Movie Review: Pandemic (2016)
“You are humanity’s last stand”
Director: John Suits
Cast: Rachel Nichols, Alfie Allen, Missi Pyle
Synopsis: A virus of epic proportions has overtaken the planet. There are more infected than uninfected, and humanity is losing its grip on survival.
You know, I think I’m going to be ok when the zombie apocalypse finally arrives. I might not have all the hi-tech gadgetry with which the not-so-fearless band of military/medical professionals in Pandemic equip themselves before venturing into post-apocalyptic L.A., and I might not have their protective suits or artillery, but I do have one thing they don’t possess. Something without which all that hardware and protection is largely redundant. That’s right – I have common sense.
Reaching cinemas just a week before the more popular Hardcore Henry, a film which shares the same first-person point of view, Pandemic takes place in a near future in which the world’s population has once again been decimated by a poorly-explained illness which, in its later stages, turns its victims into ravenous cannibals. From a fortified compound in which military scientists provide refuge for its survivors as they search for a cure for the disease, a hardy band of desperadoes led by the newly-arrived Doctor Lauren Chase (Rachel Nichols – Alex Cross) venture into the City suburbs in search of a previous party that went missing while returning from a rescue mission of their own. Chase is a novice to such expeditions, but her crew of three are hardened vets – although given their haphazard approach to safety, Lord alone knows how they managed to survive their previous missions. Anyway, these three aren’t so dim that they don’t quickly begin to suspect that something isn’t quite right about their leader.
Pandemic is proof that you can’t just throw a movie together without giving some thought to the world in which it takes place. No explanation is given for what – if any – infrastructure remains in place, or for the absence of any substantial military presence, and details of the disease that has wiped out the majority of the world’s population are sketchy at best. Someone mentions in passing that it might have been spread through the water supply, but nobody knows for sure. A gruff military official explains the five different stages of the disease to Chase as she prepares for her first mission, seemingly impervious to the fact that any doctor in the midst of a global pandemic would be all too familiar with symptoms and stages. There are five, ranging from flu-like symptoms to psychotic rage. Why those in the final stages don’t attack those in the earlier ones is never explained.
Chase and her crew bicker and squabble like twelve-year-olds on a school trip. While exploring the dark corridors of a school in the heart of the infected city they blithely wander off to do their own thing, then act surprised when things turn nasty. A filmmaker can just about get away with that kind of thing if their protagonists are a bunch of teens with more going on in their pants than their brains, but when they’re mature adults who are fully aware that one moment of inattention can cost them their lives it really won’t do.
The violence in Pandemic is strong and gory. Faces are literally pounded to a pulp before our very eyes, as if we are the wielding the weapon; throats are skewered, and heads are decapitated, and, like killing an animated figure on a games console, it’s a worryingly satisfying experience. It’s not all bonus points and high scores, though: one memorable point of view shot sees us dragged from the street and whisked by car to a rendezvous point where a bunch of infected set about disembowelling us with an admirable single-mindedness of purpose. Sadly, though, despite all the POV trickery, Pandemic is just another mediocre zombie picture…
(Reviewed 11th April 2016)