Tag: natalie dormer

Patient Zero


Patient Zero (2018)
★ / ★★★★

Horror films without a third act must offer something so special in order for the final product to be satisfying, or least to avoid coming across as lazy. With a running time of around eighty minutes, “Patient Zero,” written by Mike Le and directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky, still feels bloated, from its interminable exposition, dialogue designed to explain rather than to further the plot, to generic flashbacks involving key characters being attacked by the rabid Infected for the first time. Just when it is about to get interesting, it simply… ends. I cannot imagine anyone begging for a sequel.

If being stuck in an underground bunker with uninteresting survivors is your idea of entertainment, then this picture deserves a most enthusiastic recommendation. Still, it is not without curious ideas. For instance, we learn that Morgan (Matt Smith), our protagonist, has been exposed to the rabies-like virus. But instead of being turned, he remains very much human and he is granted the ability to communicate with the Infected (side effect: intense headaches).

As a result, he has become an indispensable member in the government-sponsored research led by Dr. Rose (Natalie Dormer) to reverse-engineer a vaccine that might cure billions. To do this, they must find Patient Zero, the first human infected by the virus, and extract his or her blood. Morgan can essentially interrogate the physically restrained Infected—a species that, in theory, is so driven by animalistic urges, they are incapable of telling lies or deception.

Despite this intriguing idea, the character is a bore because there is a nagging subplot involving love interests. Every time romance becomes the focal point, the material screeches to a halt. It is maddening that Le is so uninspired by his own story that he felt the need to touch upon—but not explore in meaningful or fruitful ways—generic romantic feelings. It might have been different had such relationships commanded strong urgency—at least as urgent as the calamity that had befallen the planet. In a way, the screenplay, too, must function as an effective drama for us to buy into the human relationships, particularly a romantic kind, but it is clear that the material is not that ambitious.

The zombie attacks are not at all memorable. The makeup coupled with special and visual effects are convincing enough, but there is not one ambush or chase scene that stands out from either the technical standpoint or from a visceral perspective. Not once was I scared or was I forced to jump out of my seat. Both suspense and terror are so lacking, I found myself slouching in my seat just waiting for something—anything—to happen. The cast is exciting, from Smith and Dormer to Stanley Tucci, Agyness Deyn, and John Bradley, but not one of them is a standout. (Never mind the inconsistent American accents.)

“Patient Zero” is pedestrian to the bone. Due to the screenplay’s lack of commitment, a willingness to engage the viewer by assuming we are smart or that we had seen countless of undead pictures, not a minute of the film is believable. Even the underground base looks like a set.

The Forest


The Forest (2016)
★ / ★★★★

“The Forest,” written by Nick Antosca, Sarah Cornwell and Ben Ketai, is a most disappointing supernatural horror film despite an interesting premise which involves an actual place in Japan where people go to commit suicide. Instead of focusing on atmosphere, tone, and mood in order to amp up the creepiness of the forest, the writing tends to lean on jump scares, hallucinations, and flashbacks. It is one of those would-be scary movies where it assumes the viewers have not seen other, better horror films that fall within the sub-genre.

When her twin sister goes missing, Sara (Natalie Dormer) takes a flight to Tokyo to find her. Jess (also played by Dormer) is last seen in the Aokigahara Forest and although word has it that she has killed herself despite no sign of her corpse, Sarah feels that she is still alive. With the help of a journalist (Taylor Kinney) and a tour guide (Yukiyoshi Ozawa), Sara comes across her sister’s campsite and insists that she stays the night just in case Jess returns. The tour guide warns her that is not a good idea since the forest likes to play tricks on people, especially those with sadness in their hearts.

Although Dormer creates a character with a convincing air of toughness and determination, the screenplay does not help her in creating a story that is equally involving. As the minutes trickle away, one becomes all the more convinced that the filmmakers do not understand why Japanese movies—at least the memorable ones—are so haunting. The approach is very Westernized in that it fails to build a unique mythos that hooks itself in the mind.

The jump scares, visual effects, and supposedly spooky flashbacks are not well-executed. This is because there is no sense of timing or rhythm to them and so when they are pushed to the center, there is very little to no emotional or visceral impact. Once a punchline is delivered, the material reverts to tired clichés where a character runs, huffs and puffs, and yells “Hello?” in the dark. It turns into a frustrating and boring experience.

Most alive are instances when the camera pans around the forest and provides details. For example, at times one can spot ropes of various colors tied around branches and a character explains that it is a sign that a suicidal person wants to be found either before he kills himself or after the deed has been done so that the body can receive proper burial. Camping out means that a person is still contemplating suicide. Details like these make the story specific. There is not enough of them.

Directed by Jason Zada, “The Forest” contains a solid premise but it appears to wilt at an increasing rate the longer we look at it. There is a clear lack of inspiration here.