Movie Review: "Viral"
Emma (Sofia Black-D'Elia) is a decent girl at her school. She does her homework, and has an innocent crush on a boy at her school. There is another girl, Stacy (Analeigh Tipton), who is a rebel. She smokes at school, is very openly affectionate with her boyfriend and takes advantage of any opportunity in which she can mess with Emma. Oh, and the two girls are sisters. As if that was not bad enough, their dad is a teacher at their school and does not hesitate at an opportunity to embarrass Emma in his class.
When a girl at their school gets sick, from a parasitic virus, the town begins to go into panic, school is dismissed, and a curfew is put in place. When Emma, and Stacy's father goes to the airport to pick up their mother, the outbreak begins to reach uncontainable heights and the town is put under quarantine by the United States military. With their parents gone, the two girls are told to stay in the house to wait this thing out. Stacy has other plans, that certainly do not include staying couped up in the house with her sister, and so the madness begins.
The Pros & Cons
Generic Characters (-4pts)
The Infected (+8pts)
Bad Decisions (-6pts)
Slows Down (-4pts)
Pro: Sisters (+4pts)
I really enjoyed the dynamic between the two sisters in this film. Emma (Sofia Black-D'Elia) and Stacy (Analeigh Tipton) both go to the same high-school. While Emma is well behaved and spends her nights studying, Stacy is a bit of a rebel who spends her nights partying or hanging out with her boyfriend. The two could not be more different, and they resent each other for it. As the outbreak unfolds, the two sisters must endure the tragedy together. Despite their differences, the two are siblings so they obviously care about each other deep down.
While there have been so many apocalypse or infection films, this one focuses on the relationship between two sisters and how far they are willing to go in order to save each other. I liked both characters, I liked their chemistry together, and I liked how their relationship developed over the course of this film.
My only complaint is that I wish the film did not have a love interest for both characters, because we have seen struggling romances during outbreak movies before. For Stacy's character, having a boyfriend seemed necessary. For Emma's character, it felt like a forced and unnecessary character. I wish we could have gotten more time with these sisters so that their relationship could be better developed on screen.
Con: Slows Down (-5pts)
This movie does not waste too much time getting started. We basically find out that Emma and Stacy are sisters, Emma has a crush on a guy, Stacy is very rebellious with another guy, and their dad is a teacher at their high school. The film does not spend too much time on all of this (maybe about twenty minutes or so). Before long, a girl at the school gets sick, coughs blood on another student, and so begins the outbreak in this small town.
Like I said, the film does not waste too much time getting started. After the initial incident at the school, the outbreak escalates and things start to get crazy, but then the movie takes a turn and slows way down. The movie quickly turns into Stacy, Emma, and Emma's crush, all hiding out in their (Emma and Stacy's) house. The next thirty minutes (or so) are spent watching the three characters trying to wait out the apocalypse. I (for the most part) enjoyed the pacing of this film and I enjoyed the relationship between the two sisters, but I thought this part of the story felt unnecessarily slow.
Pro: The Infected (+8pts)
Why are zombies not very scary? Because they are usually very slow. Luckily, the creatures in this film are not zombies. They are not dead. Instead, they are controlled by the parasite that has infected them. The infected are very fast, very strong, and cannot see. Instead, the infected operate entirely on their senses of sound and touch. If they cannot hear anything, parasitic tentacles start coming out of the hosts' mouth and ears in an attempt to hear more clearly.
These things are gross, violent, and extremely dangerous. It really felt like one could not outrun or out power one of these things which is something that zombie films are missing. My only issue with the infected was that they rarely do more than spit blood on people. Sure, they felt threatening during the movie, but I feel like the threat would have been more impactful if we had seen what these creatures were capable of.
Con: Bad Decisions (-6pts)
This is one issue that too many horror films suffer from. Yet again, we have a horror film in which the plot relies heavily on the main characters making poor decisions. Someone you know has just been infected? Sure, sleep next to them, on a bed, in an enclosed space. There is an infected creature on the other side of your front door? Sure, walk closer to the door and look through the peep hole so you can be sure it is still there (which it definitely is). Your wife is stranded at the airport because of a parasitic outbreak in your town? Sure, leave your two teenage girls home alone and in that same town. These are just a few examples of the bad decisions that drive the plot of this film. The biggest problem with them is that the film could have written these moments out very easily. Instead, the filmmakers chose stupid characters over a well written script.
Pro: Intensity (+5pts)
I will be honest that there are not too many "scares" in this film. Sure, it is a horror movie, so there are a couple scenes that try to get jump scares out of the viewer, but that does not happen too often in the movie. However, there were a few scenes that really play into the intensity. Like I mentioned before, the infected were fast and powerful, but they could not see. This made a few scenes very intense, because the infected would be standing there, and moving very slowly while trying to hear its victim.
As a viewer, you are watching this creature moving slowly while the characters do their best to stay silent. These scenes can be very intense because the characters (and the viewers) are fully aware that, at the slightest sound from the potential victim, the infected could start charging and try to kill them. This makes for some very intense scenes.
Con: Generic Characters (-4pts)
One of this film's biggest flaws is how generic a lot of the characters were. The neighbor is the "boy next door", his step-dad is the "abusive parent", the girls father is "the nice but embarrassing father", Stacy's boyfriend (Machine Gun Kelly) is "the rebellious and cheating boyfriend", etc. You have seen most of these characters before, in other films, and you have seen how these characters interact with each other. This is a decent movie but it's characters are mostly generic.
Grade: C+ (75pts)
For the most part, this was a pretty average horror movie. It had some cool monsters, with its infected, and it had interesting main characters. Sure, most of the characters in the film were generic, including the sisters, but watching the sisters interacting with each other during the outbreak was entertaining (enough) to watch. The infected's characteristics provided for some real intense moments, but (for the most part) the horror was not focused on too heavily. This film was about the sisters.
The film also falls into the trap of pushing it's plot along by having the characters make bad decisions. I do not know why so many horror films do this, but there are terrible decisions made, left and right, throughout this movie. It would be nice to have at least one smart character in a horror film. Imagine that, have horrific things happen, even though a character makes all the right decisions. I feel like that would be more scary to a lot of audiences. No one relates with an idiot.
Overall, this was not a bad movie. It has it's problems but they are the same problems that so many horror movies fall into. The infected were intense, and the two main characters were entertaining to watch (when together). I do not think this film will blow anyone's mind, but it is not a bad movie to watch if you are looking for (at least an average) horror movie.