Review: POV Apocalypse Flick PANDEMIC (Alyse’s Review)

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Gory POV thriller gets another SHOCK review.

SHOCK’s Howard Gorman reviewed PANDEMIC back in February. Now, on the cusp of its theatrical release, our Alyse Wax gives her take…

Found footage films are so 2013.

Now, the popular conceit seems to be POV films, like HARDCORE HENRY. (I have not seen Hardcore Henry.) PANDEMIC, the new film by John Suits (THE SCRIBBLER) attempts to use this conceit, but like most found-footage films, the rules aren’t hard-and-fast.

PANDEMIC is a straight-forward story about a virus decimating the country, and follows a team who is tasked with rescuing specific survivors at a school. The team consists of Lauren (Rachel Nichols), a doctor who is desperate to find her daughter; Denise (Missi Pyle), the team’s navigator; Gunner (Mekhi Phifer), who is – you guessed it – the team’s muscle; and Wheeler (Alfie Allen), the ex-con wheel man. The characters are rather flat, especially the two women on the team, who spend much of the film talking about their kids. Each character fits neatly into their pigeonhole, yet the actors do a good job with what they have. If nothing else, the characters aren’t too annoying.

Those infected with the virus go through five stages: the first is flu-like symptoms; the second is Ebola-like symptoms, with spontaneous bleeding and black lesions on the skin; third is heightened aggression; fourth is a death-like hibernation; and the recently-discovered fifth stage that turns you into a 28 DAYS LATER-style zombie. These stages are not clearly delineated, as I mistook a mob of infected as level-fives, until it turns out that they set a trap for our team, and figured they were just level threes. The pandemic started about 30 days ago, and in that time, the world fell apart very, very quickly. Los Angeles, where the film is set, is virtually abandoned, save for tent cities that have sprung up all over downtown (why these people wouldn’t just sleep in one of the many, many abandoned buildings is beyond me) and the occasional scavenger who is as violent as a level-three infected.

I mentioned rules, and PANDEMIC doesn’t really stick to any. Most notably, the footage is all supposed to be taken from POV cameras mounted at eye-level on the HAZMAT helmets. For the most part the director actually sticks with this, but there are a few scenes with brief shots that could not have been taken from any helmet-camera; similarly, when Lauren is getting her instructions from the general, we get lots of shots of Lauren, presumably from the general’s POV, even though he is not wearing a helmet and doesn’t seem to have any other camera on him. Sometimes we will cut to a shot from a well-placed security camera, which doesn’t make any sense: it seems that the world has been without power for quite a while.

Similarly, one of the major conceits of the film is Lauren obsessively trying to reach her daughter – on a cell phone. She even steals phones off of corpses in order to call. In an emergency, cellular service is usually one of the first things to go; why does it still work here? How do these phones remain charged, even after 30+ days? The only explanation I can come up with is that the power isn’t actually out, but if there is still power, why did the world essentially destroy itself?

With all that said, PANDEMIC is a well-paced flick with good action and gore, evenly distributed. The plot is straightforward; even the middle-of-the-movie “reveal” isn’t a surprise (and, ultimately, is inconsequential) and there is nothing you haven’t seen here before. But with proper pacing and fun kills, it kept my attention for the entire film. I would just wait to catch it on Netflix.

PANDEMIC hits theaters today and VOD April 5.