Pandemic (2016)


“Zombie, zombie, zombie ei, ei, ei, oh do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do.” —The Cranberries
     It’s getting harder to tell the undead from the infected from the merely glum. If there’s a virus or a plague or an epidemic out there, there are zombies, shuffling out of the woodwork, blundering over obstacles, or racing hell for leather at your stalled vehicle as you struggle to close the doors that shouldn’t have been open in the first place.
     So what about a pan-demic? Same thing. Zombies.
     Ah, but here’s a novel twist. POV. Not POV zombies—now that would be interesting, experiencing a movie from the point-of-view of the flesh eaters themselves as they shuffle, blunder, race, and, well… flesh eat. But in Pandemic, we get POV of the military extraction unit that heads into downtown apocalyptic L.A. in an armored school bus to look for survivors. Like it says in the trailer: “Witness the apocalypse…  through their eyes.” Sigh. Aren’t we yet done with all this cheap ‘n’ cheesy hand-held, wobbly-all-over-the-place, found footage so-manic-you-can’t-tell-what’s-going-on movie stuff? With Missi Pyle.
     I know for a fact there are people out there—grown people—who truly believe there’s no such thing as a bad zombie movie. But if any movie can make a mockery of such intractable faith, it’s Pandemic. John Suits’ film doesn’t boast an A-list cast by any means. In fact, it’s chock full of TV talent: Rachel Nichols (Chicago Fire, Criminal Minds) plays the medic, looking for her daughter; E.R.‘s Mekhi Phifer’s the gunner; and Alfie (Game of Thrones) Allen is the “we’re Fritos, man!” driver (Missi navigates). And while the direction is surefooted enough, the writing manages to tap every military/zombie cliche known to man—man, is it awful.
     Lots of Level 5s (post-hibernation stage) wind up dead, screwed with screwdrivers and axed with hatchets and bludgeoned with baseball bats, so there’s plenty of bloody mayhem for the gorehounds (including a particularly nasty entrails-laden scene when a gaggle of zombies do lunch). But the rest of Pandemic just makes you want to scream.
     “Zombie, zombie, zombie ei, ei, ei, oh do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do” will do nicely.

(c) 2016 David N. Butterworth

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