'Viral': Film Review
Two sisters must combat a parasite epidemic without their parents' help.
A monster movie whose stranded-teen heroes are more likeable than usual, Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman's Viral imagines a parasitic outbreak in which, just maybe, a science teacher's daughter can do what the CDC cannot. A break from the Paranormal Activity films the men are best known for but certainly nothing new, the picture will be overshadowed by Nerve, the starrier teen thriller they're also, oddly, offering this week.
Sofia Black-D'Elia plays Emma, the good girl whose sister Stacey (Analeigh Tipton) has gone bad in the wake of an upsetting move to a new town. Emma is mortified when Stacey tries to push her into a hookup with Evan (Travis Tope), the neighborhood boy she harbors a sweet crush on, but the three will soon be getting a whole lot closer, even without the help of adolescent libidos.
The sisters' father Michael, who recently taught Stacey's class some conveniently timed facts about parasitic worms, is stuck outside the quarantine zone when a viral outbreak forces a citywide lockdown. The girls are supposed to stay at home behind locked doors to wait things out, but an end-times kegger lures them out; unsurprisingly, they bring a little something home with them. Evan is soon forced to join their boarded-up household, and from here on, the focus is on the family's attempt to fend off some truly disgusting body-invading worms and the former humans they've infected.
Less flashy in all senses than Nerve, Viral plays like a cranked-out genre pic whose cast and crew cared just a little more about the material than anybody should have expected. Often skin-crawling and occasionally scary, it breaks no new fright-flick ground, but it never feels cynical about hitting its marks.
Distributors: Radius-TWC, Dimension Films
Production companies: Blumhouse, Busted Shark
Cast: Sofia Black-D'Elia, Analeigh Tipton, Travis Tope, Colson Baker, Michael Kelly
Directors: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
Screenwriters: Barbara Marshall, Christopher Landon
Producers: Jason Blum, Sherryl Clark, Matt Kaplan
Executive producers: Stuart Ford, Charles Layton, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein
Director of photography: Magdalena Gorka
Production designer: Chris Trujillo
Costume designer: April Napier
Editor: William Yeh
Composer: Rob Simonsen
Casting director: Terri Taylor
Rated R, 85 minutes