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'Pandemic' spreads fear effectively

 'Pandemic' spreads fear effectively
Mekhi Phifer makes a stand as Gunner in the killer-virus action film “Pandemic” by John Suits. (XLrator Media)

In "Pandemic," a virus that causes brain hemorrhaging and violent outbursts has wiped out 2.5 billion people. A team consisting of a doctor, a navigator, a driver and a gunner leaves behind the relative safety of base camp — through a frenzied ruck of the infected outside the gate — on a mission to extract uninfected survivors trapped inside a downtown L.A. school.

Director John Suits shoots from the characters' points of view, leaving the impression that this might have been a montage of helmet-cam footage. He stages scenes as live-action video games to downplay the derivativeness of it all, coyly sidestepping any direct reference to zombies and found footage while seemingly unaware of the Spanish horror film "[Rec]," its three sequels and a U.S. remake, "Quarantine."

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"Pandemic" proves serviceably frightening, if sporadically gory, maximizing tension derived from unknown dangers lurking in dark corridors and behind closed doors. But the extraordinary circumstances fail to bring the maternal instincts of our heroine, Dr. Lauren Chase (Rachel Nichols), to a boil and turn her into an Ellen Ripley or a Sarah Connor.

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"Pandemic."

MPAA rating: None.

Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes.

Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood.

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