Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Movie review: Viral

I had a early-to-bed, doing work-from-home, kid-free evening this week, so got to watch a movie of my own choosing. It was pretty cool. Not the movie, getting to choose a movie. Actually, I choose the movies fairly often, but this time I didn't have to take anyone else's interests in account. So I chose one that seemed to be near to my heart. A infectious disaster zombie movie! Yay!

End of the world movies! With science, and zombies. Yay.

 The movie I selected was "Viral" a 2016 straight-to-DVD, as far as I can tell. Here's the basic synopsis from IMDB...

Emma and her sister Stacey are normal teenagers in a small town, when a mysterious infection begins to spread. With the town quarantined, and their parents stuck on the other side of the barrier, the girls have a blast eating junk food and sneaking out to go to parties. But when the disease starts to infect people they know, the girls, together with their neighbor Evan (Emma's secret crush), barricade themselves into their home.

But it may already be too late, as the infection is already in their midst, and Emma will be faced with a choice: protect her sister or survive the virus.

The infection, it turns out is NOT a viral infection, its a multi-cellular parasite, a nematode. A worm. Brain worms! This bothered the scientist in me, as the damn title of the movie was misleading, like if "The Lion King" was about the king of leopards.  However, they did some pretty cool stuff with the premise. Making comparisons to the fungal brain zombie ants,  the "eat me, eat me" behaviour in Toxoplasma infected rats and the flesh burrowing botfly maggot, the disease is spread by a bloody cough from an infected person, victims who become more an more aggressive and essentially, zombied as the worm interacts with the brain.

As a zombie survival film, it was really good. Government intervention in the form of military isolation, martial law, CDC quarantine with spot-checks, house-confinement and eventually, internment and "sweep-and-clean" roundups, followed by liberal airstrike-firebombings.

The disease/parasite aspect was not badly handled at all, and apart from a bit of "too smart / controlling" suspension of disbelief being required, it also had some really good aspects. The infected became blind when the parasite took over, relying on hearing to guide them to new victims which was a nice touch.

The quarantine included delivery of CDC goody boxes of MRE's and survival gear.  Flares (used to signal the military in the event of an infection in the early stages of the outbreak), face-masks and poncho's (for preventing / reducing he risk of contamination) and the like. It was also good to see "we are prepared for this kind of thing" reactions from the populace: under-stocked cupboards, closed and emptied shops, early evacuees and armed cordons. All good things to expect from a dangerous outbreak.

I really enjoyed the movie from a disaster preparedness and response perspective, only had a few "nooo! shut the door, what are you doing?" moments from the kids, and apart from the one or two bits of "hive-mind/pseudo-science" junk, it was remarkably believable and internally consistent.

 It really held the tension, and bleak prospects of a widespread, martial-law enforced (and out of control) quarantine as well as the worm-zombies. Well worth catching on your local streaming movie network of choice.

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