Initially there is something visceral, a fear residing deep in the most primitive region of our brains that frightens us about infection. It was easy to understand in the distant past when the understanding of viruses, bacteria and other microscopic pathogens had not yet supplanted evil spirits of the wrath of a god as the accepted etiology. Any horror fan will tell you what you can’t is capable of inducing far more fear that any fearsome creature of teeth and claws. Throughout history and undoubtedly long before plagues have annihilated entire population and occasionally significant portions of the sum total of humanity. This is not just part of the Dark End or Biblical times. In 1918 an influenza pandemic killed more people that World War One. One of the current manifestations of this all realistic scenario is the current infatuation with zombies. When I first read the press release for ‘Carriers’ I was sure it was another undead offering. I am grateful to admit I was wrong it is a taut psychological thriller set in a world where the meager remnants of humanity are besieged by an unstoppable, lethal virus. As with any post-apocalyptic movie this one is ultimately a story of survival; how a rational human being can be pushed beyond reason taking actions prior to the exigent circumstances would be inconceivable. A group of young people are traveling to Turtle Beach, an isolated spot in the southwestern United States. There is a motel they know about there that they hope will provide sufficient protection to wait out the pandemic. This permits the filmmaker to explore a popular trope frequently associated with the post-apocalyptic story, the perilous journey. This theme is just about as old as our fear of infection. A long arduous journey tests a person’s mettle like a forge hardens steel. This is one of the primary factors that separate this film from the common place zombie flick. There is a deeper consideration of the psychological effects of a catastrophe rather than a gore fest and type of first person shooting game much of that genre has degraded into.
At the center of the group are two brothers, Brian (Chris Pine) and Danny Green (Lou Taylor Pucci) who are traveling with Brain’s girlfriend, Bobby (Piper Perabo),and a friend of Danny’s from school, Kate (Emily VanCamp). Not long into their cross country trek they four come across a man, Frank Holloway (Christopher Meloni), who is traveling with his daughter Jodie (Kiernan Shipka) who is fully infected. The group eared surgical masks with stylized faces drawn on them, a nod to the tribal nature embraced by some survivors as a matter of necessity. In a situation such as this a certain façade of safety can be established by utilizing a simple means of differentiating ‘us’ from ‘them’ with the added benefit of literally putting on a frightening face. Initially the group is successful in repelling the desperate man and his sick child but in these circumstances life has a way of twisting back on you. The vehicle the group had been using breaks down forcing them to commandeer Frank’s Jeep. Hopefully judicious precautions will prevent being infected by the girl but devoid of mobility they are certainly finished. They agree to take Frank and Jodi to a nearby high school. There are rumors that the government took over the building and a serum to counteract the plague has been developed. This does introduced an element frequently utilized but works we none the less; parental love. A father would grab at the flimsiest thread if there was even a remote chance to save his child. Without a thread like this the movie would be relegated twenty-somethings fleeing to safety in a time of crisis. Frank and Jodi expand the scope of the story making it readily identifiable to s broader demographic. This lends a greater sense of urgency to the movie. The hope generated by the rumored serum quickly evaporates when they reach the facility and discover it is ineffective. The pervading despair so intense that the only doctor ((Mark Moses) is found on the verge of committing suicide after euthanizing a group of infected children that were part of the research.
Like many movies set after the end of the world this one begins in medias res. The survivors wouldn’t dwell on the details of what occurred or how it began. They are focused completely on surviving on moment to the next. This resembles a realistic portrayal of how people would react than the common contrivance of dialogue overloaded with exposition. This is part of an overall stylistic approach that is a major contributing factor to what I liked about this film. The filmmakers are relatively new to cinema but all indications exhibited here points to a notable position in the independent film community. David and Alex Pastor are brothers co-wrote and co-directed this movie as their introduction to feature length movies. Prepared for this moment by making several shorts; a proven way to help establish a unique look and feel of their own. As of this movie they are on their learning curve but overall their narrative voice is developing nicely. It appears that the conflict between Danny and Brian is so emotionally true to the relationship that I have to wonder just how much was taken from actual sibling squabbles the filmmakers experienced.
One part of independent film that is always greatly entertaining is how well established stars are willing to participate. Bruce Willis helped start this trend by forgoing his eight digit rate for SAG scale in order to appear in small but worthwhile projects. The cast here is excellent with names that are quite recognizable and talent. Christopher Meloni is immediately recognizable after decades of intense roles in both broadcast and cable series. With such demanding parts in Oz’ and ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’ Meloni has nurtured talent ability elegantly hand the most complex psychological characters possible. After decade’s appearance in intense cable and broadcast series like ‘Christopher Meloni is a seasoned character actor well suited to this part. Emily VanCamp has been in popular night time soap operas like ‘Brothers and Sisters’ and ‘Revenge’ .permitting her to sharpen her skills to provide an intense experience for the viewer. Arguably the currently biggest name in the cast is Chris Pine, the chosen heir to the Star Trek franchise. This film was made in 2009, well before transformed himself into the new Captain James T. Kirk. After watching this you can understand why he was chosen for such a coveted role. This film is a psychological thriller that is different than what you might expect which is a very good thing.