Viewed through the glaucous goggles of Sci-Fi horror the “near future” is absolutely always NEVER a good place to be. At best it is irreparably hog tied by a dystopian flag – at worst an apocalyptic shit-storm with a nefarious shard of global anxiety in its eye.
The first-person shooter movie Pandemic is no exception portending a viciously infectious zombie virus that makes The Black Death look like a mild case of the sniffles.
We view most of the action through the lens of a suit cam worn by doctor Lauren Chase who relocates to L.A. after New York becomes overrun. She is put in charge of an armoured bus and its crew and embarks on a dangerous mission to liberate a cluster of uninfected survivors.
Hampered by a strained group dynamic the quest becomes more treacherous at every turn as hidden agendas are revealed and the rescue party becomes a microcosmic barometer reflecting mankind’s inexorable drift towards the mercenary.
In this particular zombieverse there are five categories of contagion and whist the original pathogen is never fully revealed this grading process fosters variety within the spicy set pieces that crop up every 15 mins or so.
These frenetic sequences are the beating heart of the flick and drive it forward with gore soaked abandon including the most devastating cranial caving since Gaspar Noé last picked up a fire extinguisher and an inspired intestinal munching.
Those who advocate the Romeroesque school of the shuffling zombie need not apply as once they have totally turned the creatures featured here are manic graduates of the 28 Days Later academy of savagery.
Some of the most brutal violence is saved for victims at an early stage of infection and consequently still heavily humanised – contributing i’m sure towards the films well earned 18 rating.
The cast exhibits a uniform degree of functionality including both Rachel Nichols (P2) and Alfie Allen(Game of Thrones) operating well above the level required for this sort of B-movie lunacy. Nichols might be well advised to savour any plaudits with particular relish. Her next release sees her sticking her head firmly in the front row of of the cinematic coconut-shy courtesy of her lead role in the remake of the sacred horror opus À l’intérieur.
Despite the POV/found footage framework Pandemic hangs on the action is staged with a rangy level of clarity. Crucially it circumvents the type of queasy shaky cam shenanigans that have ruined a swathe of less graceful projects.
On the downside the format can feel expressively distant at times and struggles to breach the boundaries of its self imposed blinkers. Ironically POV shot movies will always find emotional connection a challenge because their intrinsic raptness inevitably leaves the subsequent narrative isolating in its linear texture.
However the movie is smart enough to see challenges instead of problems and facilitates a couple of truly inspirational moments of artistic bravado that drag it back from the video game cut scene cliff.
There are times Pandemic plays out like a riveting prologue to an interactive zombie experience but there are enough quirks and embellishments present to invoke a more tangible empathy within the viewer.
Derivative as hell and cheerfully plucking influences from any genre strains it feels like Pandemic wafts along on a colourful breeze of shattered skulls and tenuous twists.
As we all trudge inevitably into the fretful fog of the “near future” spending time with a compact and engaging B-movie such as Pandemic makes for a pleasantly gratifying diversion.
Any shoots of hope for humanity are stamped firmly into the dirt by this sleek slice of holocaustic tomfuckery yet it manages to leave an amiably elegant footprint in the process.
★★★1/2 |Bradley Hadcroft
Horror, Sci-Fi, Viral Outbreak| USA, 2016 | Content Media/Platform Entertainment | UK DVD + Major VOD platforms in the UK and Ireland 23rd May 2016 | Dir. John Suits| Rachel Nichols, Alfie Allen, Missi Pyle