Rager survival horror delivers surface-level diversions
We can thank the back-to-back releases of 28 Days Later and the Dawn of the Dead remake (2002/3 and 2004, respectively) for revivifying the long-dormant zombie/undead sub-genre, including the long-running/never-ending AMC series, The Walking Dead (an incredibly lucrative, semi-nostalgic return to George A. Romero’s shambling, cannibalistic ghouls and a post-apocalyptic world that’s long overstayed its welcome). Countless, mostly forgettable, derivative imitators followed over the next two decades, up to and including Virus :32, an Argentinian-Uruguayan co-production co-written and directed by genre specialist Gustavo Hernández (You Shall Not Sleep [No dormirás], The Silent House [La casa muda]) centered on a mother-daughter duo attempting to survive a deadly viral outbreak in Montevideo.
When we first meet Virus :32’s protagonist, Iris (Paula Silva), a night security guard at a block-sized athletic club, she’s trying to evade responsibility for her preteen daughter, Tata (Pilar Garcia). Thirty-going-on-twenty, Iris has made a deliberate choice to postpone adulthood for as long as possible, preferring the company of her thirty-something roommate, drinking, smoking, and getting high (she fails to hide her bong from a curios Tata). Her daughter’s presence, however, argues otherwise, compelling a hesitant Iris to sneak Tata into her workplace without her outgoing co-worker or another security guard noticing.
Taking his cues from the Dawn of the Dead remake and Shaun of the Dead, Hernández follows the oblivious Iris and Tata as they walk, jog, and run to Iris’s nearby workplace while the world noticeably unravels around them. Where Hernández shot the entirety of The Silent House more than a decade ago in a (simulated) single shot, he does something similar in the early scenes here, keeping a floating, sinuous camera locked onto Iris and Tata, relying on unseen cuts and now standard drone shots to give viewers an impressive God’s eye view of Montevideo’s streets around Iris’s apartments right up until they enter the empty athletic club and Hernández embraces more conventional camerawork and cutting.
Once inside, though, it’s obvious the athletic club contains multitudes. As vast as a city block, the underlit athletic club presents Hernández with the perfect location in which to stage a series of increasingly tense, suspenseful attacks from virus-stricken, homicidal ragers. Hernández and his co-writer, Juma Fodde, add one wrinkle to the usual viral zombie/rager trope: His ragers pause for exactly 32 seconds after an attack, presumably to “recharge” themselves. It’s a clever conceit no doubt, though Virus :32 follows fairly predictable beats as Iris, after discovering the 32-second pause via surveillance footage, exploits said 32-second pause to get around one or more napping ragers she encounters as she (a) tries to find Tata after they’re separated early on and (b) tries to escape with Tata relatively unscathed.
Over-familiar and semi-sporadically thrilling, Virus :32 certainly won’t make viewers forget 28 Days Later, the Dawn of the Dead remake, or higher profile imitators, including the recent Army of the Dead, but at minimum, it delivers a brief, modestly ambitious, slightly imaginative addition to a sub-genre badly in need of reinvention and reinvigoration. Add to that a game cast delivering fully committed, non-ironic performances and a secondary plot involving a pregnant infected woman (possible zombie baby alert), and Virus :32 hits just enough horror-related sweet spots to be worth their time.
Virus :32 is available to stream via Shudder.