Movie Number– 16
Title– Virus X (2011)
Running Time– 85 minutes (“R”)
Director– Ryan Stevens Harris
Writer– Jeremiah Campbell (screenplay), Ryan Stevens Harris (screenplay), and David S. Sterling (story)
Starring– Jai Day, Joe Zaso, Domiziano Arcangeli, Sasha Formoso, Dylan Vox and Sybil Danning
(Originally an IP Movies Review)
A rich woman – Danita Herrington (Sybil Danning) – wants to create a plague of epic proportions. To do so, she hires Dr. Gravamen (Joe Zaso) to create a fast-acting strand of the H1N1 virus (or “swine flu”, as most of us know it today). Gravamen has a group of scientists that believe they are helping save humanity by coming up with a cure for the H1N1 virus, but they are actually working to quicken and intensify the virus for Herrington’s future plague. In order to test Gravamen’s findings, Herrington uses human subjects that Jerron (Domiziano Arcangeli) brings her, including a prostitute. Things go awry for Jerron and Dr. Gravamen when one of the subjects escapes their cell and confronts the group of scientists. Anxious to help, the group gathers around the infected subject, which is a mistake they eventually regret. Jerron, doing his job, takes out the subject, splattering the scientists with its blood and infecting them with the fast-acting H1N1 strand. With only three days to live, and the lab on lockdown, the five scientists trapped inside need to quickly find an antidote.
Looking at the DVD cover, one might expect Virus X to be a zombie movie, or something similar. For better or worse, that is not the case. The action of the film never leaves the small confines of the lab, and the threat to anyone besides the five scientists locked inside seems non-existent. Given this is a movie about creating a plague, the movie could have been more effective had it made the sense of terror global instead of miniscule. Given the films low budget, however, I suppose this would have been nigh impossible, or at least very difficult.
Acting master Constantin Stanislavksi used to yell “I don’t believe you” to the company members of the Moscow Art Theatre when he thought their acting wasn’t up to par. This phrase – “I don’t believe you” – kept echoing through my head during Virus X. The acting is amateurish, aside from a few standouts. Joe Zaso must be a B-movie connoisseur because his acting is straight out of that genre. He delivers a classic “God forgive me” line that could have been from the golden B-era of the 1960s. I don’t say this to mock the actor, but to give an idea of the quality that can be expected from Virus X. The job done by Domiziano Arcangeli also fits into the B-genre, but is more awkward than funny. Sybil Danning, Jai Day, and Dylan Vox all show talent in their work, and shine with their decently written dialogue. The story takes some odd, unbelievable, even pointless twists, but the tête-à-tête between characters is written well.
The filming and setting of Virus X have similarities to other sci-fi thrillers like Pandorum, Sunshine, and even The Thing or Alien. There is a sense of impending doom, claustrophobia, and a “no way out” attitude throughout the movie. Though this is not in the same hemisphere as the sci-fi classics like The Thing or Alien, the inspiration is clear. Virus X is the B-movie equivalent of a mixture of these movies, which might be great for some viewers, but not for a mainstream audience.
Probably in an attempt to humanize the five infected scientists locked inside the lab, Virus X tosses in a back-story for Malcolm that is pointless, as well as a couple different love connections that are completely unrealistic. The movie jumps to these love connections way too quickly, just as it jumps through the three days too quickly, leaving out too many details; for example, how do these people eat/drink/sleep for the three days they are trapped? Why does Danita Herrington want to start a plague in the first place? What is the point of the Jerron character? Some of these might seem minor, but it’s small details like these that can help capture a viewer’s attention, which Virus X never quite manages.
Virus X constantly reminds viewers that it is a direct-to-video release. Fans of low budget, sci-fi B-movies will find something to enjoy about Virus X. The story leaves a lot to be desired, as does the acting, but the dialogue is well written, and the gore effects are great: as each day progresses, and the virus gets worse, the special effects work and make-up gets more disgusting, and the death scenes in the film are visceral and effective. There is a niche audience that Virus X aims for, and that audience should be somewhat pleased with this effort.
Branden has been a film fan since he was young, roaming the halls of Blockbuster Video, trying to find the grossest, scariest looking VHS covers to rent and watch alone in the basement. It wasn’t until recently, though, that Branden started seeking out the classics of cinema, and began to develop his true passion for the art form. Branden approaches each film with the unique perspective of having studied the art from the inside, having both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in acting. He has been a film critic since 2010, and has previously written for Inside Pulse Movies, We Love Cult, and Diehard Gamefan. His biggest achievement as a film critic, to date, has been founding Cinefessions and turning it from a personal blog to a true film website, housing hundreds of film and television reviews, and dozens of podcasts.