A deadly pathogen is unleashed and unknowingly carried to Dana Overbeck's 30th birthday party, where her estranged father, Rufus, is coming to make amends.
September 4th, 2018
Stephen Michael Giglio
Stephen Michael Giglio
Amanda K. Morales
With that bold statement firmly planted into your minds, let’s discuss the finer points of how the film garnered such a glowing reference.
If your film is a fantasy, say along the lines of something out of the Harry Potter universe or The Lord of the Rings world – then chances are that you can get away with certain more, fantastical things.
But if your film is centered in a run-of-the-mill suburban neighborhood, filled with regular, everyday folks – then you’ve gotta hold your characters to certain standards of reality.
Dana (Amanda K. Morales) is celebrating her 30th birthday party with a small group of friends, including her boyfriend Mike (Joe Walz). Her alcoholic and estranged father has agreed to join the party, but stops off in a parking lot to get drunk. Meanwhile, at the party, one of Dana’s friends, Mandi (Gina Destra) who in her own abode earlier, stumbled upon a secret room in the basement – exposing herself to some deadly toxin – becomes violently ill, infecting everyone else at the party. Dana’s dad Rufus (Andrew Hunsicker) finally shows up the next morning and whisks Dana away from the danger.
Let me start by listing off some of the unbelievable plot holes present in this dreadful piece of filmmaking.
Again, Mandi discovers a “secret room” behind some sort of panel (and a sheet of plastic), ventures inside (what is this place – NEVER explained) and is exposed to some sort of chemical (never explained). She becomes infected, goes to the party, but all the while has never said to her boyfriend or her friends, “Weird thing today. Found a secret room, had a lot of drawings and information plastered to the wall. Broke a bottle with some unknown liquid and now I feel sick and am seeing things.” Why would anyone in the real world hide something like that or not immediately jet off to a hospital for assistance? Can’t tolerate such nonsense as this.
And the flimsy (non-existent) reasoning for Rufus to flee what looks like a crime scene, kidnap his daughter (when she shows signs of some sort of sickness – of which Rufus has no knowledge). Rufus has done nothing wrong, but takes Dana to a hotel room to care for her, instead of simply calling 911. His reasoning (according to the dialogue) was that “I have to save her.” Huh? Save her by taking her to someone with a medical background. There’s even a moment of Rufus dialing “9-1” and changing his mind. Why? And I don’t want to be fed the extremely wispy nonsense that Rufus is doing all of this out of his guilt at not being there for her. Nonsense.
Then when Rufus gets a second hotel room (for more unclear reasons), he goes to the hotel front desk, asks for a second room, gets a couple of questions from the front desk dude and is then handed a key. No money and no information is exchanged. No real world back and forth in order for him to be given a key. What?
Oh, and earlier – when their friends are sick and have gone into the bathroom to vomit (there is no shortage of vomiting in this film) all over everything, Mike and Dana lie down on the sofa to take a nap – completely un-phased by the fact that their friends are quite ill. And THEY FALL ASLEEP. Mike wakes up, apparently hours later – nonchalantly goes to the upstairs bathroom to check on his friends – who are still puking this much time later. No 911 call there either? Who are these people?
These are but a FEW examples of the idiocy we’re expected to buy into. Again – in the real world, NONE of this makes any sense.
And it’s not as if the filmmakers set out from the beginning, that the audience is about to be transported into Mordor or off to Hogwart’s. This is a group of plain (read: boring as all get out) folks in an everyday apartment complex, who have to deal with some sort of viral outbreak.
This is the best (worst?) example of lazy writing. And along with that – if your characters make choices that “Joe” or “Jill Audience Member” can in no way relate to – then you’ve failed.
Now – in some horror films, we can justify character actions because they’re in a state of panic, but this line of thinking simply doesn’t explain the myriad of stupid decisions undertaken by these characters – even before the s*** hits the fan.
They do not make sense in the real world, nor do they make sense in this thinly-veiled version of our everyday lives.
Other than a semi-decent performance from Shelley Brietling as Dana’s stepmother Claudia (she sounds like a legitimate human being when delivering her dialogue) this is a treasure trove of poor acting choices from everyone above the line.
Technically, some of the makeup effects are reasonably well done, but the absurdly flat and flavorless lighting does nothing to hide the “seams” of these drooling, rotten faces. Had there been some deeper, richer and more colorful lighting to help make the film feel more like horror, then I might have praised the makeup a bit more.
Epidemic is a prime example of wholly terrible cinematography – in all of its aspects. There’s the aforementioned lighting (boring and blown out in too many shots to count), odd camera movements and angles (so many weird low angles – which did nothing to bring home the point of a scene or moment – seemingly only there to “shake things up” as far as variety.)
And speaking of shaking it up – there were several times where the frame was shaky. And I’m not talking about the usual horror film attempts at realism and grittiness – employing a “documentary” feel (although there’s plenty of that as well). No. There were images which felt like they needed to be stabilized in post, and were not.
The editing was horrendously distracting. Terrible cuts, odd reaction shots (one of Mike early on while at Troy’s place was totally weird) and herky-jerky transitions – left me – frankly irritated by this film’s overall aesthetic.
I do have to say that the news broadcasts (aside from one of the “on location” reporters) were actually well done, with the graphics and news personalities offering up some good authenticity.
Oh, and one other issue with the film. As Dana and Mike are preparing for party guests, they take that inopportune moment to have Mike perform oral sex on Dana. Not only does this illustrate another example of “these characters are stupid”, but also that the filmmakers were looking for some sort of cheap thrill to give the audience. The sequence is wholly unnecessary, proves nothing about the characters and does absolutely nothing to move the story forward. What was the point of this scene? I beg of you, what?
And finally, this film has a run-time of 71 minutes. And the last 6 minutes of the film are the closing credits. So that’s 65 minutes of actual story. And with all the certainty I can muster, I can declare this: if your just-over-an-hour-long film is able to feel boring and drawn out – even with that minimal of a run-time – you’re in big trouble buster. I checked my watch at least six times… in basically one hour. No bueno.
To wrap things up, and to make my thoughts on Epidemic crystal clear, I want to employ the use of the book title: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
And my avid readers of 4 know how I love to take something like this book name and switch it around to suit my griping needs.
The Film Critic and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Movie.
Crystal clear enough? Epidemic: Avoid at all costs.
Epidemic is scheduled for release on select VOD outlets on September 4th, 2018.