REVIEW BY JEREMIAH ROSARIO
Stephen Michael Giglio’s Epidemic is a pseudo-zombie horror film that understands the biggest strength of the sub-genre lies in the conflict of human drama that’s laced throughout a given narrative. In this case, a father and daughter’s attempt at reconciliation layered over the growing threat of a spreading pathogen. Building your characters up, allowing your audience to grow attached to their story, perhaps even relate to their plight, is crucial to delivering a hard hitting and thoroughly affecting zombie film. Not easy at all, because if there was ever a category of horror that’s been run into the ground, one which could metaphorically be representative of the living dead monster it spotlights, well…
With Epidemic, there is an unfortunate failure to capitalize on this. Not for a lack of trying mind you - what’s there is actually pretty ok - but rather that, not nearly enough time is spent in developing the characters we’re supposed to care about in the first place. The first thirty minutes or so are spent with a scattered focus across multiple people who ultimately amount to little more than virus fodder. So by the time father and daughter are finally united, you don’t have the needed emotional attachment to make the proceeding carnage as harrowing as it should be.
Even so, there’s plenty to enjoy even at a base level - at least as far as zombie films go. Epidemic does a great job delivering the gory goods. For a smaller budget production, I was pleasantly surprised by how much practical effects work was employed here. Melting skin sores, rot and decay, innards, and lots of vomit (think Danny Boyle’s 28 days) make for some rather convincing violence; most of the film’s visuals feel tangible. And although I’d be remiss to not at least mention the cheap looking CG, since it does exist, its moments are thankfully few and far between.
As far as performances are concerned, things are hit or miss. The leads (Amanda Morales and Andrew Hunsicker) do alright with the script. Their chemistry is at least good enough to buy into the rocky foundation of their relationship. Initially awkward, their play off each other begins to solidify as more and more time is spent between them - as it should. Mostly, they are let down - again - by time. Time spent focusing on their past. Time spent focusing on the present. It’s just not enough, and robs their performances of effectiveness.
While I can’t wholeheartedly recommend Epidemic against the sea of available zombie films (let alone horror films in general) if you have much more pressing titles sitting on your to-watch list, I still think it’s a film worth spending time with. Make it a double bill viewing with Rec 3: Genesis or Outbreak. Here, we’ll make it easy for you: