John Suits’ Pandemic is the latest film to adopt a non-stop first person perspective, something that’s sure to become a trend with the awaited release of action extravaganza Hardcore Henry. Of course, Hardcore Henry isn’t the first film to use the method: first person has appeared in countless found footage films like The Last Exorcism, the original Rec films, not to mention the Maniac remake. It’s the fact the film is a start-to-finish POV zombie flick that makes it something of an event in an over-saturated sub-genre.
The last time we saw Suits was back at Frightfest 2013 with The Scribbler, a film packed with ideas and images but lacking the focus to successfully bring them together. Similar problems hit Extracted, the Inception-style thriller which Suits wrote and produced in 2012. Pandemic, the debut script from Dustin Benson, is a far more focused film, examining the viral apocalypse through the aesthetic and sketchy narrative of a zombie survival video game. Even if the story is recycled, there’s room for fun.
Two things that come easily to first person shooting are scares and action. For the most part Suits knows what he’s working with, only really messing up the first fight of the film which is so dark you can barely see what’s happening. Though that may be part of the plan, its irritating when we know there’s a lot going on but just can’t see it. Later, Suits proves he knows how to shoot the action righting Pandemic’s potential in a great locker room brawl teeming with crazed infected and frantic bloodletting. When the pace picks up things can be great; the camera lending itself to fluid and shocking violence. Similarly, moments of horror happen so suddenly and undramatically that their desired effect can be lost to bewilderment.
The problem then, is that Pandemic deserves credit for not exposing us to the same zombie drek, but it doesn’t really push itself as far as it could. The cast is great but feels oddly, well, overqualified. Rachel Nichols, Missi Pyle, Alfie Allen, and Mekhi Phifer react well to each other and there’s some nice little character moments that fill the downtime, not to mention a surprise appearance from Pat Healy (Cheap Thrills, The Innkeepers) who is always a pleasure to watch.
Pandemic marks a more focused venture for Suits and fills its run-time nicely with a supplemented zombie tale. There’s not enough badass action to really make it shine though.
Dir. John Suits
Stars: Rachael Nichols, Missi Pyle, Alfie Allen, Makhi Phifer