Spread the word that an epidemic is coming. The heart-pounding thriller Viral will be released on DVD August 2, 2016 from Anchor Bay Entertainment, Radius-TWC and Dimension Films and on Digital HD July 29, 2016 and On Demand August 2, 2016 from Starz Digital. The film stars Sofia Black-D’Elia (Project Almanac, The Messengers), Analeigh Tipton (Crazy, Stupid, Love, Lucy), Travis Tope (Independence Day: Resurgence), and Michael Kelly (House of Cards, Now You See Me, The Adjustment Bureau). Viral is an IM Global and Blumhouse International/Busted Shark Production, with producers Jason Blum, Sherryl Clark, and Matt Kaplan, is directed by the dynamic duo Henry Joost (Nerve, Paranormal Activity 3 & 4) and Ariel Schulman (Nerve, Paranormal Activity 3 & 4), and was written by Barbara Marshall and Christopher Landon.
Virus outbreak movies have been done to death. Everything from humans carrying the sickness (see Contagion!) to words and the harm they do (Pontypool rules!) has been tried and done. So what makes the creepy parasitic virus flick Viral worth checking out? Simple – the work of the two leads girls playing lethally loyal sisters that proves to be the pulse of the picture.
Sisters Stacey and Emma have a pretty normal teenage life – they go to school, have their own identity issues and are experimenting with boys. But their small town suburban existence suddenly gets a jolt of crazy as one-by-one their fellow townsfolk begin to become infected by unseen parasites. Quarantined within their community as it spreads and with their parents safely outside the zone, the two struggling sisters must band together to survive.
As previously stated Virus has all the tropes of a genre outbreak flick with plenty of wild infected humans (look for some eerie eye effects!), boxed in claustrophobia (it becomes a Right At Your Door affair!), strategic military involvement (they’re here to help!) and harrowing moments of creepy creature bits. (The scene of trying to evacuate the parasite from its place of rest behind the neck is wonderfully grotesque!) But beyond the stuff previously seen it is the realistic and touching bond between sisters Sofia Black-D’Elia and Analeigh Tipton that gives Viral a different dramatic core. Playing out the paranoia of parasite infection overtop the bonds of sisterhood makes for one interesting dark dilemma that drives the story in new directions. How far would you go to help and protect your sister? Would you help your family even if they were infected? Viral forsakes the more global questions for much more intimate personal ones and the result is a film that’s much better than it should be.
So while Viral does have an unneeded addition of a forgettable love interest neighbor and an ending that’s not really a conclusion, there’s more than enough within the genre film framework here that fans will enjoy. Good gore and unsettling bits galore – plus the kicker. Even in tale about foreign entities, it’s once again the human factor here that makes the difference.
Encoding: MPEG-2 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Clarity/Detail: The film is shot mostly dark so that mixed with DVD makes for a picture that’s a tad dim and muddy – but it’s actually a good thing.
Depth: This one forgoes much visual spacing for a more claustrophobic look – again probably a good thing.
Black Levels: This thing is mostly black – pray for daylight.
Color Reproduction: Colors are muted and low – tone of flick matched.
Flesh Tones: Good before staying inside story begins.
Audio Formats(s): English and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English For Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Dynamics: We get a lot of crashes, bangs and human noises that go bump in the night adding to the scare factor.
Low Frequency Extension: There’s an underlying quiet that permeates scenes – dig it.
Surround Sound Presentation: Infected coming at you full force – from every direction.
Dialogue Reproduction: Sounds decent.
Some forced trailers at the beginning for Clown, Regression (SD, 4:36)
Summary: Names like Catfish and Paranormal Activity 3 & 4 helmers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman plus Burning Palms writer Christopher Landon might lure you in, but it’s the sincerity of sisterhood that will make you enjoy your quarantined stay.