Review: PANDEMIC…Is POV The New Found Footage?

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Pandemic (2016)
New Artists Alliance
Written by Dustin T. Benson
Directed by John Suits

I am not a found footage fan. I think it was a gimmicky thing when it was new, and it has dragged on in the horror genre far longer than there is any justification for, and personally, if that’s one of a film’s selling points, then I’m likely to immediately start tuning out.

You may love them – or even just not hate them – and that’s OK. The genre has lots of different ways to tell a scary story, and found footage is just one of them.

Of  course the Big New Thing now is POV films, with the much-anticipated Hardcore Henry due out in just a few days, and the promise of a slew of films in a lot of genres to see the POV treatment should it be successful. I suspect it will be, and we’ll soon get a fairly sizable burst of horror films taking advantage of that style… after all, we’ve had years of First-Person Shooter horror games to prime us for it, and GoPros are cheap.

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Pandemic has something of the POV film about it, but it’s not a pure form, combining POV, found footage-esque security cam shots, and standard filming styles. It’s an interesting – briefly – technique, where all of our characters have cameras on their suits so we see what they see, but any interest in the shifts in perspective and the video game vibe that comes with having the characters’ view in what is essentially a survival horror FPS are quickly overshadowed by a script that is both terribly predictable and, well, terrible.

The premise is Zombie 101, with a couple of minor tweaks. A pandemic breaks out, and there are 5 stages, ranging from a flu-like thing that can be cured if caught early enough; a 28 Days Later rage; a semi-intelligent cannibal mob phase; a dormant death-like phase;  and the final Fast Zombie stage of the 2004 Dawn of the Dead and World War Z styles. The word zombie is never mentioned, but it’s a Zombpocolypse film nonetheless.

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Our main character is Rachel Nichols’ Lauren, a doctor sent into Los Angeles with a team to try and find a group of survivors, but she has her own agenda that might not quite mesh with the mission. Her team is made up of a driver, a soldier and a navigator… you know what? Let’s just take a look at my notes from just the first 15 minutes of Pandemic, shall we?

Flashback: family, happy times. Let me  guess,  everyone is doomed.

present: pain of memory, recitation of mission

found footage camera stuff/exposition /explaining how obvious things work. mission briefing at stupid time. yelling for reasons, dumb things happening with phone and whole setup, not how life works, sending people into field without training – idiots

EXPOSITION!!! ALLL THEEE EXPOSITION!!!!

This is how to get your people killed. Good God. “You’re too valuable.”

Kill the infected, unless it’s you. You’re in charge, but probably not.

9:00 min in, and the writer in me is screaming at the stupid here.

Rachel Nichols and Mekhi Phifer? Did they lose a bet?

11:00 this is dumb.

Where is their body armor? Why is this driver guy an a@#hole?

How is this not things that are known? How is this things that people aren’t prepared for? Why is this team so small? Why is this bus so under-defended? Why is this a thing? Tactically, this is dumb.

This team is doomed by the people who are this team

NO ONE PUTS THESE PEOPLE TOGETHER AS A TEAM.

Yep. Dumb as @#$%. Works for video game logic, not for film.

DO NOT SEND PEOPLE OUT INTO SITUATIONS WITHOUT INFORMATION. THIS IS STUPID.

WHY ARE THESE THINGS HAPPENING??!!

I’m honestly not sure what the point of this film is, aside from the FPS scenes which are, admittedly, occasionally kinda cool. From the moment that the story actually starts to happen, the level of planning, rational behavior, and anything resembling a realistic take on a situation like this that simply aren’t there in this film pretty much kills any real tension or anything that might be a scare. The “team” is under-armed, under-supplied, under-defended and nothing remotely resembling a team, and apparently we’re missing the scene where the people in charge want these people to die, because that’s the only thing that makes a lick of sense.

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And it’s a shame, because it is a good cast. Aside from Nichols (Continuum) and Phifer (Torchwood), we have Missi Pyle (Galaxy Quest), Alfie Allen (Game of Thrones) and Paul Guilfoyle (CSI, Colony), but they are almost all wasted on characters that act as if the biggest side effects of the pandemic is a drop in intelligence and an increase in suicidal behavior. Seriously, in the real world, no one would agree to this plan unless they were actively suicidal.

Part of the problem is budgetary, which seems to have been limited to creature design and gore effects, and results in a film set in a LA that never feels like LA. Aside from some stock footage-ish cityscapes, we spend our time on generic streets or in generic buildings, in the dark, in scenes that could have taken place anywhere. None of our characters are particularly developed – although everyone plays their parts well, not surprising with the cast we have here – and where they are, they are either drawn so broadly they are clichés, i.e., Phifer’s soldier named Gunnar and Allen’s driver, Wheeler.

If I haven’t spent much time on the story here, it’s because it is so rudimentary, and so predictable, that it doesn’t actually matter. Once you get past the setup that doesn’t make any sense, things happen in the way you think things will happen, punctuated by the occasional moment where people do really dumb things. One has to think that the script that sold Nichols and Phifer on this film didn’t survive the shoot or the edit, or they had bills to pay and thought “Huh. First Person Shooter? I like video games. Sure, why not?”

Oh, and the film was directed by John Suits. Check out his The Scribbler. It’s a much better way to spend your time than this film.

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Posted in Movies, Opinion, Review, Video Games
2 comments on “Review: PANDEMIC…Is POV The New Found Footage?
  1. Scott. says:

    From the original screenplay —

    Doctor Lauren Chase was supposed to be CDC appointed virologist, sent into a recently quarantined city. She was paired up with an ex cop (who’s been tasked with security), a local who knows navigation, and their driver happens to be an ex-con (grand theft auto). There are multiple teams sent in for these missions, either supplies or to bring back uninfected for study and to develop a cure. There were no “zombies”, but sick people on the brink of desperation.

    This, or at least the original storyline, should have been a studio film. Instead, it was blown into a worldwide pandemic and the execution of this film makes absolutely no sense.

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  2. Horror films are cheap to make, as you know. Perhaps the budget was also spent on the actors salaries as well, because it sounds like some good people are in it. I think the inherent problem with POV is that we are used to seeing traditional shots in films, and the actors are generally not shown so much in the POV unless they are reacting. It is a gimmick to be sure.

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