Pandemic (2016): A Survival Horror Video Game Movie (Review)

Rachel Nichols as Lauren Chase

Anyone who has played survival horror video games will appreciate this 2016 movie  from John Suits. Written by Dustin T. Benson and starring Rachel Nichols, Missi Pyle, Pat HealyAlfie AllenMekhi Phifer  and Paul Guilfoyle;  Pandemic is a mixture of different  influences.

Simplistically it is “28 Days Later” meets “Condemned: Criminal Origins” meets “Dead Space.”  Although  none of the infected rush at the camera gleefully screaming “You can be my B*TCH.” (Condemned)   There are not any “space monsters” either but the flashlight beams and the first person perspective match beautifully. The film is also very evocative of F.E.A.R. and players of this “first person shooter” survival horror will recognize a number of features from that game.

Suits shoves the viewer into this world of apocalyptic suffering instantly. We “play” as Dr. Lauren Chase (Nichols) at first.  The camera takes us though the motions of learning comms, suiting up and what the rules are.  All this takes us immediately into the verse and all that is missing is a controller clutched in sweaty hands and the adrenaline rush that these games inspire.

In fact watching Pandemic feels a lot like watching someone else play one of the aforementioned games.  A little frustrating yet entertaining.  The frustration comes from the “player” not moving quickly enough or endangering the other team members. All that is missing from this experience is a faux “cut scene” where more about the pandemic itself is explained or even a few backstory segments.

The entire movie  is structured like a video game. Writer Benson serves up tropes to help us identify each character and includes a twist at the midway point that keeps our interest. All that is missing is the obligatory onscreen scroll of instructions flashing across the helmet faceplate.

Pandemic is not a fast paced film.  At just over an hour and a half the action tends to be   slow and tense. It is not, amazingly, overly slow. There are points that creep by but when the protagonists reach their objective things swing  into high gear and shoot along nicely.

(Warning: To those who play these games on a regular basis, you will find yourself reaching for a game controller. Repeatedly.)

The cast do well in their respective roles. It was brilliant to see Missy Pyle playing as a more serious character in this science fiction type film. Pat Healy makes the most of his small role and Rachel Nichols is pretty darned good as the doctor with a secret.

The mission storyline is that a group of virus survivors have holed up in a school. There are 98 and the uninfected need to be brought back to the compound. Chase is to return to the compound regardless of whether there are survivors or not. She is also to come back if her team are taken out.

Once the team fight their way to the school there is a “Silent Hill” moment where the doctor has a restroom encounter.  (The “Silent Hill” franchise always features scary moments in bathrooms (restrooms) in the games regardless of the title.)

The group must fight their way out of the building and try to return to the compound. Meanwhile Dr. Chase has a hidden agenda of her own that does not include returning to safety just yet.

Everything about Pandemic screams video game.  After watching it you may have the overpowering urge to fire up the old PS3 (or Xbox) and pop in Condemned; Criminal Origins or F.E.A.R. or even Dead Space. For those who are not devotees of survival horror or even first person shooters (FPS) the film may prove frustrating.

Pandemic is a solid 4 star film.  Only a few continuity issues kept the score down as the novelty value alone give the movie a higher rating than usual.  Streaming on Netflix at the moment, this is one to watch, if for no other reason than to enjoy the experience. Check out the trailer below:

Castle Married After ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and Sony Link

Castle Married After ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and Sony Link

Last night’s episode of Castle: The Time of Our Lives, was clearly a nod to the old Jimmy Stewart/Frank Capra classic Christmas film It’s a Wonderful Life but it looked like the plot contained a link to the planned Sony PS3 game big screen film of Uncharted. For those that may have forgotten, Naughty Dog, the game company who created the Uncharted franchise, with number four heading for a PS4 near you, announced back in 2011 that the adventures of Nathan “Nate” Drake, Victor “Sully” Sullivan and Elena Fisher would be coming to a cinema in the near future.

The Walking Dead Season Two Game Trailer Clementine is Back (Video)

The Walking Dead Season Two Game Trailer Clementine is Back (Video)

Season two of The Walking Dead video game is coming out this year and Telltale Games have released a trailer. Clementine is back and she can be heard over the footage of the video. The award winning game – Game of the Year 2012 from over 90 different review sites, as well as many other accolades – will follow the same format as Season One of the game.

Soldiers of Fortune (2012): A Video Game Film

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I like Christian Slater. I first saw him in the cult classic 1988 film Heathers where he played teenage burnout and cool-guy flake J.D. and he knocked his performance out of the park.

He’s a more than capable actor who has a voice I’d kill for, yet, his role choices have not always been the best. He was, perhaps, the only good thing about Alone in the Dark (2005) and his very short-lived television series – My Own Worst Enemy – died a quick death.

But since I am a fan, when I saw Soldiers of Fortune on Netflix, I had to watch it.

Directed by Maxim Korostyshevsky (his first film) and filmed in the Ukraine for a budget of an estimated eight million dollars and a fairly impressive cast, Soldiers of Fortune looks like a video game war film.

The cast, as I’ve just mentioned, is pretty impressive, Sean Bean, Ving Rhames, Colm Meaney, James Cromwell, and Dominic Monaghan all do a good job despite the two-dimensional characters they play. Again, as I like all the actors that appear in the film, I find it hard to diss them or their performances; given that their roles weren’t that deep to start with.

The film opens using CoD type graphics with a voice over to describe the events. In a scene straight from a video game’s version of war, a two-man team are infiltrating a suspected Taliban stronghold. While Slater’s character, Captain McCenzie, observes, Captain Reed (Freddy Rodriguez) walks into the camp disguised as a woman.

He gets quickly spotted and taken prisoner. McCenzie decides to get him out, but before he can act a jeep pulls up with CIA man Carter Mason (Meaney) and the whole operation is called off by the “higher-ups.” McCenzie ignores the order and goes in to get his man out.

Walking into the village, he dispatches a slew of bad guys, finds where his guy is being held hostage and after shooting Mason, collects Captain Reed. The next time we see both men, they are civilians and have been dishonorably discharged from the military.

Christian Slater as McCenzie a one man calvary to the rescue.
Christian Slater as McCenzie a one man calvary to the rescue.

After this opening scene, we know where this movie is headed. It is not to be taken seriously (at least I hope  that was the film makers intention) and if you view it as a bit of very unrealistic fun, you’ll enjoy the film.

You could be forgiven for feeling like the film is a “made-for-television” movie of the week. The stunts aren’t too spectacular, the action not too violent or gory and the props; looked like props. I lost count of the amount of times that the guns being bandied about had plugs in the barrels and were obviously “movie” guns aka replicas.

Playing out like a film version of (fill in game title here) the film almost feels like a third person shooter war game that has opted to lose the players input and just be a video game cut scene, albeit a long cut scene.

Still the action moves quickly and fairly painlessly. It was a fun film to watch and besides the video game aspect, it felt a little like the redheaded stepchild of The Expendables. *And before you start screaming, I mean absolutely no disrespect towards redheaded stepchildren. It’s just an old saying. Okay?)

I’d give the film a 3.5 stars out of 5 only because of the great cast list and, props aside, the film looked stunning with brilliant locations and a cinematography that showed where a lot of the 8 mil went.

FUNFACT: (courtesy of Wikipedia) – When the film was finished it only premiered on 50 screens in the US. Understandably, it did not pull un too much in the area of Box Office returns. In Russia it opened on 500 screens and did a bit better but its overall profit is still under 2 million dollars. It appears to have been fairly popular in the United Arab Emirates as well.

An "action" shot.
An “action” shot.

Silent Hill Revelation 3D (2012): by Michael Smith

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I missed the 3D version of this film when it came out at the cinema. Which is a shame, as I think it would have looked even better than the 2D that I had to download via iTunes. Despite the lack of the 3D it was a surprisingly good sequel.

Written and directed by Michael J Bassett (he helmed the superb films Deathwatch and Wilderness) Silent Hill Revelation follows in the footsteps of the first Silent Hill film.

In this film, we get to see Heather and her father Harry as they come to another “new town” and new school for Heather. They’ve been on the run since the first film. Mum Rose is trapped in the netherworld of Silent Hill and we are treated to a flashback where Harry promises Rose that he’ll protect their daughter.

On Heather’s first day of school, everything goes disastrously wrong and she loses her dad, her helper, and her independence as she goes to Silent Hill to save her father.

The film has been blessed with a brilliant cast:

Adelaide Clemens
Kit Harington
Carrie-Anne Moss
Sean Bean
Radha Mitchell
Malcolm McDowell

Unfortunately all the “headliners” as it were are restricted to cameo roles, including Sean Bean who, with Carrie-Anne Moss) spend a bit more time on camera than Radha Mitchell and Malcom McDowell. *On a side note here – It was wonderful to see Ms Moss again, although admittedly I didn’t recognise her at first; starting at the screen and thinking who is that, she looks so familiar…)

Just like the first film, this edition of Silent Hill appears to have mixed several different iterations of the games together to flesh out the story. Although arguably they have really included some of the basic “sets” from each of the first three games. The fairground has been a feature of Silent Hill since the first game.

Where did this come from??
Where did this come from??

Although a tiny dream segment is spent on the “spitting” monsters (so tiny in fact it amounts to about a nano second) from the verse, more time is spent on the nurses and good old Pyramid Head (who appears to be twins in this film) with his giant killing tools and who some what amazingly appears as a Saviour at a couple of points in the film?!

Still, random character twists aside, the place looks like Silent Hill and sounds like Silent Hill. The melancholy music is present throughout (and I will unabashedly state that I love that piano riff) and the villains look like they could have stepped out of the video game. So overall, I did enjoy the film.

But.

I did have some problems with it.

Was it just me or did Adelaide Clemens look an awful lot like Arielle Kebbel? Although in one of the flashback scenes where she had brown hair, she looked more like a younger Maggie Gyllenhaal; and Kit Harington looked like David Boreanaz Junior with long hair. The fact that these two actors made me think of other people disturbed me a bit. Although nothing Clemens did convinced me that she could ever scream as good as Kebbel.

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I also don’t understand the use of Malcom McDowell. Don’t get me wrong, I adore the man. I just don’t see the reasoning behind using him in this film. Are they alluding to his recent Horror Film link in Halloween? Is this a nudge and a wink to his appearance in other horror films? I don’t know and it’s puzzling.

I was also disappointed to see that Radha Mitchell’s Rose had no more than a few seconds screen time. Not just because I adore this woman, but because I was hoping that she was going to explain how “Heather” got out of the predicament that both of them were in at the end of the previous film. Apart from the medallion device that is mentioned by Harry,Vincent and ever so briefly by Grandpa Leonard it is never satisfactorily explained. So points off for that little omission.

I do know that there will be a core of Silent Hill game fans who will detest the film just as much as they detested the first film. To them I say, plug your Silent Hill 2 in the old Playstation and enjoy that experience and stop waiting for films that are going to recreate the magic and the uniqueness that is the “old” Silent Hill verse.

Okay?

But apart from the very few things that put me off (not many really) I’d say that this gets a 4 out of 5 scary Silent Hill bunnies. Just because I’m a Silent Hill fan (of the game verse) and the fact that I love the use of the music; I’ll not take off too much for the lack of Radha Mitchell.

Scary Silent Hill Bunny!
Scary Silent Hill Bunny!