A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Patient Zero is a movie about a virus outbreak that turns humans into zombie-like monsters. It's very violent, with zombies biting and attacking, blood spraying, guns and shooting, and lots of death. There's a severed arm, slicing with a knife, and impaling with a huge spike, as well as loud noises and jump scares. A couple kisses and has rough sex in a bathroom, though there's no graphic nudity. Expect some sex-related dialogue, as well as plenty of swearing ("f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," and more). Some characters smoke, one sips fine wine, and another swigs from a flask. There's too much shouting and shaky-cam, and the story runs right off the tracks, but mature zombie fans may be interested.
What's the story?
In PATIENT ZERO, an outbreak of a rabies-like virus has turned millions of people into "the Infected." In an underground bunker, the military stands guard while a group of scientists, led by Dr. Gina Rose (Natalie Dormer), tries to find a cure. Former schoolteacher-turned-record store owner Morgan (Matt Smith) was bitten but didn't turn; his unique situation allows him to communicate with the Infected. He questions them and tries to find Patient Zero, the first Infected, whose blood the scientists hope to use as a serum. But just when they think they know everything about these violent creatures, in comes an Infected known only as "the professor" (Stanley Tucci). He seems smarter than the others, capable of deceit. He even asserts that the Infected are actually more evolved -- and that this is the future. Can Morgan hang on to his humanity?
Is it any good?
This quasi-zombie action movie eventually wanders cluelessly off track, but, as it consists mainly of yelling, sudden loud noises, and camera-shaking, it gets aggravating long before that happens. Patient Zero was shelved, delayed, and re-scheduled several times before finally being released. (Like that old Hollywood joke: It wasn't released, it escaped.) It's not clear whether there were re-shoots or it was just a rough screenplay, but the entire concept of "patient zero" -- and the entire theme of the movie -- are simply tossed away in the third act.
What's more, the dialogue is frequently overwritten and over-explanatory. The main character speaks opening and closing narration that's positively eye-rolling, perhaps in an effort to tie things together. Director Stefan Ruzowitzky seems entirely unsuited to this movie, unsure of how to generate suspense or tingles, so he keeps the camera wobbling, punctuates attacks with loud, sudden bangs, and instructs everyone to shout -- or, in Tucci's case, to mug for the camera. (Fortunately, Tucci is good at mugging, and his performance offers the only fun to be had.) Overall, this stuff is all old hat, done already in a dozen zombie movies, and Patient Zero feels like a cheap, oblivious attempt to join in on the craze.
Talk to your kids about ...
Is the movie scary? What's the appeal of scary movies?
Is this a zombie movie, or is it more about an outbreak? If the former, how does it compare to other zombie movies?
- In theaters: September 14, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: October 23, 2018
- Cast: Natalie Dormer, Stanley Tucci, Matt Smith
- Director: Stefan Ruzowitzky
- Studio: Vertical Entertainment
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: bloody violence, language, and some sexual content
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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