One of five or so films with this hot-button title made in the last few years – it thoughtfully points out that if you drop a few letters, ‘pandemic’ spells ‘panic’, which is about the level of profundity or science you’d expect. It’s a three-hour DVD release, but a fade and recap in the middle show that Hallmark are plainly ready to recycle it as a two-part miniseries. Like tall the best virus-outbreak disaster pictures, it periodically flashes up statistics on the number of people infected or deceased and the hours since the first human contact. Some dead birds and a dead dog on an Australian beach indicate the chain of the new virus, which gets into a surfer dude who promptly dies on a flight from Australia to LAX – the plane is quarantined at the airport as the boffins in plastic suits go into action, but a nasty yuppie realtor (Robert Curtis Brown) hides in a baggage container so he can get out to seal a big deal with Hollywood type ‘Michael Torino’ (John Kapelos) and naturally the new disease takes hold in the city. Meanwhile, back in Australia … actually, who cares? Even though this was shot down under, there’s no confirmation or denial of whether the not-exactly-unpopulated continent is being devastated by a new plague, since we have cute Los Angeles teenagers, supermodels, National Guardsmen, class valedictorians and spin doctors to worry about.
With three hours to fill, a bunch of people looking into microscopes or coughing their lungs out isn’t enough – so screenwriters Bryce and Jackie Zabel toss in a ton of sub-plots: the Mayor (Eric Roberts!) and the Governor (Faye Dunaway!!) are in a pissing contest about the exercise of power, with an adviser (Bruce Boxleitner) snarling stern news updates in the corridors of power; drugs baron Vicente (you-know-the-face evil type Michael Massee) is busted out of quarantine by his hoods, with a CDC head honcho (Bob Gunton) as hostage, and hijacks two truckloads of ‘Cotoxil’ (the only effective treatment!) then tries to hold the city to ransom (with the added complication that the bad guy’s immunity might be the key to a vaccine); the FBI agent (Vincent Spano) on the case is worried about his nice ex-wife, whose shallow new husband ups and leaves at her first cough, which means her son (the creepy-looking Colby Paul) hares off with a gun and holds up an ATM customer so he can buy black-market Cotoxil (but he says sorry later, so that’s all right); some shirty survivalists think it’s all a government plot and want to bust through the city-wide cordon, which puts them on a collision course with the authorities; a fashion photographer (Jo Champa) finds a new purpose by holding her camera sideways and chronicling the sufferings of sick people until she herself dies; infected at his premiere, Torino and a thin model head off to sea in a yacht with a supply of the as-it-turns-out ineffective treatment ‘Tana Flu’ and die; and the heroine (Tiffani Thiessen, who we take so much more seriously now she’s not billed as Tiffani-Amber) is working even harder than she might be because her favourite niece is one of the early infectees.
Directed by Armand Mastroianni, who made one of the few early ‘80s slasher hits (He Knows You’re Alone) no one has bothered to remake.