Pathogen DVD Review
Written by Robert Gold
Written and Directed by Emily M. Hagins
2009, Region 0 (NTSC), 65 minutes, Not rated
Rose Kent-McGlew as Dannie
Tiger Darrow as Christine
Alec Herskowitz as Sam
Tony Vespe as Cameron
Alex Schroeder as Stacy
Rebecca Elliott as Researcher Sue
When the local water supply is contaminated by a discarded science experiment, several area residents get sick and die. Unfortunately, this is only the beginning as the recently deceased are now walking the streets and attacking the living. Meanwhile, Dannie (Rose Kent-McGlew) is having nightmares about tap water, and the local media are reporting an epidemic that reinforces her fears. She convinces some classmates to help her figure out what is going on, and soon they are running from the living dead. Researcher Sue (Rebecca Elliott) was working on the pathogen in question and she joins the kids in a desperate attempt to find safety. Soon the plague is out of control and our heroes must fight the undead that were once their classmates and try to escape with their lives and bodies intact.
Pathogen is a zombie film set within the world of middle school students who must rely on each other if they are going to survive the ordeal. The actors are mostly first timers, with the exception of the standout Tiger Darrow who has appeared in several productions (including more than one Robert Rodriguez film). Rose Kent-McGlew holds her own as Dannie, the protagonist who discovers the connection between the zombies and the contaminated water supply. The supporting cast is generally strong, giving believable performances more often than not.
Director Emily Hagins creates an apocalyptic vision of Texas, wherein the youth are forced to clean up the mistakes of careless adults. The material is familiar, but the enthusiastic vibe of the presentation is infectious. Hagins delivers some nice suspenseful moments within the school and makes the innocuous come across as creepy and suspicious.
The film is a cluster of technical nightmares ranging from continuity errors to a frenetic style of editing. Expositional scenes at times cut jarringly between takes, but oddly this jumbled style works in an experimental way. Sound equipment frequently appears within shots and some other gaffes find their way into the finished film, although the straightforward presentation allows for a lot of audience forgiveness.
Pathogen is Emily Hagins’ first film and she is quick to point out all of these faults and more on the commentary tracks. She seems eager to learn and grow as a filmmaker and if this is the worst film she makes, it is a severed head and shoulders better than countless other dribble that clogs the racks of video stores around the nation.
Video and Audio:
This is a pretty average presentation that will never be considered reference quality, but lacks any major compression issues or artifacting. The image is solid and skin tones appear natural (on the living.)
Nothing too impressive here, but the 2-channel stereo mix is competent and well-balanced. Music and sound effects will occasionally step on dialogue, but that is more source-related.
The DVD contains some nice treats in the form of two commentary tracks, a blooper reel and a pair of trailers. Manually switching the audio channel reveals a hidden commentary that runs only 25 minutes, which is unfortunate as it is the most informative of the set.
Although not available with this release, a behind the scenes documentary titled Zombie Girl covers many aspects of the production and is highly recommended viewing.
One bit of news that threatens to overshadow this release is that Emily Hagins directed Pathogen at the age of twelve. I have deliberately chosen to withhold this information from the body of my review, as the film should be judged on its own merits. I admit that it was this knowledge that piqued my interest and made me want to see the movie, but the director does not need special treatment since she has made a solid film. Hagins has recently completed her second feature film, The Re-Telling (the trailer can be found on her website). I look forward to seeing this and many other titles from her in the future.
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