VIRUS: 32 **
Directed by Gustavo Hernandez.
Starring Paula Silva, Daniel Hendler, Sofia Gonzalez.
Horror, Uruguay, 89 minutes.
Streaming on Shudder from 21st April.
Gustavo Hernandez made a name for himself in 2010 with THE SILENT HOUSE. A woman in peril thriller elevated by the fact that it was seemingly filmed in one continuous take. Quickly snapped up to be remade in the US, with Elizabeth Olsen taking the lead, Hernandez has been quiet ever since. Returning to our screens, thanks to Shudder, who quickly snapped up the rights for this, we are reminded of the promise he shown back then with this small-scale zombie pandemic thriller that shows intermittent flashes of his undeniable visual skills.
Taking place in the city of Montevideo we are reminded immediately of Hernandez’s fondness for long takes with an impressively staged sequence that introduces the main players and sets up its familiar premise. In one continuous shot we are introduced to security guard Iris, hungover from clubbing with her flatmate and running late for an extra shift at the abandoned sports centre where she is a security guard. Forgetting that she was supposed to be taking care of her estranged young daughter Tata, Iris has no choice but to take her daughter along with her. In the film’s most impressive sequence we follow Iris and Tata from the apartment building to the sports complex in another continuous shot filmed entirely from above as we see the opening stages of a zombie outbreak in the streets and rooftops around them, completely unaware of what they are in the middle of.
Once inside the complex Hernandez reverts to a standard and far less ambitious style. Once realising that something seriously wrong is going on outside Iris finds herself searching for her young daughter who she left to play on her own while she attended to her job. After a run in with a rage filled maniac, she realises that there is a 32 second window after they attack and where they turn completely docile. It is this idea that gives the film its title but the only original note towards the zombie genre it can come up with.
After its promisingly directed beginning it is a shame to see VIRUS: 32 settles into the usual groove of running and hiding from zombies. Halfway through the character of Luis pops up adding an extra layer to the story but again it is one that has been seen before, most notably in Zack Snyder’s remake of DAWN OF THE DEAD. At times it seems like Hernandez is prepared to take the film to some very dark places, but he always pulls his punches, particularly in the films latter stages. It may work once for the narrative but when it repeatedly does so it just displays the willingness to take the easy choice and wrap things up.
There are one or two more highlights; Iris and Luis making their escape through a smoke-filled auditorium being one nicely colourful example and the final shot is nicely staged. It is this final shot however that makes you wish you were watching a film that was telling more of that story instead of the unambitious and far too familiar one that has led up to this shot.