Directors: Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman
Starring: Sofia Black D’Elia, Analeigh Tipton & Michael Kelly
Synopsis: Following the breakout of a virus that wipes out the majority of the human population, a young woman documents her family’s new life in quarantine and tries to protect her infected sister.
Rating: 15 Duration: 85 minutes Release date: 17 October (UK)
I’ve seen this film before, several times actually. It didn’t hit me right away, but after about 45 minutes of Viral I realised that this has been made before. I’ve seen Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Faculty and Night of the Living Dead and thus I learned I had already seen Viral. Viral is a film that takes its cues from the horror films of yesteryear and drops them like a tonne of bricks into the 21st Century hoping to offer something new, but falling drastically short.
Teen siblings Emma (Black-D’Elia) and Stacey (Tipton) have a brittle relationship, while the girl’s father; Michael, a vastly underused Michael Kelly, struggles to keep the family together in the wake of their mother leaving them. Despite their falling out, Michael agrees to meet with his estranged wife and pick her up from the airport. Whilst away from home, a deadly virus, known only as Worm-Flu has broken out and when the government begins to quarantine areas, the sisters find themselves alone and isolated from both parents and having to fend for themselves.
The thing that immediately irks about Viral is its cold set-up. We are introduced to the Drakeford family, but have little reason to care for them or what happens to them and soon begin to feel very indifferent towards their impending plight. What also bothers about the film is the empty feeling it possesses, as if someone flicked a switch and made the entire film devoid of energy or atmosphere. Viral lumbers along at a sluggish pace and only attempts to up the ante at a time when all the vigour has already sapped from the film.
Despite being produced by Blumhouse, Viral has none of the qualities that made the likes of Sinister and Insidious such good horror films. Whereas those films were enjoyed by both by critics and fans, Viral seems to have been dumped into the straight-to-video section in the hope that no one would notice its existence. It may seem like I’m being overly harsh here, but Viral really struggles to engage the audience in any meaningful way and what could have been a decent night in, adds up to nothing more than a wasted effort. The only real shining light comes from Sofia Black D’Elia’s central performance as younger sister Emma, but even that isn’t enough to save the film from the depths of straight-to-video hell.