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CARRIERS (2009) (***)

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Stephen King named this disease outbreak horror film one of his favorites of 2009. This makes a great deal of sense considering it feels like a King story. King creates tension through personality conflicts and so do directors/writers David and Alex Pastor. It's a mix of THE STAND and ZOMBIELAND, but without the laughs.

An airborne virus has killed most of humanity. A foursome scavenges what they can and avoid the infected at all costs. Danny Green (Lou Taylor Pucci, FAST FOOD NATION) is the sensible one, who conservatively sticks to the rules, even ones that do not apply in a world without a society. His brother Brian (Chris Pine, STAR TREK) is a tough guy smartass, whose maturity is limited so he likes to pick on his smart, awkward younger brother. Bobby (Piper Perabo, THE PRESTIGE) is Brian's girlfriend who seems too caring to be with him. Kate (Emily VanCamp, THE RING TWO) is Danny's girlfriend, who hasn't been with him long, but she has no other place to go.

Along the road they run across Frank Holloway (Christoper Meloni, TV's LAW & ORDER: SVU), who has a sick little girl named Jodie (Kiernan Shipka, TV's MAD MEN). Frank has heard a report that a cure has been found. Brian leaves them behind, but when their car breaks down, they hike back to take their SUV. However, Bobby won't let them leave the little girl in the desert to die, so they come to a compromise.

At its core, the film is a survival tale about the lengths people will go to stay alive. The protagonists fear running into the ones who won't stop at violence. There are others who believe in mercy killings. At a resort, they meet a survivalist group who have their own set of rules for creating their own new society. Danny, Brian, Bobby and Kate have their own way of reacting to the people they encounter. With each new scenario what they think they believe is challenged. Rules sometimes don't apply. Lines of morality are blurred. One decison can change the way they look at everything else after.

The Pastors get strong performances from their cast. Pine exudes alpha male charm and arrogence. Pucci makes Danny sensative and logical — a young man who uses his mind before his emotions unlike his brother. Perabo is effortlessly likable. She is the conscience. VanCamp makes Kate more complex than what is on the page. Her character is in a vulnerable spot; she might act differently if she knew the people she was with better.

CARRIERS doesn't blaze any new ground, but it does build compellingly from one episode to the next pushing its characters to extremes. The situations force the characters to act. Some rise to the occasion and others succumb to it. What seemed wrong before might seem very right later on. Survival is not pretty and after some things are done, you can never go back.

Rick DeMott's picture

Rick DeMott
Animation World Network
Creator of Rick's Flicks Picks