The directing team Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, noting this as their third film in the horror genre, following two Paranormal Activity sequels (parts 3 and 4), use screenwriters Christopher Landon and Barbara Marshall crafted work that provides something a little different in the subgenre of zombies movie with alien influences. Many horror fans, know of Landon skills with involved in many of the Paranormal Activity films and recently the horror comedy Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (2015), which appeals to teenagers more than adults. Marshall, who penned the horror thriller Wish Upon (2017) knows the structure of scripts as she provided works on various television shows. The viewers that seek The Walking Dead zombies need to shuffle along, as these zombies tend for teenagers of the suburbs, and lack that carnage gut munching effects. This movie contains a well-defined production company, which understands the horror genre very well, Blumhouse Productions, among others and released through many worldwide companies.

The Worm Flu is a disease that was already sweeping across the globe as the film begins, using real press conferences with President Barack Obama in this film as it just adds a level of understanding that the epidemic is occurring worldwide. It actually advances from the news coverage film stock that director Zack Snyder used in his wonderful remake film Dawn of the Dead (2004), developing the realism for viewers hooked on reality television. Early on we, the viewers, learn of the symptoms which include increased appetite, fever, bloody cough, and seizures, though what is not mentioned victims become depended on parasites (worms) squirming in their bodies, and spread disease by spewing blood into people’s faces. Meanwhile in a desert community of Shadow Canyon, the story focuses on teenager Emma (Sofia Black-D’Elia) recently moved with her crumbling family structure trying to adjust to a new school and social scene hence, the viewers learn things through her personal experiences. Emma, for example, likes a boy named Evan (Travis Tope (The Town That Dreaded Sundown [2014])), refers to her sister Stacey as Lucifer, (portrayed by Analeigh Tipton (Warm Bodies [2013])), though deep down cares about her. In addition, we learn through a science class about ways to combat infections in the host body that play factor later, as the enormous disaster progresses, her father Michael (Michael Kelly (Tooth and Nail [2007])) leaves town to pick up their mother at the airport, and it is then the entire town is placed under military quarantine, no one in or out of the zone. The second act of the script really works in favor of the teenager mentality, because with many parents outside of the area, what do they do, throw a party and herein lays the large spread of the infection, contaminating Stacey, but avoids her boyfriend CJ (Machine Gun Kelly (Bird Box [2018])).  Emma works to protect and help her sister from the impending doom and gloom. The movie first notes Viral is not a zombie flick rather the people infected by the alien worm flu, hence the comparisons line up director Robert Rodriguez’s The Faculty (1998).  The worms stick out (they don’t ooze, very light on the creep factor) of the infected people’s mouths and ears probing for those not hosting their species. The film shows the military and CDC shutting down communications via phones, internet and televisions rounding up and capturing people. Emma then realizes how dangerous the situations spiral outward and survival becomes the only solution.

Emma and Stacey’s schoolteacher father who makes an early exit from the film and with story shifting more weight onto Black-D’Elia shows she is more than capable of becoming a quality, leading woman in her role. Tipton provides a fitting supporting role, which actually at times seems more difficult as not to overshadow or overstep in pivotal moments in the film. The movie doesn’t generate a lot of suspense, not the fault of the actors rather storyline, falters with worms not show more carnage or providing more enriching effects. The pacing works, but the film lack action scenes and have large amounts of dialogue, which tends to lose the teenager market, though the character development works well enough. Joost and Schulman production contains mostly CGI effects, and the final act does go over the top, with a glaring oops moment.

Once again, a reminder to the viewers, Viral is not a zombie movie, it features rabies-like victims, which mirror The Faculty closely, and well not wanting to jump full bore into the zombie genre, this alien contagion lacks a full horror direction, and balances itself in both sci-fi and thriller. As horror fans seeking gore, and gut explosion, you need to avoid this quarantine zone, as the blood splattering tends for a low output. Otherwise, proceed with caution and avoid those with coughs, wear a mask and venture forth to view this creation.

This review was originally posted to Rogue Cinema’s now defunct website in January 2017.


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IMDb Rating: 5.5/10

Baron’s Rating: 5.5/10