These two came in loving each other, but the first to wake up will kill the other and not know why!
You’ve got to admire when a film tries something that is relatively new, even in a genre that you’ve personally got a bit tired of, and that is exactly what has happened with “Pandemic”, a zombie/infection film that is trying the gimmick of filming in first person, without seeming like a found-footage style film.
I’ve personally grown very tired of both the zombie and found-footage style genres in recent years, both are cliched to death and long term readers may notice that I don’t really bother with either anymore, or at least reviewing them, but with “Pandemic” I feel the need to watch is because at least it’s taking a different approach to things.
Where what it seems matches reality is a very different question though…..
A viral epidemic has swept the world and left only very small pockets of survivors. Rebecca (McNicholas) has just arrived at the Los Angeles survival camp after being present for New York’s falling, and she is quickly assigned as the doctor in a team that is being sent out to rescue a bunch of survivors.
She is assigned Gunner (Phifer), who is desperately trying to find his wife, Denise (Pyle), and Wheeler (Allen), an ex-con, however, Rebecca is herself hiding that she isn’t actually a doctor at all and has lied so that she can find her daughter. The group struggle to stay alive on the streets of LA from not only those that are already at Stage 4 and above of the infection, but those that are at stage one and have just been infected.
As time goes on Rebecca struggles to hide that she isn’t a doctor, something that is made even more difficult when her team start getting badly wounded and she doesn’t know what to do, but can she still defy the odds and find her daughter?
So does the gimmick word for the genre?
Basically “Pandemic” is no different than any other zombie/viral infection film, with the exception of it’s got the gimmick of being largely first-person, with a few third person scenes thrown in here and there, but this gimmick does not make it a good film, not even close. I feel that with the right film, first person (and not in a found footage style way) in the horror genre could definitely word with the right film, but “Pandemic” is not that film, not even close.
Gimmicks in films only work if the film is actually good to begin with. For example, the found footage genre has some very, very strong entries, such as the first two films in the [REC] franchise, but largely they’re a pile of crap because they all copy each other, and it’s basically a breeding ground for desperate actors to try and get noticed by falling into arguably the most cliched sub-genre of films.
It’s not even as if the acting in “Pandemic” is bad because each of the actors does a reasonable job, but there is only so far that you can go with what they’re given, and unfortunately they have been given something painfully generic and not very well thought out. For example, the character of Wheeler is probably the most interesting and is the most morally grey of the group, and yet it’s barely touched on at all. It would have been good to see him developed more than he was, even if he is in the film for the majority.
I think the problem is that they focus on the character of Rebecca/Lauren far too much and ultimately she is just a walking set of cliches, and as soon as you find out that she is looking for her daughter, you know that chances are that she is going to find her. I’m not even considering that a spoiler because try and think of the last film you saw in which a main character said that and didn’t find their son/daughter by the end of that film….I bet you can’t.
Infact, I don’t do this often but I’m going to end this by talking about a major plot hole that happens towards the end of the film. You can skip to the rest of the review by scrolling down to the summary section, but I can’t avoid talking about the ending because it’s stupid.
So here we go (final spoiler warning). The film ends with Rebecca finding her daughter and realising that she is infected. She wants to get her back to base so that she can be treated.
She and her daughter eventually make it back to the base, but by now Rebecca’s daughter is actually wearing the biological contamination suit and the soldiers shoot Rebecca as they believe her to be infected. They message over the radio to the main doctor and he allows Rebecca’s daughter to come into the facility, although he doesn’t know that she isn’t actually Rebecca (who he actually thinks is called Lauren), nor that she is infected. Rebecca dies happily in the knowledge that her daughter is safe.
Now whilst that may sound like a happy ending, it isn’t. Rebecca was clearly told by the base’s lead doctor that the only people that they will allow back into the base are her, the other team members, the team that they’re trying to rescue and any uninfected survivors. Whilst the doctor initially believes that Rebecca’s daughter is actually her, as soon as he realises it’s not, more than likely before he’s about to administer the toxins (which he has already said he will only do for her) he is either going to kill the daughter, or put her in the research facility so that she can be monitored and tested before she reaches the final stage.
What Rebecca has actually done is condemn her daughter to misery for the final few days/weeks before she eventually turns, something which she must have known. There is no way that the doctor was going to allow her daughter on the site as she was already infected, something that has been made clear to her.
Right, spoiler over.
“Pandemic” tried something new and had a decent enough quality in terms of acting, but it sadly lacks in other areas and has a stupid ending.
I wouldn’t quite say that this is a missed opportunity, but there is something to be said for the first person genre (in a non-found footage style) that means that it could potentially be big in the future, but “Pandemic” isn’t the pioneer it more than likely hopes it would be.
It’s not awful, but it’s definitely not great.