Movie Review: "Viral"
Emma (Sofia Black-D'Elia) is a decent student. 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 their father goes to the airport to pick up their mother, the outbreak begins to reach uncontrollable 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, however, that certainly do not include staying cooped up in the house with her sister, but venturing outside will bring nothing good.
The Pros & Cons
Generic Characters (-5pts)
The Infected (+6pts)
Bad Decisions (-5pts)
Slowed Way Down (-4pts)
Pro: Sisters (+4pts)
I really enjoyed the dynamic between the two sisters in this story. Emma and Stacy 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 countless apocalyptic or infection films, this one focused on the relationship between two sisters and how far they were willing to go in order to save each other, despite everything that we knew about their relationship beforehand. I liked both characters, I liked their chemistry together, and I liked how their relationship developed over the course of this story. My only complaint was that I wish the filmmakers 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 forced and unnecessary. Having a potential romance for Emma did nothing but take up more screen time that could have been spent further developing the relationship between the sisters.
Con: Generic Characters (-5pts)
One of this movie's biggest flaws was how generic a lot of the characters were. The neighbor was the classic "boy next door", his step-dad was the classic abusive parent, the girls' father was the classic embarrassing father, Stacy's boyfriend (Machine Gun Kelly) was the rebellious and cheating boyfriend, and so on. You have seen most of these characters before in other movies, and you have seen how these characters interact with each other. This was a decent movie, but its side characters were pretty generic.
Pro: The Infected (+6pts)
Why are zombies not very scary? Because they are usually very slow. Luckily, the creatures in this movie were not zombies. They were not dead even dead at all. Instead, they were people who were controlled by the parasite that had infected them. The infected were very fast, very strong, but could see. Instead, the infected operated entirely on their senses of sound and touch.
If they could hear anything, parasitic tentacles would come out of the hosts' mouth and ears in an attempt to hear more clearly. These things were gross, violent, and extremely dangerous. It really felt like you could not outrun or out power one of these things which is something that zombie movies are usually missing. My only issue with the infected was that they rarely did 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 the full extent of what these things were capable of doing if they caught someone.
Con: Bad Decisions (-5pts)
This is one issue that too many horror films suffer from. Yet again, with Viral, we had a horror film in which the plot relied 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 would be.
Your wife is stranded at the airport because of a parasitic outbreak in your town? Sure, leave your two teenage girls home alone in the middle of it. These were just a few examples of the bad decisions that drove the plot of this movie. The biggest problem with them was that the filmmakers could have written these moments out very easily. Instead, they chose stupid characters over a well written script.
Pro: Intensity (+5pts)
I will be honest that there were not too many "scares" in this movie. Sure, it was a horror movie, so there were a couple scenes that clearly were intended to get jump scares out of the viewer, but that did not happen too often. However, there were a few scenes that really ramped up the intensity. Like I mentioned before, the infected were fast and powerful, but they could not see. This made a few scenes very intense, as the infected would be standing there, and moving very slowly while trying to hear its victim.
As a viewer, you are left to watch these creatures moving slowly, while the protagonists did their best to stay silent. These scenes were very intense because the characters—and the viewers—were fully aware that the slightest sound could make for a very horrible death. These scenes were riveting and had me right on the edge of my seat. Was this movie "scary" not really, but it definitely had its intense moments.
Con: Slowed Way Down (-4pts)
The filmmakers did not waste too much screen time getting this movie started. We basically found out that Emma and Stacy were sisters, Emma had a crush on a guy, Stacy was very rebellious with another guy, and their dad was a teacher at their high school. The filmmakers did not spend too much time on all of this either, maybe only about twenty minutes or so. Before long, a girl at the school got sick, coughed blood on another student, and the story took off from there.
However, after the initial incident at the school, the outbreak escalated and things started to get crazy, but then the movie took a turn and slows way down. The movie quickly turned into Stacy, Emma, and Emma's crush, all hiding out in their house. The next thirty minutes or so were 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 movie felt unnecessarily slow.
Grade: C+ (76pts)
For the most part, this was a pretty average horror movie. It had some cool monsters—the infected—and it had interesting main characters. Sure, most of the characters in the movie were generic, but watching the two sisters interacting with each other during the outbreak was interesting enough and was one of the better parts of this movie. The infected creature's characteristics provided for some real intense moments, but for the most part this movie did not have a ton of horror. This film was about two sisters who did not get along, coming together during a tragic time.
The filmmakers also fell into the trap of pushing the plot along by having the characters make bad decisions. I do not know why so many horror films do this, but there were terrible decisions made left and right throughout this movie. Its always refreshing 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 way scarier to a lot of audiences, as no one relates to an idiot. To summarize: the infected were intense, and the two main characters were entertaining to watch—when together. I do not think this movie will blow anyone's mind, but it would not be a bad movie to watch if you are looking for an at least average horror movie and cannot find anything better.