The USP in this deadly-virus thriller from Spanish siblings Àlex and David Pastor is that it’s the uninfected survivors, instead of the contagious dead and dying, that pose the greatest danger in a dusty, post-outbreak wasteland of ever-dwindling resources.
Thus we see Chris Pine’s self-serving pragmatist Brian, his compassionate yet weak-willed brother Danny (Lou Taylor Pucci) and their respective squeezes Bobby and Kate (Piper Coyote Ugly Perabo, Emily VanCamp from Brothers & Sisters) on a literal road to nowhere.
Their desperate flight to a hoped-for safe haven (a beach glimpsed in home movie footage of Brian and Danny as children) is constantly under threat from suspicious fellow travellers, gun-toting militia and the odd flesh-eating Alsatian.
Mining its imagery from recent real-life disasters like Hurricane Katrina (houses daubed with digits signifying the number of dead within) and the Sars epidemic (ineffectual face masks jauntily customised with cartoonish mouths), Carriers presents a bleak alt-future where the only thing worse than the airborne pandemic is living in its aftermath. Beyond the odd bloated corpse or blood-spluttering child, however, visceral thrills are in short supply.
The end result, though suitably chilling, doesn’t quite go for the kill like the gorier, nastier Cabin Fever. Here, lethal sickness is sometimes made to seem less a terrible threat than an unpleasant inconvenience.
Though Pine still essays some of Captain Kirk’s cocksure swagger, his hardened realist allows the Star Trek star to show a darker side to his matinee-idol persona. But it’s Pucci who takes the further journey, his moral coward being forced to grow a pair over the course of a film that remains admirably true to its apocalyptic scenario all the way through to its grim finale.
One reason to be cheerful? Turns out you need never wait your turn on the golf course in this blighted tomorrow…
Die-hard horror fans may find this a little on the tame side, while Pucci’s survival rules have a lot in common with Jesse Eisenberg’s in Zombieland. But it’s still a well-crafted gripper, with a nice line in gallows humour.