★★★ out of ★★★★★
The first zombie movie filmed in Venezuela hits the screen with some biting social commentary.
Directed by Flavio Pedota.
When you think of Venezuela these days you probably think of political chaos, infrastructure breakdown, and civil unrest. Which, as we all know, is also pretty much exactly what you get during a zombie outbreak!
Enter: writer/director Flavio Pedota. His debut feature film, Infección, was mostly filmed in Venezuela and has earned itself the title of Venezuela’s First Zombie Movie. Pedota has mentioned in interviews that he “only recorded the Venezuela [he] saw”. With that country’s current socio-economic situation as its backdrop, his new film provides an eye-opening glimpse into Venezuela’s troubles.
Crumbling apartment buildings, tattered billboards, anti-Maduro graffiti; combine all of those with the usual zombie movie trappings of police barricades, corpses are strewn about, and cars burning in the street and you’ve got a gritty, sometimes desperate environment for a horror film.
Infección centers around Dr. Adam Vargas [Rubén Guevara; 12/12/12 (2012)] and his neighbor Johnny [Leonidas Urbina; Netflix’s series Bolívar (2019)] as news of a quickly spreading infection reaches their small town. Dr. Vargas had just sent his son, Miguel, to stay with the grandparents for a week. Now, with the country in turmoil, Adam and Johnny must go over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house — dodging trigger happy police and very bitey zombies — to save the young boy.
The movie starts off a bit slowly and there are a lot of characters early on, making it hard to know who you should care about. Neighbor Johnny, his wife Ana, the stubborn old lady patient of Dr. Vargas’, another neighbor, Juan, Juan’s wife, the grandparents… Luckily, the zombies separate the wheat from the chaff fairly quickly so you can focus on who’s left.
There is a reason for the slow beginning. Infección gives the viewer a chance to watch the initial spread of the horrible, zombie-causing contagion. We see where it started, who got it first, and so on. Personally, I love it when we’re given a chance to see where it all began, so I was fully on board with this approach. Not that jumping in mid-stream like AMC’s The Walking Dead or 28 Days Later… (2002) is a bad thing, but sometimes it’s nice to see how it all started.
Speaking of 28 Days Later, the zombies in Infección are not true zombies. Just like the 2002 classic, Pedota’s movie features “rage zombies” or people infected with a virus that makes them run around and tear the non-infected apart. So these are fast “zombies” as opposed to their much slower cousins, Zombius Romerocus, that we’ve seen in the past.
And again, as in 28 Days Later, The Crazies (1973), possibly [●REC] (2007), and so on, the infected in Infección are suffering from a variant of the rabies virus. Technically plausible and a popular zombie trope, but it brings us to one of the shortcomings of this film. If you can think of other standard zombie tropes, they’re probably in this film — although nobody in this movie tried to hide the fact that they’d been bitten, so we’ll give it points for that.
Regardless, if you’re looking for a groundbreaking new twist on the zombie movie, this ain’t it. It is, however, a very solid addition to the genre. Production values are, for the most part, excellent throughout. The initial scenes at the World Health Organization’s conference table seemed a little slapdash, but once we got away from that set everything looked great.
The special effects are well done, but this is not a gory movie. Unlike the traditional buckets of blood with a side order of butcher shop leavings found in other zombie fare, Infección leaves more to the imagination. However, once the epidemic reaches a full boil, the pacing speeds you right along and you’ll never notice the lack of visible spleens.
This is a very comfortable zombie movie. It may not push any envelopes or blaze any new trails, but it’s decent and entertaining. Add in the well-shot scenes of modern-day Venezuela and you’ve got a zombie-filled historical record showing how the current unrest has affected the cities of that nation.
Infección just had its U.S. premiere at the Popcorn Frights Film Festival. In case you missed it there, we’ll keep you posted with any news we hear about future showings or festival screenings.
PS: If you do get a chance to see it, make sure you stick around through the end credits to catch all of the post-epidemic interviews. They were unexpected and added some great flavor to the whole Venezuelan zombie stew.
Review by Robert Zilbauer.