Hollywood hasn’t had a lot of luck turning video games into movies, but borrowing the “look” of the medium has yielded more interesting results. Disney’s Tron is considered a cult-classic, as is the arcade-oriented The Last Starfighter, and the Mouse House had a big hit a few years back with Wreck-It Ralph — in which the characters of a fictional game interacted with real-life legends of the genre. Speaking of cult classics, Scott Pilgrim may not have taken flight at the box-office, but fans have turned it into a Midnight Movie staple thanks in part to its energetic game-inspired action sequences.
Now, here’s the first trailer for the new zombie horror film Pandemic, which puts a new visual spin on the familiar “scientists stuck in a plague-zone” setup, as it’s filmed in the style of a first-person shooter.
Directed by John Suits of The Scribbler and produced by Gabriel Cowan, through the duo’s independent production company New Artist Alliance and XLRator Media, Pandemic follows a team of scientists (including Rachel Nichols, Missi Pyle, and Mekhi Phifer) as they enter a condemned city during a zombie-virus outbreak that has overtaken most of the planet. Their goal of rescuing uninfected citizens and potentially finding a cure requires the use of protective suits, which come equipped with cameras that allow the audience to view their experience from a first-person perspective. This technique effectively mimics the visual language of popular games like Halo and Call of Duty.
The film is currently being promoted as “a new model of action thriller for the video game generation.” At least that’s what the president of Content Media (which holds international distribution rights to the film) said:
“Pandemic is a potential game changer. The FPS component immerses the viewer right into heart the film – in a hybrid gamer style. We’re incredibly impressed with John and Gabriel’s inventive work.”
First-person storytelling is today most associated with multiplayer video games (hence the deliberate referencing of the genre in Pandemic’s trailer) it’s hardly new to movie screens — however, it’s seldom translated to box-office success. The 2012 remake of Maniac scored with horror critics but proved too disturbing to make a box-office dent, and an attempt to apply the aesthetic to a film noir detective story with Lady in The Lake famously left audiences scratching their heads back in 1947. This also isn’t the first time it’s been used to directly reference gaming: the 2005 adaptation of Doom switched to a recreation of the game series’ famous FPS viewpoint for it’s final action stretch, though fans remain divided over whether that was the best or worst part of the film.
For Pandemic to succeed, it will likely rely on mainstream action audiences interested in checking out an enduring popular genre (zombie movies, appropriately, seem incapable of dying off) from a unique perspective that all-but guarantees a persistent sense of tension and dread. While prior efforts at first-person movies may not have sold, that may no longer be the case with FPS games having acclimated so much of the potential audience to experiencing a narrative from this angle. Earlier this year, a similarly-shot first-person action film featuring Sharlto Copley called Hardcore Henry (originally just called Hardcore) sold as a hot item at the Toronto International Film Festival and is due to hit theaters on April 8th — one week after the schedule release for Pandemic.