Infeccion (Infection) is writer/director Flavio Pedota’s debut feature length film and Venezuela’s first zombie flick. While the movie contains many of the genre’s popular tropes, it is the location that sets it apart from all others. Pedota wanted viewers to know that he was not just making a zombie movie; he was exposing the truth about Venezuela’s devastating socio-political crisis. The crumbling buildings and abandoned cars in the movie are real, as is the fear that only a foreign country or organization can save the population now. It was not easy for Venezuelan-born Pedota to return to his hometown of Cagua to film Infeccion; his government refused to fund the project and eventually banned the movie entirely. Pedota knew, however, that he could produce a spectacular horror set against the backdrop of Venezuela’s devastation and share his message with the world at the same time.
The film begins with drug addicts using dirty needles, surrounded by dead bats and squalor, suggesting that rabies is going to play a part in the forthcoming zombie outbreak. While this has been done before (Quarantine, Patient Zero), none have been set in what has arguably become a third world country. In Infeccion, there is little access to communication or transportation right from the start of the outbreak. Lead character Adam Vargas (Ruben Guevara), the village doctor, only learns of the mysterious illness sweeping the country after his neighbour Johnny (Leonidas Urbina) brings his wife Ana (Isabel Bertelsen) in for examination. Through spotty cable reception and failing internet/cell service, he understands enough to know that something big is happening and that he must get his friends to a research base where the WHO is trying to develop a cure for what Ana seems to have contracted. There’s just one problem: Adam is recently widowed, and his young son Miguel (Luca de Lima) is spending the week with his in-laws in a town an hour away.
The film starts slowly but picks up the pace after the introduction of the first zombie. Minor characters who cluttered the storyline in the beginning are quickly pruned so that we can focus on the plot. Navigating their way through military roadblocks and hordes of psychotic zombies, Adam and Johnny must work together to save little Miguel and make it to the WHO’s base before the infected catch them. There are a lot of close calls, of course, providing visually horrifying scenes of zombies shredding humans while increasing our anxiety for the protagonists.
One of the best features of this film is the zombies themselves. The physical acting is demanding, and not a single actor failed their role. Their chaotic head movements and guttural snarling are truly terrifying to watch as they dart at and past the cameras. The sound mixing is done so well in these scenes that we feel like we are there; the zombies only one step away from devouring us, too. Infeccion’s zombies were not raised from the dead; they were infected by a mutated rabies strain that makes them hyperaware, insane, very fast, and hungry for blood. Pedota is careful to keep his them as human-looking as possible, modifying only their eyes and refraining from any suggestion of decomposition. It’s a version of the apocalypse that many of us fear could happen.
Pedota masterfully weaves the tale of a father desperate to reach his son during an epidemic with a social commentary on Venezuela’s quickly devolving society. He explores the depths to which we may lower ourselves to survive with psychologically terrifying situations involving depraved people taking advantage of a bad situation. In both worlds (a zombie apocalypse and the desperate escape that millions of Venezuelans are still trying to make), it is difficult to know who to trust, including the authorities.
This movie plot may not be all that different from zombie movies that we’ve already seen, but it is an important addition to the genre for its unique point of view. Should an epidemic like this one actually originate in a third world country that is often cut off from the rest of the world by military intervention and a substandard communications system, it could unfold exactly as Pedota and Cabral wrote it.
With action-packed scenes that are designed to develop Adam and Johnny’s bond while the world around them goes dark, this is an incredible example of what a cinematic visionary like Pedota can do on a shoestring budget while dodging (literal) bullets. He has now relocated to Mexico where he is working on developing his second feature film. In at least one interview he hinted that it may be located in another Latin American country, at a point in the near future when the population has doubled.
All horror fans need to watch for two reasons: to better understand the situation in Venezuela and what it takes to make an independent film in such a setting, and also because it’s a damn good movie.
The title is available for purchase and stream, courtesy of Jinga Films in the UK.
Kate’s love of all things dark began as a child and deepened when she realized what being an adult meant. She was born with a pencil in her hand and loves nothing more than writing horrific stories to tantalize her inner demons. Kate lives in Hamilton, Ontario Canada with her husband and her boys, stirring up trouble wherever she can.