Pandemic is set in the near future, where a virus of epic proportions has overtaken the planet. There are more infected than uninfected, and humanity is losing its grip on survival. Its only hope is finding a cure and keeping the infected contained. Lauren (Rachel Nichols) is a doctor, who, after the fall of New York, comes to Los Angeles to lead a team to hunt for and rescue uninfected survivors. The movie opens today, April 1, 2016, in theaters for a limited release, and on Video on Demand and iTunes on April 5, 2016.
Pandemic is yet another installment in Zombie cinema that bears the most resemblance to 28 Days Later and World War Z. The Z-word is never uttered in this movie, but as the film progresses, you realize that it might as well belong in that category. The only difference here is that there are four stages of infection before the infected becomes a full-on rage eater. Whether it’s by starvation or by the brain damage somehow switching on the need to cannibalize uninfected people, remains a mystery. We just know that it’s a recent development no one in the movie had ever witnessed before.
We follow Doctor Lauren Chase (Rachel Nichols), a CDC lab tech who gets called back to Los Angeles from New York, the latest major city to fail at holding back the relentless virus. She’s immediately thrown into a four-man team to brave the wilds of L.A. and rescue a medical unit who got stranded with uninfected survivors somewhere downtown.
Joining Lauren are two seasoned hard-asses and a navigator: “Wheeler” (Alfie Allen, Game of Thrones), the group’s wheel man and an ex-con; Gunner (Mekhi Phifer), an ex-cop who provides the muscle (and obviously the first to die for a number of reasons); Denise (Missi Pyle) the most sympathetic character out of the group who holds the map. Like Lauren, Denise lost a child. What no one knows, however, is that Lauren is on a mission of her own to find her teenage daughter, and is willing to endanger everyone else to get to her. There’s another big secret that provides a nice plot twist later on.
Once the group is out in the wild, there are various deranged infected that try different ways to lure our heroes off the bus. Yes, these guys are intelligent. There’s one scenario where they use an uninfected young woman to lure half of the team off the bus. Once they realize what’s happened, they’re swarmed by infected who were pretending to be dead.
Things go from bad to worse once they reach their destination. The crew gets scattered and picked off. Ultimately Lauren focuses on going into the suburbs, which is infested with Level 5 infected, to find her daughter. As this quest unfolds we’re met with a few upheavals, but it doesn’t really reach the level of tragedy the direction seemed to have hoped for. Tragic and sad, yes. But the execution of the ending brings the final moments to a “Well, that sucks” instead of the intended “OMG WHY?! THAT’S SO SAD!”
What took me out of the film a lot was the way it was filmed. You’re almost always looking from the perspective of one of the four characters via the cameras attached to their helmets. In other words, we’re approaching this film as if we’re in a first-person shooter. Sort of. Other footage comes from security cameras that still work for some reason, and one or two phantom cameras that don’t seem to have an origin (i.e. when Lauren is talking with the no-nonsense lead physician in the beginning of the movie). The technique is in no way as hectic or kinetic as the upcoming Hardcore Henry, so there’s no sense of novelty as you watch the film aside from the first-person zombie kills (side note: don’t eat anything while you’re watching this). Were it filmed traditionally, in fact, a lot of the scenes would have had much better impact on the viewer.
In the end, Pandemic is a passable reinterpretation of the zombie genre. All things considered, it’s a good B-movie. It’s certainly better than World War Z, and that one had Brad Pitt and a huge budget.