11 October 2012

Patient Zero 2012 - REVIEW

Last week SplatterFest hosted the world premiere of Patient Zero during it's festival at the Alamo Drafthouse in Houston. I don't usually travel that far to watch one film but I was interested to see how it all played out to an audience.

Dr. Johnathan Wright (Brandon Slagle) and Dr. Jenna Barnes (Amanda Phillips) are engaged to be married, they also work together at a genetic research facility. As it turns out, Wright is hiding a pretty big secret from Barnes that threatens to destroy their happiness. Turns out he'll have to fess up sooner than expected when a mysterious virus contaminates the facility sending them fleeing for their lives from their raging, murderous coworkers. If that's not enough, the government has stormed in and taken over in an attempt to cover up this "biological disaster".

Phillips dominates the screen here. Her character faces a different kind of turmoil around every corner and she does a great job transitioning seamlessly from one situation to the other. Slagle is a tremendous talent. I've seen several of his films but this one seems to highlight his ability as an actor more than any other. It's great to see him challenging himself. Another bright spot was Van Quattro. Though he doesn't have as much screen time as his fellow cast mates, he impressively pulls off his cold hearted character known only as "The Major". Frederic Doss and Natalie Wilemon also make brief but rather flawless appearances. Doss takes intense military man to a whole new level and Wilemon makes her cute, curious coworker... well... cute. Both pulled it off very well.

Okay so here's where my problem comes in. There are a lot of inconsistencies with this film, not major ones but clearly obvious ones. Most of them director Brian Jaynes recognized and addressed during the Q&A which I respect. It's not often that you hear a filmmaker own up to his/her mistakes. I don't expect any film to be flawless in execution, even Hollywood blockbusters have their continuity issues and if a film is entertaining enough, I can look past trivial errors. What I do have a hard time with is misleading an audience. By no fault of Jaynes, this film was promoted like this... "Before Humans vs. Zombies, there was Patient Zero". This would lead one to believe that Patient Zero is meant to be a prequel to HvZ, when in reality, it isn't. In fact, don't go into this one expecting to see zombies at all. The infected in this film have never been reanimated, which is a major component to becoming undead. In this case it's more like they've been exposed to a high octane version of the rabies virus meant to turn the average person into a mindless killing machine.

What I do like about this film is that Jaynes managed to create a creepy, intense atmosphere. We find out early on what the characters are up against but it's the story within the story that is most intriguing. There's way more to Patient Zero than just your average horror film. It's got some heart to it and I like that. I also like that he goes through great pains to make sure that THIS aspect of the story is told. You don't come in after the fact and spend the whole film wondering how it all started because you know within about 10 to 15 minutes. It's definitely a change of pace that makes watching it way more fun. It's well written and entertaining. The characters are well developed which makes it an enjoyable experience. I'd definitely recommend it for a watch!

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