Don Sumner - Editor in Chief
A viral outbreak, or more accurately an outbreak of a worm-like behavior-altering parasite, spreads world wide and affects a majority of the population. A girl in quarantine tries to figure out how to survive with infected running around and the military enacting martial law.
July 29, 2016 (U.S. Internet)
August 2, 2016 (U.S. DVD Premiere)
Sophia Black-D'Ella as Emma Drakeford
Analeigh Tipton as Stacey Drakeford
Viral is the story of survivors of the end of the world due to an outbreak. Of all the ways the world could end, a viral outbreak is maybe the most likely. There have been a great number of films and even cable TV series’ chronicling one way or another this may transpire, from the bat/pig cross virus from Contagion to the virus that causes fast zombie-like behavior as in 28 Days Later. has a worm parasite, interestingly one that behaves in a similar fashion to existing parasites found in the Amazon and such places, but this one will turn you into a crazy killer, allow superhuman strength, and eventually kill you. And it spreads from human to human pretty quickly.
Emma (Sofia Black-D’Ella) and her sister Stacey (Analeigh Tipton) are pretty typical teenagers, living in a home in the process of being torn apart due to their father’s infidelity. Mom is away on a business trip when it happens – people around the world begin to get sick and display psychotic behavior, and the cause of it is not immediately known. As the infection spreads, determined to be a parasitic worm eventually that invades the brain, the world begins to hunker down for some serious damage control.
Emma’s mother can’t get a cab from the airport to come home because of all of the sickness mayhem, so her father ventures out to find her, leaving her and her sister home alone. Brilliantly, they decide to break curfew and to to a huge house party, and surprise surprise someone comes down with the sickness and starts ripping people apart. The worst part, Emma’s sister Stacey was infected when the attacker spit blood on her face, and isn’t telling anyone.
As the quarantine presses on, the military presence gets more and more intense, and a punishment is enacted for anyone who may be harboring infected. Emma must find a way to keep her sister from being hauled off by the military commandos, and keep herself and her new boyfriend alive until some solution to this global problem can be found.
Viral is a good story, primarily because the character of Emma is beautifully played by Sofia Black-D’Ella. She really carries the film with an excellent stage presence and the perfect level of innocence and victimhood to make her a fine horror heroine. The other performances are strong as well, at least strong enough to move the story forward and not be distracting in any way. The dialogue and scenarios work just fine, in spite of the whole situation being completely off the chain. Very well done from a script and acting perspective.
Viral can’t have had a huge budget, evidenced by most of the action taking place on limited sets and the gore being off-screen about half the time. The filmmakers did go all out with at least one of the infected however, the jerk step father of Emma’s boyfriend who lives across the street in her typical suburban neighborhood. We don’t like the guy when he shows up normally, and when he reappears as an infected worm dude he’s even worse. A lot of total resources were put into this particular scene, and it pays off as overall one hardly notices that this isn’t the goriest film.
One of the particularly interesting characteristics of Viral is the use of real-life news footage, including press conferences with Barak Obama, used out of context to give the appearance that our Nation’s leaders are commenting on the outbreak at hand. In those segments it was very clear that the public was being essentially lied to, being told that everything is ok and that they shouldn’t worry, though they should stay in their homes. The film doesn’t have to progress very long before it’s pretty damn clear that everything is definitely not fine, and if our politicians had been honest about the severity of the situation from the beginning how would that have changed things? Would it have caused mass panic and anarchy, or would it have been subtle enough to simply encourage the town’s teenagers not to venture out to a house party? Impossible to say, but this bit of commentary about how the masses as messaged to is very interesting and relevant.
The biggest trouble with this film is the pacing. The film moves along too slowly for many viewers, particularly those with limited patience for character-driven horror that relies on the relationships of the people more so then a lot of action on the screen. When this reviewer watched Viral there was one other in the room watching as well. One likes the slower paced films with a lot of character development while the other sees lengthy dialogue as simply annoying placeholders between the “good parts”. The character guy (me) watched the film to the end with rapt attention. The other left the room to play a game on PS4.
Viral (2016) Movie Trailer
The bottom line is Viral is a good film, worthy of a night on the couch. End of the world films are generally great anyway, and worm scenes are sufficiently gross inherently. The characters in this one are good, and the bad decisions are not so frequent that it really gets annoying. Ok, whoever thought it was a great idea to go to some huge house party when everyone is quarantined to their homes because of an outbreak of a deadly virus is not going to be student of the year, but that aside… not too many instances of stupidity, which is welcomed. Those of you who want and need something to really be happening most of the time, Viral may not be for you. Go ahead and try it, especially if you’re a gamer, because if the whole thing runs afoul there are always zombies and monsters who need shooting up.
Though the concept of a worm causing zombie-like behavior has much cheese potential and has even been done in series form, Viral pulls it off credibly enough to not be a distraction. The play between "survivors" under quarantine is very good, and the film is well acted with believable dialogue
Viral is a bit slow. There are long stretches of talking and looking around that beg for action or at least something interesting to happen. Overall the story is good, and the characters are fairly well developed, but still there is a general slowness to the film that is noticeable and may be enough for the ADD members of the audience to lose interest.