New Horror Releases: Infección (2020) - Reviewed

The Spanish-language thriller Infección is a Venezuelan zombie movie that feels very timely. Originally completed in 2018, it was intended as a critique of the Venezuelan government. However, for those of us who know nothing about what it is like in Venezuela, it could play a little bit differently. It was made in a time when words like “quarantine,” “isolation,” “contagion” and “immunity” were not regular parts of the global vocabulary. It is now being seen in a world where an easily spread virus wreaking havoc can no longer be considered fantasy for any of us. In that sense, it works in a way it was not necessarily planned to.

It also works fairly well as a “realistic” zombie movie, with a slight emphasis on drama over horror. It is more about the human cost of a deadly epidemic than it is gore. Though it has that, too. It is not always successful, but it has a purpose lacking in a lot of similar productions. It is that purpose that makes it worth seeing. On the surface, it will feel familiar to fans of the genre. Look closer and it is an effectively made entry with some quality stuff hiding inside.

The story follows a doctor as he makes his way through the city at the start of the outbreak, in an effort to find his young son. Neither the doctor nor the strangers he allies himself with during his journey stand out. They are the usual types; desperate, undeveloped caricatures, trying to stay alive. The zombies are just mindless obstacles, made mildly more threatening because of how fast they are. These are not the shuffling hordes we are used to. They sprint in pursuit of their prey, upping the constant sense of danger. Director/producer/cowriter Flavio Pedota has a consistently dark vision for this world.

In his feature directorial debut, Pedota has more on his mind than zombie mayhem. He uses a genre with a rich history of satire to go after a government he is clearly displeased with. I do not know much about Venezuela, but that did not hurt my enjoyment of what he is trying to do. He is not subtle, so some of his commentary is obvious even if you are unaware of what he was specifically targeting. His anger feeds into the fear and panic his characters must deal with in order to survive.

He keeps things fast-moving, including only the smallest amount of plot needed to give his characters motivation. He stages the action sequences decently enough, yet there is no attempt at fancy choreography or creative deaths. As horror, it is so-so. As a picture of a country in turmoil seen through a horror lens, it is quite interesting.

Then there is the unexpected connection to what is going on around the globe in 2020. Most, if not all, zombie movies contain parallels to what we are currently experiencing. The fact that Infección was made shortly before any of this started makes it extra impactful. There were a few moments that caused me to shake my head in wonder at Pedota’s inadvertent prescience. Audiences would have had a different reaction to Infección a year ago. In that way, it goes from being an okay genre entry with strong political undertones to something more affecting.

-Ben Pivoz