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Viral (2016)

The Weinstein Company
DVD Released: 8/2/2016

All Ratings out of

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Extras: No Extras

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/13/2016

OK, so here's the situation. (Anyone who came of age in the 80s will suddenly hear a familiar song in their heads.) You want to get in on a current movie trend, but you want to do something a little different. You don't want your movie to look like all of the other ones. Where do you go from here? Do you make something which slightly deviates from the norm? Do you create a product so unique that it moves out of the genre? What's to do? The guys from Catfish and the Paranormal Activity series have obviously decided to get in on the zombie genre and wanted to make it their own. Should they do something huge, or do they make it more intimate? Let's see where they went with Viral.

Emma (Sofia Black-D'Elia) is trying to have a normal high-school life. Having recently moved to a California suburb, she's attempting to fit in. She's made friends with Gracie (Linzie Gray) and she's attracted to her neighbor, Evan (Travis Tope). The news has been filled with stories of a "worm virus" which is popping up around the world. When it hits Emma's neighborhood, she finds herself trapped at home with her older sister, Stacey (Analeigh Tipton), as their father (Michael Kelly) is stranded outside of town. At first, the situation seems like an adventure, but as the CDC begins to take over the area and they see their neighbors being dragged away, Emma and Stacey begin to grasp the gravity of the situation. When they experience the infection first hand, they realize just how dangerous things are and what they must do to survive.

For over a decade, we have been inundated with zombie movies of all shapes and sizes. Some, like World War Z, Zombieland and 28 Weeks Later, take a big, global view of a zombie epidemic and show how something like this can affect a large area or population. Other entries, such as Shaun of the Dead or Dawn of the Dead, offer a more medium-sized view, and bring us multiple locations and a handful of characters. Still others, deliver a much more intimate view of how zombies can change things. Maggie and Deadgirl offers zombie stories, but they also focus on characters as well.

Viral falls into that category as well. (Although, Iím sure that there are those who would argue that Viral is not a zombie movie, as it does not feature the undead, but rabies-like victims. Either way, it fits the general description.) The movie lets us know that the epidemic is occurring world-wide, mostly through television reports, but its primary concern is Emma and Stacey and their quest for survival. There are a few scenes at school, but most of the action takes place on their street or in their house. This approach allows us to get to know the characters and doesnít complicate things with too many people and situations. Therefore, when one of these individuals gets into trouble, it means more to us. The filmís only weak link in this respect is Staceysí boyfriend, CJ (Machine Gun Kelly), as heís incredibly annoying and we actually hope that something bad will happen to him.

The trouble with Viral is that it doesnít bring many new attributes to the genre. The virus and its effects are very reminiscent of the rabid behavior seen in 28 Days Later and [REC]. The way in which Emma and Stacey barricade themselves in their house harkens all the way back to 1968ís Night of the Living Dead. The ways in which the character make stupid decisions and constantly place themselves in harmís way echoes many other movies. The movie does make the correct decision to make Emma and Evan likeable so that we do root for them and, while there isnít a ton of suspense here, we honestly want to see them survive their ordeal. The one original thing which Viral offers is one of the symptoms of the disease and the thing which exemplifies why this is called the ďworm virusĒ.

Viral comes from Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, who directed Paranormal Activity 3 and Paranormal Activity 4, as well as being involved with the Catfish TV series. As they know the horror genre, itís understandable why they would want to try something new, not only in the fact that itís a different neighborhood of horror, but that itís not found footage. While Viral is competently made and moves along at a nice pace, itís lack of originality holds it back from being a must-see. But, having said that, itís much better than much of the other zombie fodder which youíll come across on Netflix or at Redbox, so itís worth checking out.

Viral offers way too much CJ on DVD courtesy of The Weinstein Company. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright, even during the nighttime sequences. The level of detail is good and the picture is rarely soft. The depth is pretty good for a DVD. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo and surround effects shine during the action sequences. A specific scene in a vacant house provide some nice effects, as we are treated to sounds coming from off-screen. The subwoofer effects come through in a third act explosion.

The Viral DVD contains no special features.

Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long