Sharing more similarities with outbreak films such as ‘Cabin Fever’, with just a little nod to other body horror movies than your standard zombie flick, Giglio’s ‘Epidemic’ utilises familiar elements from a number of genres to ensure his character driven movie makes the right impression.
The plot revolves around a mysterious, flesh consuming infection which is brought to Dana’s (Morales) 30th birthday party by an unwitting friend. As well as being a landmark birthday number Dana was hoping this year was the year her and her estranged alcoholic father Rufus (Hunsicker) would be brought closer together; and he’s intent on making that commitment happen as well. The party gets off to a good start until one of the guests falls ill, starts to hallucinate and subsequently vomits over another of the attendees; who in turn starts to see horrible images of corpse like ghouls leering at them from the shadows, the early symptoms of the mystery illness. As infections like to encourage, one by one the guests fall ill and spray those close to them with the infected fizzy vomit.
By the time Rufus gets to the party (somewhat fashionably late) he is met with grisly bathroom scene. Dana is found, surprisingly unaffected, surrounded by her friends – several whom have gory marks of an attack of sorts. Mistaking the infection for a violent incident, Rufus takes Dana from the scene determined to protect her from any fall out, but he soon realises he is in a predicament well beyond his control.
Running at a brief 70 minutes ‘Epidemic’ packs in a good deal of characterisation, and it’s a wise investment. Having little budget and a cast limited to around 5 or 6 people this was never going to be ‘Epidemic: USA’ and as such, if you didn’t buy in to the story and the plight of those depicted this film would inevitably fail. The majority of the film is set in a motel room as Dana’s condition slowly worsens and her father becomes more desperate to save her; despite both their fates becoming somewhat inevitable. The party scene kicks the movie off to a good start. The characters are interesting enough and you feel slightly saddened by the groups demise, watching as one by one, their loved ones begin to deteriorate.
The prosthetic effects and make up in this film look great. The leering ghosts look a bit typical (not helped at all by the fact that this film is shot almost exclusively with very well-lit sets), but the virus effects and its stage by stage deterioration look authentic. One reoccurring hallucination which follows Dana throughout the film is the corpse of her late-boyfriend. His mangled face, mouth and jaw eaten by the pathogen make for a grisly sight as he looms in the backgrounds of shots. Other makeup and similar deteriorations look the part, providing the bulk of the films limited violence and gore.
Whilst the films writing, fx and acting is up to scratch ‘Epidemic’ isn’t perfect. Other technical aspects of the film betray the films budget and hamper the films overall impact. The sound is a bit up and down, too quiet on the voices at time, and then with jarring volume spikes at others. The lighting, which I alluded to earlier, is the films biggest issue. It’s an atmosphere killer. This film looks great throughout, but in the films tenser moments, most notably when the films ghouls come shambling on screen, more consideration could have been shown to utilise the rooms corners and shadows. Instead the poor ghouls, despite great makeup, look a little daft as they come with great gusto into an environment where they would benefit from an application of sun cream over corpse paint.
I jest here, of course, but seeing’s as the film does everything right in terms of pacing and investment of time in its characters, if it had hit home on the scares this would have been a 4-star entry and day of the week.
Overall, ‘Epidemic’ is an effort which sits stronger than other similar efforts due to the strength of its writing and solid casting. Its brief and therefore well paces and has some great set pieces with memorable gore-effects. True, its creepier sequences perhaps should have been scarier, but it doesn’t detract from and otherwise enjoyable hours viewing. As an opener to your movie evening ‘Epidemic’ would be a good choice.