Pathogen follows a young kid who creates a team of friends to save the world from the zombie apocalypse. What makes this film so special is that it was all made, shot, edited, written, and produced by a twelve-year-old kid. Whatever shortfalls the film has due to its zero-budget and home video camera shooting, it makes up for sheer imagination and creativity. The audio and video presentations are representative of its source and the feature-length documentary about the making of the movie is worth the price of admission alone. This release is Recommended!
In 2004, a 12-year old girl in Austin, Texas named Emily Hagins loved movies. She not only loved movies, but loved the horror genre so much that she convinced her parents, friends, and classmates to act in a movie she wrote. Not even a teenager yet, Emily wrote, directed, edited, produced, and did the cinematography for her own zombie flick titled Pathogen.
Not even able to drive a car, buy a lottery ticket, or stay out past curfew, this young lady made a feature-length film full of actors, set design, blood, guts, makeup, and the undead. This movie Pathogen went on to screen in multiple theaters and became a cult classic. It's a huge feat for anyone to make a feature-length movie from start to finish, let alone a 12-year old kid. The result is something spectacular in and of itself of the sheer imagination and creativity that Emily installed to achieve her vision at such a young age. On the other hand, the movie suffers from a myriad of issues from its non-budget and amateur filmmaking.
Inside the suburbs of Austin, Texas, a mistake is made at a lab that infects everyone's water supply, which turns the residents into zombies. Realistically, everyone panics except for the hardcore, smart 12-year old Dannie (Rose Kent-McGlew), who is super excited for her zombie apocalypse daydreams to come to fruition. She teams up with some classmates to save the world.
Shot all on home video cameras with no real professional audio or video equipment, the movie itself doesn't look great from a visual standpoint. It's full-frame, rough around the edges, and is not lit well whatsoever. In fact, no artificial lighting was used, so in low light sequences, the image is very dark. That being said, Emily's camera angles and the way she uses the viewing lens are incredible for a young kid. She understood how to tell a visual story filled with suspense and horror at every turn.
And since the actors in the film are indeed her friends and family, there isn't much in the way of good performances. Most everything is dead-panned and without emotion. But still, it's incredible that Emily was able to bring a highly-motivated horror movie shooting schedule with multiple participants to tell this fun story of zombies.
Pathogen gives everything it's got and anyone can tell that Emily was just destined to be a great filmmaker from this movie alone. But the lack of any budget or post-production with the exception of editing the film itself is tough to get through. At the same time, Pathogen is a true inspiration to any kid out there with a camera and an idea. Go make a movie with your friends.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Pathogen infects its way to Blu-ray via AGFA and Vinegar Syndrome with a one-disc set that is housed inside a hard, clear plastic case with no cardboard sleeve. The artwork is reversible as well. One side features new art with a closeup of one of the zombies from the film, while the other side features the original poster artwork of the movie. There is no insert inside.
Pathogen comes with a 1080p HD transfer with its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The film was shot with home video cameras in the early 2000s, so there is not a whole lot of depth, clarity, or detail in this image. Most everything is flat and soft. Closeups don't even reveal gooey details or individual hairs. This is not the transfer's fault, but rather the source. In that case, though, the image does its job perfectly. Colors are fairly muted and never have any enhancement filters, however, primaries of the school setting and sunny exteriors do pop more than almost every other scene. Black levels are not inky or deep either.
This release comes with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 track and just like its video presentation, this audio doesn't do anyone any favors either. There was no professional recording equipment used here so it's difficult to hear a lot of the dialogue at times since nobody was mic'd up. There are some funny, gooey sound effects, but they are overdone and sound a little tin-canny. Again, this has nothing to do with the transfer, but rather the source material. Adjusting the volume higher than normal is the way to go here to hear the dialogue, but even then it isn't that clear.
There are 107 minutes of bonus materials included here, one of which is the feature-length documentary of the film, which is a must-watch.
Pathogen is a genuine work of love, hard work, and creativity come to life by a twelve-year-old kid who shot, produced, edited, and wrote the movie with her friends and family. That being said, due to its non-budget, there are issues with just about every element of the movie, but that's not the point here. The video and audio presentation are representative of its source material- warts and all, and the bonus features are worth watching, with the exception of the moderator the commentary track with the impressive Emily Hagins is a great listen. Still, this release is an inspiration to young filmmakers everywhere. Recommended for that full-length making-of documentary alone.