‘Strain 100’ is a 2020 zombie movie from writer/director Hassan Hussein and screenwriter Todd Klick (‘Followed’ 2018). ‘Strain 100’ follows a group of people surviving a zombie outbreak resulting from a mutation of a flu vaccine.
Early on, after the protagonist Jesse (Jemma Dallender ‘I Spit on Your Grave II’ 2013) escapes an attack while camping with friends, she meets Emma (Alexis Boozer Sterling ‘Hide in the Light‘ 2018), a waitress from a local diner. They mutually discover that Jesse has been bitten but doesn’t seem to exhibit signs of zombiism and is also unvaccinated. After a lengthy discussion on why Jesse hasn’t turned, she reveals that her mother is a scientist who “used to give her a bunch of pills as a child”.
Emma has the plan to head back to the safety of the diner, where other survivors are holding up, but asks that Jesse keeps the bite a secret. Meanwhile, Jesse goes with her to pick up a car and head to her mother, hoping for answers or a solution to the outbreak.
While I respect and appreciate the attempt to think outside the box, ‘Strain 100’ is less than original. Posing the perspective that a vaccine would be catastrophic is tricky and controversial considering the whole anti-vaxxer movement. Making it the inciting incident of a film is not subversive nor a harrowing plot twist.
History has shown that our government is less than trustworthy when it comes to so many things, including public health and safety. Just Google the Tuskegee experiment for a start. So it’s not a stretch to think that the government would potentially do something that could cause us harm.
However, the reason research spans a 20-year period before being rolled out to the public is to minimize and be aware of any major adverse effects. And the reason so many deadly illnesses no longer pose a threat is because of vaccines and trusting science and modern medicine. But even then, there’s room for conspiracy that the government would put something in vaccines for the sake of testing.
If anything, ‘Strain 100’ could serve as an exercise in critical thinking. I give kudos to the actors and credit for it being well-shot with decent VFX. But the dialogue is a bit rough and the characters’ decisions and interactions are questionable at best. The worst character was the diner owner Roy. Nothing about his line delivery was natural or made sense.
The pacing of the film is basically one speed and there’s a lack of tension or suspense. It’s like starting a lawnmower, rigging it to just go, and letting it run over a bunch of blood-filled balloons that scream when they get run over.
There are attempts at deeply sentimental and dramatic moments, but there are no real connections to be made with any of the characters. Again, they’re very well performed, it’s just how they show up in the story, there’s no way for you to really bond with them to feel the tug at your heartstrings.
In a genre with a story that’s been told time and time again, you have to find ways to offer something the audience can connect to or take away with them. Otherwise, it’s just another subgenre of horror film in a sea of millions. Quirky humor, memorable characters, deeply thought-provoking perspectives that subverts the audience’s expectations, and jaw-dropping twists; are things I look for when reviewing something that’s one of many.
The hard work of the cast and crew shows. Where I feel the film lacks is its foundation. I suppose if someone deeply loves ingesting zombie movies, it’s not a bad watch. It’s not painful at all, it’s just “why”? Personally, I couldn’t find anything that really connected or stood out.
Strain 100 is available now to rent and own on digital platforms.