On Dana’s 30th birthday, her boyfriend convinces her to invite her estranged alcoholic father Rufus to her party so they can have a chance to reconnect. They’re both overwhelmed by anxiety at this prospect, and it’s hinted that there’s a deep history of trauma there. Unfortunately for both of them, their much-awaited reunion gets sidetracked by the deadly pathogen that her friend accidentally unleashed from the basement of her new apartment building.

What’s a more terrifying prospect: A wild viral outbreak that kills everyone horribly within hours, or reconnecting with your estranged alcoholic father? It’s a little difficult to weigh those options. They’re based on two entirely different kinds of fear. The horrible death by virus may seem worse, but it also feels very remote. If it weren’t for films like EPIDEMIC, most of us couldn’t imagine it at all. But dysfunctional families? The threat of our hopes for reconciliation being dashed? That’s pretty real for most people.

And that’s why EPIDEMIC‘s concept works. The “viral outbreak” sub-genre – much like zombies or other apocalyptic scenarios – are only really effective as a backdrop to human drama. A reason to put people in high-tension situations and watch the fallout.

Unfortunately, the execution leaves a bit to be desired here. The plot barrels forward at a breakneck pace, without providing a lot of opportunity for the characters to acknowledge and deal with their situation. Most characters are dispatched too quickly to give them much characterization. They’re mostly there to foreshadow what will happen to the leads, and add some more gruesome deaths to the proceedings.

And gruesome they are! For a low budget production, the make-up and blood/vomit effects are effectively disgusting. I’m especially fond of the effects used on the “apparitions” that infected individuals see as their symptoms develop. They’re incredibly creepy in a very simple way.

The small budget is definitely noticeable in other ways, however. Outside of the main sets, there are issues with lighting and sound. Outdoor shots are especially poor. And one scene features some distractingly atrocious wallpaper (and not in the fun Paul McGuigan way). It’s hard to criticize them too harshly for these things, though. They obviously put the money where it mattered most and cut corners where they could get away with it. I just wish they could have hired a better art director to create the mysterious plague basement set. It was rather boring to look at, and it should have been an iconic and memorable revelation.

EPIDEMIC takes a great dramatic conceit, combines it with a recognizable apocalyptic sub-genre, and throws in some good effects to sell it all. I was a bit disappointed in how much time the leads actually got to spend together working on their damaged relationship, but they each get good individual storylines. If you’re into some good family drama highlighted with lots and lots of projectile vomit, it’s a good one to check out.

EPIDEMIC arrives on DVD/VOD September 4, 2018

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