctor Lauren Chase (Rachel Nichols) is part of a four team expedition in Los Angeles seeking to find uninfected survivors of an unexplained plague. The virus has turned most of the population into rage monsters with increasingly worse side effects.
Having arrived from a decimated New York, the LA experience is jarring for Chase as she sees the depths of which the infected will go to satisfy their blood lust or attempt to get treatment at the sanctuary. Half the team is preoccupied with another agenda of tracking down missing family members, which continually puts the others at risk as they continually break all the established rules when evading/battling zombies.
Pandemic’s intriguing premise is somewhat wasted with its big gimmick to set it apart from other zombie films — a largely first person Point of View perspective. John Suits’ directing style quickly gets exposed as a one trick gimmick. Your enjoyment of the film will mainly depend on your tolerance for a camera that’s rarely steady and a POV experience that’s used to excess. Suits randomly switches the character perspective from one to the next, which is more of a disruption to the already wonky presentation.
During the more dialogue heavy scenes, the rotating POV takes some adjusting, but once the action kicks in, the film just becomes disorienting. This isn’t the kind of film to check out if you get vertigo or have motion sickness. And even then, the presentation might still leave you nauseous.
It would probably play out better as a Playstation 2 or Xbox game where the POV experience would overshadow some of its glaring deficiencies. Mind you that’s two console generations ago making Pandemic look archaic compared to the blockbuster movie live graphics and visuals available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Fair or not, in a post-The Walking Dead/28 Days Later world, zombie action needs to be a lot more polished to effectively capture an audience’s imagination.
Suits gets cartoonish with the infected deaths and his budget isn’t nearly enough to make that look anything but noticeably cheap. The visible action sequences are also sketchy with shoddy looking blood sprays and gun effects.
Pandemic actually probably deserved a larger budget to enhance the infected and the action effects as its deficiencies on that front hold it back from cracking a higher plateau among the crowded zombie genre.
In its favor, the film boasts an impressive main cast for a limited theatrical release. Screenwriter Dustin T. Benson does a commendable job developing the characters and setting up new wrinkles on familiar scenarios. Nichols is a likable lead and she makes a strong audience avatar for the craziness around her. Phifer keeps Gunner strictly no nonsense while Pyle offers a warmer, gentler ally. Allen keeps showcasing his versatility in this smaller scale films. He was the most enjoyable performer in Plastic and here he’s the team’s straight shooter with little regard for the mission beyond getting home safely.
Pandemic finds a unique way to put a spin on a now very familiar genre. It’s a little surprising it didn’t receive any interest from major studios as it just needed a larger budget to really shine. As is, Pandemic won’t redefine the zombie/infected genre, but it’s a decent effort that could have been really good with a bit more polish.
Rating: 6 out of 10
Photos Courtesy: XLrator Media