One of the things Shudder has been most successful with is bringing exclusive access to new foreign horror films that audiences might not otherwise see. They’ve done it again with the world premiere of Uruguayan film, Virus :32. Written and directed by Gustavo Hernández (The Silent House, You Shall Not Sleep), Virus :32 is both an intense viral outbreak film and an emotional, character-driven film. It begins by introducing us to Iris, a woman who is currently living a rather free life filled with drugs and alcohol. When her somewhat estranged husband drops their daughter, Tata, off for the night, Iris is forced to bring the little girl to her night shift working security at an old, abandoned sports club. Little do they know, a strange virus is spreading throughout the city. As the infected find their way into the athletic club, Iris will have to fight to save her daughter while also repairing their relationship.
Whether or not Virus :32 is a zombie film will be debated with the likes of The Crazies and 28 Days Later. No matter which side of that debate you land on, there’s no denying the virus in this film is unique. The infected are technically alive, but they have strange marks on their palms and are driven to a blind rage that can only be satisfied by inflicting brutal, cruel violence*. Once they carry out that violence, the infected remains totally calm and still for 32 seconds, hence the title of the film. The filmmakers choose to never reveal the origin of the virus, which is fine, but it’s also unclear how the virus is transmitted. Is it through bodily fluids? Is it airborne? Are some people simply immune? Knowing this detail would have been beneficial to the plot and would have let the audience know if the main characters were equally at risk of becoming infected as they were to be killed by an infected person. There are also a couple of scenes throughout the film that allude to other interesting traits of the virus, but they are either not fully explored or simply lead to more questions than answers.
While most of the performances in Virus :32 are wonderful stunt performers and actors as the infected, there is a small, core cast of uninfected individuals. Paula Silva (In the Quarry) stars as Iris. At first, Iris just seems like a deadbeat mom. As we get to know her more, we discover she’s actually a very loving mother. She is simply struggling after a traumatic event changed her life forever. Silva is wonderful in this role and really shines in those moments when she’s most desperate to save her daughter at any cost. The young Pilar Garcia plays Iris’s daughter, Tata. Garcia’s fantastic performance not only adds to the emotional depth of the plot, but also heightens the terror as the audience watches to see if she survives. Garcia and Silva are delightful together on screen, making it impossible not to root for their survival.
One of the strongest aspects of Virus :32 is the visuals. The entire beginning sequence before the opening credits roll is great. It’s consists of a gorgeous long take weaving in and out of different windows and apartments, establishing the virus and the main characters. Then, during the opening credits, the film uses an overhead drone shot showing Iris and Tata walking to work, unaware of the chaos beginning on the streets around them. There are many other great sequences that add suspense and visual interest. Then there is the location. The abandoned athletic club as a backdrop to this frightening film is great not only because it’s already creepy in its state of disrepair, but its maze-like hallways and rooms leaves many opportunities for horrifying encounters with the infected.
Virus :32 delivers both a white-knuckle tale of survival and a heartbreaking story of familial healing. It gives audiences a unique virus and symptoms, but it also pokes some holes in the lore it creates and leaves too many unanswered questions. Luckily, the emotional aspects of the film are quite strong and only made stronger by the brilliant performances. Add in great scares and terrifying visuals, and Virus :32 is sure to entertain viewers everywhere.
OVERALL RATING: 6.5
*As a word of warning to more sensitive viewers, this film contains multiple instances of violence towards animals.