review by Diablo Joe
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It's gotta be really tough to do something original in the zombie film genre. Arguably the most popular horror category since slasher films, zombies have been riffed on in so many creative ways. Originality often comes down to what you can do with tropes and themes that have already been in a half-dozen prior films, if not more. Sometimes, though, no matter how well you put a movie together, with talented actors and production, plot points and machinations both familiar and well-trod keep rising up again, just like your undead.
Coming to us from Uruguay, "Virus:32" is a well-made picture that suffers from a combination of a lack of thrills and originality. The film follows Iris, a young mess of a woman. Divorced and an apathetic parent, she's more interested in drinking and smoking her days away than being a responsible adult. Forced to take her daughter for the day, she reluctantly drags the girl along to the decrepit former athletic facility where she works as a security guard. When a viral outbreak begins to turn the people of Montevideo into violent, zombie-like monsters, Iris must step up if she is to keep herself and her daughter Miriam alive.
As it stands, that's a pretty basic zombie plot. Hero/heroine, loved one, contained space, zombies. And while that can still be, if done right, the makings of a compelling and exciting movie, "Virus: 32" never pulls it together enough to make itself stand out. Director Gustavo Hernández displays the goods that could make a great zombie horror film if it weren't for the inherent issues with the screenplay, written by the director, along with Juma Fodde. Filled with outright swipes from a number of prominent zombie flicks, it's the main culprit in tanking the movie's success.
Opening scene that follows our leads through the city, oblivious to the pending carnage beginning to erupt around them (2004's "Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead")? Check. Persistent zombie that crops up wherever the protagonist happens to be ("28 Weeks Later")? Check. Husband blindly protective of his infected and pregnant spouse (2004's "Dawn of the Dead, again)? Check. Negligent parent forced to rise to the occasion and redeem themselves to save their child ("Train to Busan")? Check and double-check. There's even an outright aping of "28 Day's" iconic "In The House – In A Heartbeat" in Hernán González’s soundtrack.
And when the film does come to an attempt at an innovative concept, it is both absurd and ill-used. The "32" of the title refers to the 32 seconds of passivity the infected experience following an attack. Iris discovers this early in the film by reviewing a series of security recordings on her phone. Beyond the ridiculousness of the notion itself, it's such an odd observation and conclusion for Iris to make that it stresses credulity. That the film then wastes it as a plot device is doubly damning.
The script also falls prey to creating convenient, if somewhat implausible, situations in service of the action or story. Chief among this is the film's setting, Iris's workplace. It's a massive, sprawling facility filled with decaying paint, dimly lit corridors, and hidden pathways. Yet this run-down building, obviously long in disuse, has one of the most elaborate electronic sentry checkpoint systems and network of security cameras this side of CIA Headquarters. And a huge, Olympic-size swimming pool is opportunely still filled with water so that we can have an underwater zombie attack. Within the film's action, the virus itself seems to be strangely non-communicable. We never see it transfer to any of our leads (or any minor characters, for that matter), and how it spreads is never made clear. The movie is absent a source of tension and danger inherent in most other zombie pictures.
Hernández can create mood and keep an audience's interest (a genuine compliment given the film's comparative lack of action scenes). While the script's story points may lack originality, the characters are well-drawn, and the dialogue is believable. The adult cast, small as it is, is excellent, especially the compelling Paula Silva as Iris. Her castmate Daniel Hendler is fine as well. Only young Sofía González as daughter Miriam is a weak point, especially her meek, high-pitched voice, which almost sounds as if it was looped by an adult trying to imitate a child.
"Virus: 32" is far from an outright bad film. As stated earlier, it's competently made, with solid production values and performances. But in a world where zombie films crop up and propagate like their namesakes, audiences crave fresh ideas or absolute mayhem. "Virus: 32" fails to deliver either.
This devil of a reviewer gives “Virus 32” 2 out of 5 imps.
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