The Spoony One | May 6 2009 | more notation(s) | 

A Review by Noah Antwiler

You're familiar with my recent forays into Japanese/Korean/Chinese horror, and odds are, you're not going to pick up a single one of them on a dare. Which is fine because for the most part, if you've seen Ju-On, you've seen 'em all. But there ARE some movies that are worth seeing, and I really wouldn't lie to you! Only a few really stand out in the last few years: Uzumaki, The Eye, andLiving Hell are probably the best. Everything else? Well.

Little girls, long hair, same old story time and time again.

You know.

This time around, I rented a movie blind. With no research, forewarning, or preconceptions, I picked up Infection and was immediately impressed that its American distribution is produced by Lion's Gate Films. That says something, doesn't it? Maybe? Well hey, you don't care about producers. You care about three things: is it any good, does it have creepy chicks with long hair over their faces, and will I see lots of hot Asian boobs?

The answer to two of those questions is "no."

Infection is one of those deceptively hard movies to recap. I can't tell you much without spoiling it for you, and yet, anything I tell you that's short of the BIG SECRET isn't really a spoiler at all. Follow me? I'll tell you the premise that the movie sets us up with; that should serve to satisfy you without getting the Spoiler Police at my door. The movie follows the most hellish night imaginable for a run-down, understaffed, under-supplied, and under-funded Japanese hospital. The hospital director is completely absent, nobody's getting paid on time, the skeleton crew of nurses are working their asses off on extra shifts, and there are new patients flooding in all the time. Worse, they're running short on damn near everything.

It doesn't help that most of the hospital staff is either completely insane, hopelessly incompetent, or an oddly inappropriate mix of both. In my previous rant on the movie Tomie, I exposed my naivete by stating quite confidently that I didn't think that doctors smoked that much on the job, nor would they actually offer patients cigarettes. I figured that's some kind of Hippocratic Oath violation...thingy...but, some faithful readers wrote in and nicely told me what a dumbass I am, and that I don't even want to know what kind of drugs most doctors are on to keep up with the insane shifts they have to work sometimes.

Gee, I feel better.

Anyway, the reason I bring that up is because I kept questioning whether or not it was indeed possible that a hospital would hire complete nincompoops as nurses. Then I started getting scared. WOULD a hospital hire a nurse that's so queasy and pathetic she can hardly bring herself to poke a syringe into a patient? And then when she finally works the nerve up to do so, violently JAM the syringe into him? Several times? Several DOZEN times? Actually thinking she might hit a vein doing so? You see my problem. Obviously nobody would be this stupid, but then, we have people like this:

Okay, I admit it. That's me...

Ugh, anyway, that's not really the issue here. The point is, that the tension escalates rather effectively by heaping on this nightmare scenario, despite the rather exaggerated character flaws exhibited by most of the crew. Frustrated and at the point of abandoning the entire place, the doctors refuse to accept any more patients, and vow to find places to transfer the patients they have to other hospitals "if we can just last the night."

On cue, an ambulance arrives. The frantic paramedic insists over Dr. Akiba's protests that they've been driving for an hour with a guy who's been running an outrageous 109 degree fever, and it's turning his brains into scrambled eggs by the second. Akiba remains noncommital, and his train of thought is derailed when a comatose burn patient somehow falls out of bed and flatlines on the floor. Akiba answers the call with the rest of the staff, and disaster strikes. The nurses screw up and inject the man with precisely the right turn his blood into a toxic soupy mess. Naturally the patient croaks on the spot, and the staff is in full panic-mode.

Should they come clean to the Health Department and fill out the report? Should they try to cover it up? If they tell the truth, they'll be ruined forever. If they cover it up, they better make dang sure they do it right or they're in even deeper kimshee than they were before. (Myself, I would have thrown the retarded nurse under the bus and let her take the fall. I'm all about scapegoats!) Anyway, they figure it can't be TOO hard to cover this mistake up, as long as they try to accelerate his decomposition a little to cover up the poisonous cocktail they mistakenly injected him with.

Unfortunately, they forgot about the infectious dude that got wheeled in by the paramedics. One of the doctors, Dr. Akai, wheels the guy in to be examined, and finds that whatever he's infected with, it turns its victim into a RAPIDLY melting, leaking, sloppy pile of disgusting green offal. And I mean it's nasty, messy stuff. The patient is so gloopy and gross he's dribbling and spraying green crud everywhere, and he's smiling! The director wisely leaves any actual look AT the patient off-camera. You never actually see this Patient Zero, just the disgusting aftermath of his degeneration. This is wise, channeling Hitchcock to the core, and it's effective. The movie is genuinely nauseating and, in this case, is a rare instance in which gore-horror actually works to elevate the suspense.

Believe me, it doesn't happen often. Even at the best of times it tends to come off campy and funny like Evil Dead 2.

Now I know what you're thinking. Nothing I've said so far makes it sound good. Nothing I said about the LAST movie I reviewed made it sound any good. It's a gore-horror, it's almost non-sensical, and it has fairly over-the-top characters, including an insane doctor who wants to hold off on calling the Health Department on this horrendous infection because "we can be the first to exploit it scientifically and make MILLIONS!" The characters make monumentally stupid decisions like following someone's suggestion to split up to find the melting madman who's escaped into the hospital, INSTEAD of saying, "Um yeah Doctor, with all due respect, fuck you, I'm going home."

But I'll tell you this now without spoiling much, the ending wraps it up nicely. This movie ain't great, but it works. It's good. And guess what? Not one spooky long-haired girl. NOT ONE.

It ain't art, but by god if you want a bloody sloppy mess of a scary movie without spooky chicks that need a brush, you can't go wrong.

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