PATIENT ZERO (2018) is a zombie movie that aims for the stars but only makes it as far as the roof. There’s something strangely compelling about it, the way those old Ginzu knife infomercials used to be compelling (“if you buy now you also get…”), but like those old infomercials, in the end, you don’t buy it.
The movie starts with the remnants of humanity surviving in underground bunkers like nuclear silos. The disease is a rabies-like illness that produces violent infected called Mad Dogs (those who know my zombie fiction are probably laughing by now). In one bunker, Dr. Gina Rose (Natalie Dormer) works with Morgan (Matt Smith), the only human known to have been bitten but survived, hope to combine his blood with that of the first infected, patient zero, in the hope of making a vaccine or a cure (the movie confuses the two). With a DAY OF THE DEAD feel, they work with the military to capture infected and interrogate them in the hopes of identifying patient zero. (Morgan can somehow communicate with the infected in their language, which consists of roars and grunts.) The officer in charge of the operation (a stock villain) thinks it’s a waste of time, resulting in conflict between the scientists and military. Compounding all this is a melodramatic love triangle between Morgan and his infected wife, held in a cage in the facility, and Dr. Rose. When an infected (Stanley Tucci) infiltrates the facility showing self-control and rational thought, indicating the infected are evolving and organizing, everybody is put in danger.
This is an odd movie, stitching together interesting elements, intriguing premise, competent direction, very good acting, and strangely engaging melodrama into a hot mess with weak villains, zombies that aren’t scary, some crazy dialogue, and a flat ending. The movie tries to be and do too much, but I don’t know whether that sinks it or saves it. Overall, I have to give it a C+.