Rachel Nichols battles zombies, The Dragon dies hard, and Idris Elba goes nuts.
It's starting to look like director Franck Khalfoun was on to something with his 2012 remake of Maniac, which was shot from the perspective of a scalp-hunting serial killer. First person perspective movies keep popping up lately, to the point where it makes you wonder if P.O.V. flicks are going to be the gimmick trend that replaces found footage.
For Pandemic, director John Suits bridges the two trends by mixing found footage and first person together. While almost the entire film is shot from the perspective of its characters, we're not seeing directly through their eyes. Cameras are still involved. When a search and rescue team is sent into the quarantined, zombie-ridden city of Los Angeles, we follow their progress through cameras mounted on the helmets of their bio-suits. They are told to keep these cameras running at all times, as footage from missions like this have been invaluable in the process of trying to figure out how to handle the virus outbreak that is turning people into zombies.
We don't only see the action through these helmet cams, though. When it's necessary to get another angle to properly convey what's going on, Suits will cut away to security camera footage or even shoot from the P.O.V. of a smartphone screen as it's being swiped. There are also some shots in here that are highly questionable, where there might not have been a camera source within the film's reality at all. For example, I've never seen a camera mounted on the side of an ambulance.
Taking the first person approach to filming Pandemic was really the best marketing decision they could have made, because it draws attention to a movie that otherwise could have been completely overlooked in this time of zombie over-saturation. Beyond the way it's shot, there is nothing to make Pandemic stand out from the pack.
Writer Dustin T. Benson did create his own version of zombies within this story, although the influence of previous zombie and virus movies are so clear that the infected people here really aren't that unique. There are five stages to this virus, which eventually leaves the infected brain damaged and highly aggressive, so some of the zombies in earlier stages are still functioning on higher levels than those at stage five - some can still speak, some can set traps. But the majority of those we see within the film are stage five, and at that point they're running, snarling maniacs who could have easily come straight out of 28 Days Later or the Dawn of the Dead remake.
If you like your zombies to be of the Night of the Living Dead or The Walking Dead variety, Pandemic is not your speed. To make matters worse, when these fast-moving zombies are attacking, the movie becomes intensely annoying to watch; when viewing the action through the first person perspective, it's very tough to tell exactly what's going on. It doesn't help that the helmet cams are slightly off from the actual line of sight for the characters, causing some awkward angles that get even more troublesome when you're cutting between all these odd angles as the people the cameras are attached to are making frantic, shaky movements. The action sequences here are a messy nightmare to endure, and when they aren't going on the film itself sometimes moves at a pace even slower than a Romero zombie.
Pandemic does benefit from having a solid cast. Rachel Nichols takes the lead as a doctor whose mission is to test the survivors they find, weeding out the ill to leave behind, rescuing only those still healthy. Level one of the illness can be treated, but only the doctor will be given treatment. Anyone else who is infected is to be left behind, no matter what stage they're at, including her fellow rescue team members. They are played by Missi Pyle, a barely recognizable Mekhi Phifer, and Alfie Allen, who you may remember hating in John Wick. His character here isn't usually very pleasant, either. None of these characters are particularly great, but they all get their moments and stories, and they become more interesting when the mission goes off the rails. You see, not everyone on this mission is who they say they are, and they have entered Los Angeles with their own agenda. Their own rescue priorities.
Fans of the actors involved are who I would most recommend Pandemic to, with those who have an appreciation for Nichols and/or Allen being the ones likely to get the most out of watching it. Zombie fans won't see anything they haven't seen before, and none of the zombie action is really exciting, original, or shot well enough to make the movie worth seeking out. The first person perspective will probably draw in a good amount of curious viewers, but there's a chance your viewing experience might go like mine, where I started off curious to see how the P.O.V. aspect would work and quickly found myself wishing things had been shot in a more traditional manner.
Overall, Pandemic is rather underwhelming. It's not a bad movie, but it brings nothing new or special to the table, despite its shooting style.
The review above originally appeared on ArrowintheHead.com
FEAR THE WALKING DEAD (2015 -)
I have been watching AMC's The Walking Dead since the first night it aired and have kept up with every episode since. Between the fifth and sixth seasons, AMC expanded on the concept of the #1 show on television by airing a short (six episode) first season of a spin-off, Fear the Walking Dead. While the original show is set deep in the zombie apocalypse and on the East side of the United States, primarily in the countrysides of Georgia and Virginia, Fear the Walking Dead was meant to examine the beginning of the apocalypse, a time period largely skipped over by The Walking Dead, as it went in the city of Los Angeles.
The idea is interesting, I was intrigued by and rooting for the spin-off, but I would have to say that Fear got off to a somewhat shaky start. I never connected with most of the characters (the one played by Ruben Blades is awesome, though), and as it turns out the end of the world still allows for a show to contain a lot of pensive filler moments. There is a bit of mayhem early on, but things slow down in the middle, a lot more than I would have expected from a season with just six episodes. With such a short amount of time to work with, you'd think the writers would have been hustling to fit things in, but they took a leisurely approach instead. They did build to a spectacular pay-off in the season finale, though.
This show has a very different feel from its predecessor, which is somewhat tough to reconcile - I could totally understand if someone were to love The Walking Dead but not like Fear the Walking Dead at all, or vice versa. Although it would be tougher for me to understand why someone would prefer Fear.
I still feel that Fear the Walking Dead has potential and I would like to see it reach that potential. Maybe the makers took their time with the first season because they knew they had a fifteen episode second season ahead of them. That season is currently airing on AMC on Sunday nights, and I will be reviewing every episode over on ArrowintheHead.com, hoping that Fear will really wow me this time around.
After providing the stories for Bloodfist IV: Die Trying and Bloodfist V: Human Target, Rob Kerchner earned a "Written by" credit on the sixth installment in the continuity-less franchise, sharing that credit with Brendan Broderick, who had worked on part 5 as the second assistant director. Kerchner and Broderick's story, which is essentially "Die Hard in a nuclear missile base", was brought to the screen by Rick Jacobson, a director who worked with Bloodfist star Don "The Dragon" Wilson frequently before moving on to mostly television work, including the Ash vs. Evil Dead series.
The filmmakers fully embraced the fact that the action flick they were making here was an exploitation B-movie, as they prove with the first character we see in the missile base - it's a nude, fresh-from-the-shower woman named Tori, who's played by Cat Sassoon (who played a different character in part 4). She has been invited into the base as the girlfriend of the major who controls the launch keys, the only personnel member who survives the raid conducted by a group of heavily armed men who are looking to launch some nukes. When the gunfire dies down, Tori reveals herself to be in cahoots with the villains.
Just when the situation is looking hopeless, enter Don "The Dragon" Wilson, this time playing Nick Corrigan - former Special Forces soldier, friend to all animals, and now a hapless courier who soon realizes that he's the only person who stands between these terrorists and the eradication of multiple U.S. cities.
While Strategic Air Command monitors the situation from elsewhere, talking with the terrorists and dealing with their demands of $100 million in gold and an escape jet, Corrigan makes his way through the rooms and hallways of the base, taking out the bad guys in any way he can, and if you're familiar with Die Hard and Die Hard 2, you'll be feeling déjà vu during some moments.
If viewed as the cheap and cheesy rip-off that it is, Bloodfist VI provides a fun 86 minutes of action, but it is definitely the product of a less politically correct age and may offend some viewers. When I caught this one on cable in the mid-'90s, I thought it was awful, that the series had hit the bottom of the barrel. Twenty-one years later, the dumb action element has aged well, but what surrounds it has not.
As always, though, this Bloodfist movie is really just a rather simple and mindless excuse to see Wilson kick and punch people, and he does that like the pro that he is.
Unfortunately, this was the last movie that Cat Sassoon ever made. She tragically passed away after attending a New Year's Eve party to usher in 2002.
NO GOOD DEED (2014)
Although suspected of abducting and murdering five women, Colin Evans (Idris Elba) could only be convicted of manslaughter for killing a man in a bar brawl. So when he goes up for parole five years later with a record of good behavior, there's a chance he could be released from prison. If not for the board member who considers Evans a dangerous, malignant narcissist. Denied a legal release, Evans releases himself by killing the two guards taking him back to the prison in a transport van.
Finding that his girlfriend has moved on during the five years he's been put away, Evans kills her, confirming to the audience that he does indeed have a serious problem with women. Then he hits the road... And on a dark and stormy night, he shows up at the door of Terri Granger (Taraji P. Henson), a woman home alone with her two young children.
Presenting himself as a harmless, heartbroken man with car troubles, Evans talks his way out of the storm and into the Granger house. At first it seems like he might even be able to seduce this unhappy housewife. When Terri's friend Meg (Leslie Bibb) shows up and practically throws herself at the man while dropping lines like "Sex is like going to the gym; you should do it every day and never use the same equipment two days in a row" you almost start to suspect that a threeway is going to break out at any second.
Evans isn't interested in those shenanigans, though. His violence ways surface soon enough, and he proceeds to give Terri one terrifying night.
It probably would have been quite a while before I watched No Good Deed if my Remake Comparison co-writer Priscilla hadn't expressed interest in it after seeing the trailer. The marketing for it hadn't drawn me in, but it worked for her, so we ended up watching it during one of my visits to Brazil... and I ended up liking No Good Deed much more than I expected to.
Capably directed by Sam Miller, it's actually a pretty solid thriller, carried by engrossing performances from Elba, Henson, and Bibb. There really isn't all that much to the movie, but there are some nice twists and turns along the way and it's just fun to watch these actors bring Aimee Lagos's script to life on the screen.
Have 84 minutes to spare? No Good Deed is a fine way to spend them.