Our first Raindance day featured two familiar tropes of the modern horror genre – the zombie outbreak movie and the found footage scare show. Two South American offerings wrestled gamely with conventions. How did they get along? Part 1 – INFECTION.
By RADIANT CIRCUS
INFECTION aka Infección
d. Flavio Pedota, 2019 (Venezuela/Mexico, 95 mins)
INFECTION was like a maggot struggling to escape the bloated genre corpse it had been devouring, but it burst free in the end (and we do mean the absolute closing credit sequence….).
We come to Raindance and indie cinema – even of the exploitation kind – for ideas and cultural commentary that are often missing from mainstream releases (an attitude Raindance organisers refer to as “a spirit that goes against the wave“). With an opening shot of a construction site in Caracas emblazoned with “MADURO IS A DICTATOR” graffiti, Flavio Pedota’s horror shows that context really can be everything.
Unfortunately, the only way to sing INFECTION’s praises is to evoke some significant >> PLOT SPOILERS >> which we don’t normally do, but that’s where the rancid rotting heart of this movie beats most vigorously. If that’s a problem for you, we apologise and invite you back for our writeup of FERAL which should be posted on our Raindance 2019 Channel very soon.
… got that?
Sandwiched in INFECTION’s closing credit sequence, a series of survivor ‘interviews’ reveal that a cure for the infection was found, but in truth, Venezuela’s troubles had only just begun. The country has now been quarantined and both those that survived without infection and those that have been cured (and ‘marked’ accordingly) are struggling to build a future.
David Freyne’s THE CURED (read our writeup from BFI London Film Festival 2017) gave us something meaty to chew on about the challenge of reunification in a violently divided country. So too INFECTION makes serious asides about Venezuela’s isolationist nationalist leadership: President Maduro is seen on the news abandoning his charges and, as the country descends into chaos, we question how everything could fall apart so quickly (unless it had already fallen…)? But there is hope, with one migrant emphasising the grit of the nation: “But here we go, we never give up or surrender.”
In these final sequences, INFECTION gives us a coda to choke on, but it runs the risk of being too late to stamp the film as urgent and unmissable. What comes before is well-known to anyone familiar with zombie movie lore: a means of infection, rapid viral contagion, running, not dead ‘zombies’, infection by bite triggering social pandemonium, even warnings about human behaviour – “A crisis like this brings out the worst in people”. More problematically, the film struggles to break free of zombie outbreak clichés: too many ‘just in time’ doors allow last minute escapes, women are marginalised (every single one…), terrible decisions are made, there are last-grenade heroics and wary travellers get ambushed by zombie hoards in the middle of nowhere. INFECTION is obviously a fan of its form, but so is its audience. Thus, some things are just too familiar on our sprint to the truly meaningful closing shots.
In its favour, the 95 minute film moves at a cracking pace and it looks stunning throughout. Huge credit for that goes to the cinematography and SFX, the digital environmental degradation largely seamless with the film’s many locations (reminiscent of Gareth Edward’s MONSTERS). There’s enough energy in the diseased to send a jolt or two through the audience and happily, it isn’t – in this overcrowded but often under-populated sub-genre – a zombie movie short of zombies…
If only they’d started where they’d ended, and given the women more of a fighting chance, this could have been much more remarkable. Instead it’s solid, entertaining and, like a rapidly decaying corpse in the noonday sun, won’t outstay its welcome. From a festival-goer’s perspective, it’s also the sort of film that would have benefitted from an introduction or discussion with the filmmakers. Kickstarting a socio-political commentary in the form of a gutsy horror movie amongst widespread political suppression, spiralling inflation, food and drug shortages can’t have been easy. It’s this volatile context – surely the perfect incubator for chaos – that the film’s Spanish language poster sells so brilliantly…
And that’s the meat of it…
RAINDANCE FILM FESTIVAL
The 27th Raindance Film Festival screens at Vue West End & Vue Piccadilly (18 to 29 SEP 2019).
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