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A beautifully made film, “Infection” sets the bar high for how indie zombie films should look, though it underwhelms with its predictable storyline.

After the loss of his wife, Doctor Adam Vargas (Rubén Guevara) is looking to return a sense of normalcy to his son Miguel’s (Luca de Lima) life. But when Venezuela is hit by a new strain of rabies — causing people to turn violent —  while Miguel is away visiting his grandparents, Adam sets out to rescue him.

Written and directed by Flavio Pedota and co-writer Yeimar Cabral, Infection is very much a traditional zombie movie. The film focuses on its protagonists’ separation and journey back to one another, while along the way showing how people begin to exploit the less fortunate in a time of crisis. And while none of the film’s themes explore uncharted ground within the genre, its strong presentation and production value give it some redeeming value.

Infection serves as another indication that indie horror is making substantial strides; this film looks like a big budget production.

Adopting a guerrilla film style, not unlike 28 Days Later, Infection moves effortlessly from quick handheld shots to more cinematic scenes shot with traditional lenses. The lighting and set design are top tier, featuring scenes that are expertly lit and perfectly framed.

The high production value adds a sense of urgency to the film’s tensest moments, capturing the terror of the protagonists being pursued by the quick moving infected. Further making the running hordes of infected more terrifying is their practical makeup and actor physicality.

It isn’t just that they run; the ferociousness of movement and body manipulation makes the infected more memorable than your average zombie.

And yet these laudable production high notes can’t quite overcome the film’s biggest weakness.

Ultimately, this is really just another by-the-book zombie flick, without much to help differentiate it from the crowded sub genre. From Adam’s journey, to rejoining his son, to the destabilization of the country and the military’s extreme response to containment, there are few surprises in store for the viewer. You’ve seen this all before.

Aside from Infection’s traditional zombie narrative, it briefly examines how a virus can destabilize a nation on a grand scale. Unfortunately, this is a compelling but under-explored premise that could have greatly enhanced the effectiveness of the story. We are shown the inception of patient zero, and how the virus spreads rapidly through numerous facets of society. But the script never centers its focus on any one means of transmission, nor does it fully explore the implications of a virus spreading unchecked.

Had it done so, the resulting film would have been a much more original one that could have given us a timely and terrifying commentary on how power structures fumble to respond appropriately to a pandemic.

Infection’s lack of originality ultimately makes it disappear amongst the horde of zombie releases viewers are inundated with.

The character’s identity is tied to their boilerplate motive of trekking through uncharted territory to rescue a loved one, which doesn’t include much character development or growth. There are brief moments of promise that break up the predictable story beats, such as Adam encountering slavers who are preying on the less fortunate during the crisis. Unfortunately, this is but one brief scene amongst an entire film that should have been filled with moments such as this.

Infection is a frustrating film due to the enormous potential it squanders. It promises to examine a viral outbreak from a unique lens, but doesn’t meaningfully deliver on that promise. Though it looks incredible, Infection is so middle-of-the-road in its storytelling approach — embracing tired zombie movie cliches and abandoning its potential in favor of a “safe” narrative.

Ultimately, this an entirely inoffensive, but far too safe film. If it weren’t for its impressive production values, it would be fairly forgettable.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies)

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