Review: VIRUS-32, The Difference Between Life And Death is Seconds Away
Iris has an impromptu bring your daughter to work day when she forgets it is her turn to look after her daughter, Tata. Iris tries to make the most of the turn of events, giving her daughter free reign over the facilities at the rec center she looks after for her security gig. Meanwhile, a virus has broken out, one that turns the infected into ravaging killers. Soon after Iris discovers the threat looming outside the walls of the rec center she learns that there is something about the diseased, something that she may be able to use to her advantage to save her daughter and herself. She will have to act quickly as Tata has gone missing and Iris learns that the threat to their safety also comes from within.
The hook of Virus-32 is no secret - it’s in the gosh darned marketing. Iris discovers that once the infected kill they become comatose for thirty two seconds. Anyone in the immediate area has half a minute to bug out before the infected want to kill again. Thankfully, director Gustavo Hernández does not, pun intended, beat this hook to death, using it sparingly in these moments of discovery early in the film before he really employs it to full effect during the climax.
Written by his frequent collaborator Juma Fodde (You Shall Not Sleep and the upcoming Lobo Feroz) we cannot help but think that Virus-32 is in part his and Hernández’s homage to the world created by Boyle and Garland in their landmark horror flick from twenty years ago. We see this first in the type of infected creature that stalks the halls of the rec center. They’re savage, fast and NOT zombies. They’re infected with a virus that doesn’t pass on to their victims. We also hear it in the eerily similar bit of instrumental score from Hernán González that sounds a lot like that certain something John Murphy wrote for Boyle’s movie. “...there’s no such thing as a coincidence”.
Hernández earns his terror cred in moments that range from the ‘Oh no, you didn’t’ to the ‘Oh no, you won’t’ kind. He also shows a good amount of patience, waiting to go back to plot points he sets up very early in the film. Moments that you seasoned veterans have made mental notes of - “I bet this will be important later” - that will show up in the climax.
Thankfully, in the build up, Hernández stays away from using exhausting musical jump scares, simply letting his images do the work for him. One moment in the change rooms stands out as a prime example of this. It’s something so simple, someone walks through the background then a pan reveals them sitting on a bench behind Iris gives good chills. Another moment later in the film involving flares and obscured vision is pretty good as well, utilizing sound and shadow to good effect.
We do not want to diminish other moments by saying that they’re textbook thriller/horror moments, because in the small number of films Hernández has made he has proven he is good at setting up moments for tension and pacing things properly. However, apart from some tried and true thrills and chills there are also times when you have to put two and two together. Moments that will give pause, ‘Wait. Why is that person there?’ and ‘Who are these people now?’. Notably they break up the flow that Hernández has set while you’re doing mental gymnastics trying to remember who, what and why.
The underlying theme of Virus-32 is one of accepting responsibility, that of parenting, and one of devotion. There is a very extreme version of these with the antagonistic and triggering introduction of the character of Luis but before that Iris had been dodging her role of motherhood, trying to avoid it after a tragedy shook her family. She’s being forced back into a motherly role by someone who has it thrust upon her. Will she resist or relent, give in or accept the role of mother once again. This rests on the shoulders of relative newcomer Paula Silva, to bear this weight of the responsibility of motherhood while the bloodthirsty horde breaks into the facility.
A couple of ‘remember back at the beginning when we briefly showed you this?’ moments that disrupt the flow of the story do not take away too much from a good horror thriller. Counter to those moments though are others that do a good job of getting viewers on edge. Horror enthusiasts should notice the wink and nod to Danny Boyle’s landmark horror flick from 2002.
Virus-32, a Shudder Original Film premieres exclusively on Thursday, April 21 in the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand