Epidemic movies have prominently cropped up on our screens for the past decade thanks to films like Blindness, Contagion, Maggie and The Bay; films that have captured our imagination and made us think about the possibilities of a world ravaged by a worldwide epidemic outbreak. You can also add Viral to that pile, which deals a viral outbreak known as “worm flu”, caused by parasitic worms. There’s also family drama involved in that too, which always helps in horrific situations like this. This movie feels like a bizarre hybrid of the zombie outbreak horror of Fear the Walking Dead and The Last of Us and the teen drama of The Hills, but nevertheless, it is still a decent solid production that is helped enormously by the two central female leads.
Both Sofia Black D’Elia and Analeigh Tipton are excellent together, having great chemistry with a genuine, believable sisterly bond between them. D’Elia gives a more nuanced performance, whilst Tipton gives a dynamite performance and is the one with the most development. Having the outbreak be the backdrop to the drama between these two sisters is what helps make the film more enjoyable, and whenever it focuses on their relationship, the film works efficiently. However, the film sorely lacks the momentum and tension that made other disease outbreak movies work, and at times, this does feel like another episode of Fear the Walking Dead. Plus, like that series, it is slow in certain areas and that does spoil the drama at times and makes us less involved and engrossed.
While the makeup prosthetics is superb and helps make the infection more believable, the CGI is complete pants and looks way too obvious. The worms that writher out of the infected looks really tacked on and ridiculous to look at with the CG effects looking as though they are from an early gen Playstation game. Also, the infected themselves are pretty much the Infected Clickers from The Last of Us, right down to the fact they can’t see and resort to using echolocation, as well making an eerie clicking noise, just like the Clickers. In fact, you could see the creatures here as just being complete rip-offs of the Clickers, just without the meat, bones and name.
To put it simply, Viral is a mixed mag with likeable performances, a strong chemistry between two great actresses, and an intriguing premise, but yet suffers its setbacks by having sluggish pacing, terrible CGI work, Unoriginal monsters, and not delivering well on its horror. You can consider this a step up from the directing duo’s (Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman) dodgy back catalogue, which includes the terrifying combo that is Paranormal Activity 3 and 4, which coincidentally are both written by the same co-writer of this film (Christopher Landon). So, it is thankful that this isn’t a stereotypical found-footage horror movie, and it is just as good as Joost and Schulman’s latest outing, Nerve, although that’s not saying much.
Dir: Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman
Scr: Christopher Landon, Barbara Marshall
Cast: Sofia Black D’Elia, Analeigh Tipton, Travis Tope, Machine Gun Kelly, Michael Kelly, Judyann Elder, Brianne Howey, Linzie Grey
Prd: Jason Blum, Sherryl Clark
DOP: Magdalena Gorka
Music: Rob Simonsen
Run time: 85 mins
Viral is out on DVD October 17th