I do feel bad for the distributors handling John Suits’ Pandemic (2016). I don’t have a clue how they’re going to market this film. The trailer presents it as a kind of cross between Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza’s [REC] (2007) and Paul W. S. Anderson’s Resident Evil series: a found footage movie following a group of military fighters and doctors who wade into a city of zombie-like plague victims searching for survivors. Such an idea isn’t unheard of and could probably find an audience. However, the film is presented almost entirely from first-person perspectives. As such, I suspect many viewers will view it as a low-budget rip-off of Ilya Naishuller’s Hardcore Henry (2016), a film which won’t be coming out for another week here in the States. That isn’t very fair: in addition to coming out first, Pandemic has its own identity—whereas Hardcore Henry looks like a throwback to old school spy/adventures films where villains have secret bases and an army of jumpsuit-wearing henchmen, Pandemic is very much a standard zombie movie. Unfortunately, that’s also why the film isn’t very good.
Pandemic only has its first-person perspective gimmick to separate itself from the herd—the characters are generic and boring, the plot points predictable, the special effects decently mediocre. The members of the rescue party inevitably get distracted, derailed and slaughtered while going off-mission to locate friends and family. More than once literal hordes of zombies get the drop on this team of professionals after they walk into obvious traps—an uninfected woman chained to a manhole cover in the middle of a street, a supposedly empty schoolhouse hiding a single wailing mother cradling a dead baby in the center. In all fairness there is a fairly ingenious plot twist about halfway through which recontextualizes one of the character’s blatant stupidity and unpreparedness for the mission. But it’s not enough to save the film from being stereotypical pap.
The first-person perspectives are perhaps the film’s greatest weakness. All of the mission members have cameras attached to their helmets. So whenever an action beat begins the cameras wave and shake so much that it’s impossible to figure out what’s going on. The film’s nasty habit of unexpectedly switching between different cameras only makes things more confusing—sometimes a tense action scene will begin from one character’s perspective and end with somebody else’s, leaving the audience doubly confused and disoriented.