Title: Patient Zero
Director: Stefan Ruzowitzky
Starring: Matt Smith, Natalie Dormer, Stanley Tucci
Runtime: 1 Hour 33 Minutes
What It Is: In a world ravaged by a mutated form of rabies, a group of soldiers, scientists and civilians cower in an underground bunker, where studies on the captured infected hope to reveal the location of the elusive “patient zero”, from whose DNA a cure can be reverse-engineered.
What We Think: The film’s initial good idea is that one of the soldiers (played by Doctor Who’s Matt Smith) can converse with the subjects thanks to having been bitten but never turned. Most of them are crazed and thoroughly inarticulate, but through a combination of vinyl-based torture and probing questioning, he can get something out of them; especially an extremely chatty college professor played by Stanley Tucci. Here’s the problem: Patient Zero makes no effort whatsoever to really explain how and why this works, so the overall impression is that the zombies can just communicate normally and Matt is the only one who can be bothered to chat them up. What matters, really, is that the zombies are up to something. Tucci’s actually great here as a swole intellectual with menacing cat-eye contact lenses; his unspoken promise that this is all a fiendish master plan is what keeps Patient Zero trundling along its disjointed structure, even though it’s abundantly clear from the clunky character development and unsteady tone that large sections of the plot were snipped away to keep things pacey. The finale descends into the usual brain-munching carnage, a distinct impression that no-one was really sure exactly how the whole thing should play out, and an ending so abrupt it gives new meaning to the expression “oh, is that it?”.
Our Grade: F, In conclusion, the film is as flat as a surfing board and the concept of a person interrogating a zombie is laughable. Fans of zombie-adjacent cinema might get something out of this, even if it’s only a headache. I really wouldn’t bother – the ending was clearly rushed and didn’t hold together at all and Matt Smith’s American non-descript accent will make you laugh out loud.