'Pandemic' (2016)

Movie Review

© XLrator Media

There have been films shot from a first-person perspective before (such as the remake), but with the increasing mobility of camera technology, movies like the GoPro-shot Hardcore Henry are attaining a level of viewer immersion virtually unknown previously; call it "first-person shooter cinema." Its forerunner, the found footage format, is still a staple of modern horror movies, so it should come as no surprise that a horror movie is joining Hardcore Henry in this next-gen movement. But does Pandemic have what it takes to help keep this fledgling style of filmmaking going?

Pandemic at a Glance

Synopsis: During an apocalyptic plague, a team of rescuers searches for uninfected survivors in Los Angeles.

Cast: Rachel Nichols, Alfie Allen with Missi Pyle, Mekhi Phifer, Paul Guilfoyle, Danielle Rose Russell

Director: John Suits

Studio: XLrator Media

MPAA Rating: NR

Running Time: 91 minutes

Release Date: April 1, 2016 (on demand April 5)

Trailer: Official Pandemic Movie Trailer on YouTube

The Plot

In the not-so-distant future, a plague has overtaken the planet, turning the sick into raving, murderous, cannibalistic monsters. Having narrowly escaped New York City before its fall, Dr. Lauren Chase (Rachel Nichols) travels to her home city of Los Angeles to fight the pandemic there. She's put in charge of a four-person team charged with heading to a downtown school in search of another team that has lost contact with the home base while attempting to rescue a group of survivors.

Her mission is to locate the survivors, conduct a blood test to determine if they're infected and bring back the uninfected. But secretly, she has another goal in mind: finding her husband and teenage daughter, with whom she lost contact at the onset of the outbreak. And Lauren isn't the only one with ulterior motives; her gunner (Mekhi Phifer) has a wife that went missing with the other team. Her navigator (Missi Pyle) has lost a son, and her driver (Alfie Allen) is a desperate ex-con who seems to be out for himself only. Even her superiors are questionable; what exactly are they doing with the survivors delivered to them? When the world falls apart, it seems, trust is the hardest thing to rebuild.

The End Result

There's no denying Pandemic's POV style is immediately captivating, sparking curiosity about the possibilities of melding a horror movie with a first-person shooter video game. But the devil is in the details, and while there are fleeting moments in which you catch a whiff of the visceral potential of "Hardcore Henry Meets The Crazies," it never truly hits the harrowing, mayhem-ridden zenith genre fans crave.

Watching Pandemic actually makes you appreciate the accomplishments of Hardcore Henry -- or ​if you haven't seen it, the music videos ( "The Stampede" and "Bad Motherf**ker") that were essentially test runs for that feature film. The deftness of the action -- the smoothness, the coherence, the ambition -- in those efforts makes it apparent that Pandemic's technical execution just isn't enough.

Yes, Pandemic puts you in the shoes (or, in this case, the helmet cam) of a person going through an action-packed gauntlet, but you rarely feel truly immersed in the world, and none of the action sequences are as jaw-dropping as any one-minute stretch of those music videos. Part of the problem might be the cameras used; they lack a certain up-close-and-personal intimacy. The movements aren't fluid enough, which both weakens the realism and obscures the action, making it difficult at times to decipher what's going on (best guess: an infected is being shot or bludgeoned). In one particularly annoying scene, the only person left with a helmet cam is told to run, but she keeps pausing nonsensically and looking back at the infected so they can be captured on screen. Oddly, at other times, the POV shifts away from the helmet cams, seemingly breaking the movie's unwritten rules. (Or do ambulances come equipped with cameras pointed at the front seat?)

Like the format itself, the scope of Pandemic is ambitious, as it tries to turn a major metropolitan area like Los Angeles into an apocalyptic wasteland. The result is admirable, blocking off streets here and there and utilizing existing areas like Skid Row and the L.A. River basin, but the budgetary limitations are apparent in some awful-looking CGI fires and in the modest size of the hordes of infected.

The strong cast of familiar faces helps sell a script that, while establishing a solid emotional core, seems to give up, ending abruptly without exploring an implied dirty secret within the ranks of Lauren's superiors.

In the end, Pandemic is best experienced with the tempered expectations of direct-to-video fare rather than the theatrical heights of a film like Hardcore Henry.

The Skinny

  • Acting: C+ (Good cast holds everything together.)
  • Direction: C- (Admirably ambitious, but the execution is lacking, with some awkward angles are difficulty capturing everything on screen.)
  • Script: C- (Nice emotional base, but the characters feel a bit selfish and expendable; ends too abruptly.)
  • Gore/Effects: C+ (Solid gore; bad CGI.)
  • Overall: C (Worthwhile for zombie/infection fans looking for something a little different, but never reaches its potential.)

Disclosure: The distributor provided free access to this movie for review purposes. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.