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Pandemic - horror DVD review
PANDEMIC Rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 2 star
Actors: Ray Wise, Graham McTavish, Peter Holden, Alesha Rucci, Kristi Culbert, Tom Proctor
Director: Jason Connery   Studio: MTI Home Video
DVD release: 27 October 2009   Runtime: 90 minutes (1 disc)
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, DVD, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
DVD features: Aspect ratio 1.77:1, Audio tracks (English - Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround), Subtitles (Spanish), Director's commentary, Premiere news story, Interviews, Trailers

Pandemic works from a blueprint set for an effective - as well as timely - sci-fi thriller. But, as with many low-budget films, poor production values, predictability, and rather amateurish acting and directing keep it from reaching its potential.

The plot: in Diablo County, New Mexico (which one character helpfully informs us is the most sparsely populated county in the continental U.S.), local vet Sydney Stevens (Alesha Clarke) suddenly finds herself trying to uncover why local residents and livestock are being stricken by a virus which causes rapid internal bleeding.

Soon the military swoops in, quarantines the area, and cuts off communication within the county. (One major unintentional laugh: the general in charge informs his second in command that "We need to keep a low profile so as not to cause a panic among the civilian population." Cut to the Army setting up a roadblock for the main road out of town, then 40 or so Humvees rolling through main street. So much for the low profile.) In the heroine's efforts to getting to the bottom of things, she decides to team up with a local whack job and conspiracy theorist. Can she find the source of the virus, skirt the Army, and alert the outside world in time?

The movie does have its strong points. Most notable is the appearance of veteran character actor Ray Wise as the general. Best known for his role as the murderer/father in David Lynch's cult TV show Twin Peaks, Wise's strength is when he plays an intimidating authority figure - in particular one the audience cannot be sure it can trust. Thus, the general role suits him fine, and he does what he can with it. Second, the film has a strong premise - dealing with a biological threat, the loss of individual freedoms in the name of public safety - that still readily applies to today's political climate.

However, Pandemic is still a low-budget production, and it shows. Save for Wise, most of the performances are poor. There are also directing missteps, such as an extended and unnecessary sequence where the doctor drives around town, which hurts the momentum of the movie. Finally, the plot has a few too many "Aw, come on!" moments, particularly a revelation concerning two major characters that seemingly is dropped just after it is revealed.

Overall, while Pandemic has an intriguing premise, it cannot overcome its low production values or C-movie status. I'd recommend it only for rabid fans (pun intended) of epidemic or conspiracy movies.
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reviewed by Trent Daniel
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