FEBRUARY 12, 2011
Wasn’t one of the Bond movies about a plan to make a fortune by designing a virus and then selling the antidote that they had the patent to? Sounds like something one of those dudes would do anyway. Well, it’s also the plot of Virus X, but since it’s a horror movie (of sorts), instead of a handsome, ageless Brit skiing and boning his way around the world in order to stop it from happening, we get five 20-30ish moderately attractive folks trapped in what appears to be an oil rig, looking for a way to cure themselves before time runs out, and if they happen to save the world at the same time, well, bonus!
Joking aside, the script actually isn’t all that bad; I liked the idea of tying it into the H1N1 virus, as well as the fact that the mega-villain wasn’t some Euro-trash dude but Sybil Danning herself, in a rare screen appearance (she’s only appeared in four films since 1990, one of them is just a trailer in Grindhouse). Always nice to see her, and she runs the gamut over the course of the film: she’s a standard "megalomaniacal but cool-keeping" super-rich villain at first, but by the end of the film (spoiler) she’s been literally given a taste of her own “medicine”, looking like shit and begging for her life. I’m so used to stars of her stature (i.e. from a bunch of older horror movies) appearing in a single scene or two (much like she herself did in Halloween) that I was actually surprised every time she showed up again in the film; I figured she’d be on-screen for maybe 2 minutes tops.
She’s also not the only villain. In addition to the virus itself, there’s also some henchman type creepy guy who looks like Fred Armisen playing Ozzy Osbourne with a blond wig. He isn’t as threatening as he should be, and spends more time talking to Danning on the phone than he does getting into altercations with our heroes, but he’s a wonderfully odd addition to the mix. You also got the standard “God forgive me!” scientist who is evil at first but eventually realizes he was doing a bad thing. Plus, our five folks are trapped together, so they yell at each other and occasionally scuffle – there are a lot of ways you can get killed or injured in this movie is what I’m saying.
It’s a shame the script nearly cripples itself with not one but two inane “romantic” scenes, practically back to back. I get the whole “well we’re going to die, might as well have one last roll in the hay” concept, but both scenes come more or less out of nowhere (and again, within minutes of each other), which just makes it silly. Worse, the participants are covered in blood and other bodily fluids, as it occurs at a point when the virus is starting to really take home, so it’s just completely ill-advised.
The direction, however, DOES really hurt the film. In the hands of someone more capable and/or less show-offy, this might have been a really solid survival thriller, but it gets downgraded to just “OK” thanks to the efforts of director/DP/editor Ryan Harris, who rarely lets a scene go by without some sort of annoyance, be it a bunch of zooms, excessive use of shaki-cam during non-action scenes, or cutting in bursts of static during fight scenes, rendering it nearly impossible to tell what is going on. He also inexplicably bathed 90% of the film in over saturated blue filters with bits of bright orange here and there, which not only makes the film look ugly, but also gave me unpleasant flashbacks of certain Albert Pyun movies like Mean Guns or Adrenalin: Fear The Rush. And really, with those particular credits belonging to him, there’s no one else to blame for the movie’s look.
At least it looks better than the disc’s sole extra, a few interviews with Harris, Danning, one other actor and a producer, which were taken from something called "Eye On Entertainment". The videos look like basic cable nonsense that you’d see at like 3 am after waking up on the couch, and then the next morning you’d wonder “Did I really see that, or was I just having some sort of waking dream?” Hosted by a somewhat ditzy but sweet blonde and complete with its own theme song, this program must be seen to be believed, and I’m baffled that THIS was the best Lionsgate could find for bonus material. Harris’ interview in particular is a delight – the host seems genuinely shocked that he could pull off both directing AND writing, and he seemingly chose his attire from a bunch of shit he found on the ground: fingerless gloves, red socks under Velcro sneakers, and the world’s ugliest tie. Nice shirt and pants though. Danning’s is fun because she seems particularly unimpressed (and rightfully so) and barely blinks when the host (her name escapes me, sorry) applauds her recent win as “One of the 10 sexiest werewolves of all time according to LatinoReview”. A delightful train wreck.
The trailer’s also on there, but I think we’ve long since passed the point where that can be considered a bona fide bonus feature, unless it’s for an older film.
Hey I just realized – this movie’s sort of like The Alpha Incident (bickering folks quarantined due to virus, race against the clock to find a cure, lot of monitors...), which I reviewed almost four years ago. But I wish it was one of the many reviews where I said “Someone should remake this!” because then I’d feel like I made a difference in that time. Oh well.
What say you?