Another Solid Rage Zombie Film, Virus: 32 (2022) Adds Another Win to the Uruguayan Horror Industry
Title: Virus: 32
First Non-Festival Release: April 7, 2022 (Premiere)
Director: Gustavo Hernández
Writer: Juma Fodde, Gustavo Hernández
Runtime: 90 Minutes
Starring: Paula Silva, Daniel Hendler, Sofía González
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
The day starts like any other day in Montevideo for Iris (Paula Silva). After smoking a blunt and before rushing to work, she is greeted by her husband Javier (Franco Rilla) and her daughter Tata (Pilar Garcia). Annoyed initially at the last-minute intrusion on her work, Iris does her best to make Tata feel excited about the abandoned sports club she oversees as a security guard. Unfortunately for them, they split up in the building at the worst time, as a raging virus has infected the population, which turns them into bloodthirsty menaces capable of wielding unbridled rage and fury on their victims. Thankfully, while Iris searches for Tata she discovers a weak spot in her opponent’s biology: a 32 second window of stasis that initiates only after the attacker has just killed.
Uruguayan zombie film Virus: 32 doesn’t re-invent the wheel but still delivers plenty of carnage and chaos.
Virus: 32 does nothing to shake up the game in terms of zombie mythology and lore. Its gimmick of zombie stasis dependent on thirty-two seconds of rest after carrying out a lethal attack is deployed inconsistently and seems arbitrary without explanation. The issue isn’t solely with explanation, it seems nonsensical no matter the justification that any creature would abide by such strict rules for predation. Even within a horror or science fiction setting, it is a hard sell. Thankfully, the film does not rely on this too often, but when it does it's hard to forgive.
Oftentimes in the film, it seems like characters make choices that are at odds with their goals. Choices made by both Iris and Luis border on the absurd when it comes to their ultimate goals of survival and saving their children. Leads Iris and Luis are given enough to do in the narrative to fill it to a narrative feature. Luis could stand to be developed a bit more. His commitment to his wife and child are commendable, but his erratic handling of the situation raises more eyebrows when all is said and done. Love makes people do crazy things, sure, but again, there are too many times where it conflicts with his more long-term goals of survival.
Iris is given a typical character arc within the film to grow from nonchalant mother with unresolved grief to stepping up and actively being the parent she needed to be when Nico drowned at the beach. It’s clear that she has the capability in her the entire time, but her fear of disappointing others causes her to seek out situations to lower others’ expectations of her. Parents rediscovering their unconditional love for their families leans into tropes we have seen before, but Virus: 32 does a fine job of putting Iris through the ringer to earn the redemption she seeks.
What does set Virus: 32 apart from other zombie films is its direction. Director Gustavo Hernández's commitment to utilizing breathtaking camerawork in framing the onslaught of violence besieging Montevideo. The artists behind the film lean into the fluidity of the camera allowing for many drone shots and wide, sweeping shots to constantly push the audience around as if they were in the film too. Inversely, many scenes are elevated by the claustrophobia of the setting. Impressive visuals and bold color choices help elevate the film to a more visually appealing film whenever it wanders away from the grit and grime of the decaying sports club.
Strong sound design helps elevate the many situations Iris and company find themselves in when evading capture from their bloodthirsty adversaries. The bounce of a tennis ball, the smack of knuckles on skin, and the suddenness of animals flung at windows are but a few memorable moments in a film filed to the brim with pulse-pounding tension.
Despite its unflinchingly tense and uncompromising journey into rage induced violence, Virus: 32 has a few technical issues that cut it down a few notches. While its almost immediate start is impressive, there are a few pacing issues in the latter half of the film that make for a bumpy ride. Moments of release feel elongated due to unnatural lulls of activity and some quick bursts of action feel too easily solved. Some rough transitions are jarring enough to take viewers out of the experience. Thankfully, their presence is minimal compared to the amount of otherwise high production values.
Nothing new comes out of Virus: 32, but that doesn’t stop Hernández and company from creating an absolute force of a zombie film. Anchored by claustrophobic and meticulously designed visuals, Virus: 32 is a gloriously frightening horror film that hits all the right notes for a good time. Despite leaning into genre conventions and employing a few tricks we’ve seen before, its small new offerings to the cannon make up for most of its detractions. Throw in a cast that can handle the grit of the story and an expansive setting filled with wonderful and elaborate set pieces, and Virus: 32 is given all it needs to succeed. You don’t need 32 seconds to know that this film is a must see.
Overall Score? 7/10