Although Virus: 32 has some engaging horror sequences and a nice performance by Paula Silva, it doesn’t live up to its full potential.
There have been many horror flicks concocted during these pandemic times involving confined spaces, the themes of isolation and slowly-growing dread, and infections of some sort. Sometimes it’s for better or worse, as not many directors know how to work at such a rapid pace (since shooting days are cut down from the usual amount) and limited availability. Regardless, some directors did manage to deliver interesting creations during these last couple of years in captivity. It’s interesting to see how each director has a take on the pandemic and how it tackles those themes that come attached to it, like loneliness and anxiety. Films like Ben Wheatley’s In the Earth, The Adams’ Hellbender, and Rob Savage’s Host – although his follow-up, DASHCAM, which had similar aesthetics, was genuinely annoying and infuriating – are some of the better and most intriguing ones out of the bunch being made. Nevertheless, Gustavo Hernández’s Virus: 32 follows familiar footsteps in implementing a pandemic-esque narrative with some of the previously mentioned themes.
Virus: 32 centers around a security guard, Iris (Paula Silva), who is forced to take her daughter to work because she forgot to take the day off. The girl is stuck playing basketball at the sports club court, even though she has a broken arm and cast. While on the watch, Iris notices something strange happening when the night falls. People are sneaking into the facility, and Iris is now beginning to be worried for her daughter. These people are sick and becoming hunters who can only alleviate their “fever” by viciously killing all those not yet infected. A virus broke out and caused this brutal massacre all around the streets. The only chance Iris and her daughter have for salvation is when they discover that these infected hunters stop for thirty-two seconds once they finish attacking someone. The two of them must find a way out of the facility to survive the night.
It can be described as a zombie thriller, even though the term “zombie” isn’t mentioned as well as the people infected do not rise from the dead. Of course, horror flicks about viruses controlling the minds and bodies of people have been done before for a long while, even in the 1950s with the Jack Finney novel and Don Siegel picture, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Yet, I feel quarantine inspired many horror directors to make something of the times. Nonetheless, Virus: 32 takes most of its influence and aesthetics from the 2007-hit REC, a film where a television reporter and her cameraman are trapped inside an apartment complex because a pathogen started transmitting amongst the people. It does not have the same camera movements, as it does not have a “cameraman” character, but it does contain many handheld shots throughout its horror set pieces (mostly in narrow sections or hallways). Those scenes have the most tension and pressure since the camera closes up on the characters, suffocating the viewer (in a good way).
The rest of its horror sequences or chases are not well-directed or choreographed compared to the previously mentioned claustrophobic ones. One of the reasons they aren’t as compelling is the lighting in some sequences; there are two scenes in particular. One uses a blood-red light that covers the entire scenery, and it looks pretty good for a couple of seconds, but since it is showered with many shadows and poor lighting, it is hard to see what is happening. The other involves a tension-filled sequence involving orange smoke flares. It revolves around not being able to see much since the whole area is covered in smoke; however, it is shot in a way that is a bit disorienting and confusing. A film can look gritty, dirty, and dark, which is fine, but you need to make sure that whatever is happening on-screen is visible to the audience, and Virus: 32 has several moments in which it is hard to do so.
On the brighter side, you feel connected to the characters, and there are moments when you worry about what may happen to them. One scene which involves an incinerator causes some emotional pulls to the audience. And although the character of Iris is not as profoundly written as Angela from REC, Paula Silva gives a good performance as a caring mother trying her best to get out of that hell hole and keep her daughter safe. Another small reservation I have is that it could have been bloodier. It had the potential to deliver some suitable kills and practical effects thanks to its makeup team (which did a fine job in the film). Albeit the movie holds back a little bit and shies away from pouring the buckets of crimson red onto the screen. Ultimately, Virus: 32 works in parts, not wholly, because there are segments where it achieves its true potential, and there are others in which it makes us question that stylistic or directorial decision.
Virus: 32 premieres exclusively on Shudder on Thursday, April 21, 2022 in the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.