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Ghost Canyon

(Tiffani Thiessen, Vincent Spano, French Stewart, et al / DVD / NR / 2007 / RHI Entertainment)

Overview: After a nineteen-year-old male dies on a flight following a raging fever and violent convulsions, CDC epidemiologist Dr. Kayla Martin (Tiffani Thiessen) and her partner Carl Ratner (French Stewart) consider the frightening possibilities—the reality of the bird flu, the probability of a biological attack, or worse, a new virus they can’t control. But by the time the passengers of the flight are filtered into the ward of a local hospital, the infection is already poisoning sections of Los Angeles, unbeknownst to each victim who passes it on.

DVD Verdict: Although it is a bit formulaic, 'Pandemic' will make you think twice the next time someone sneezes next to you! The film (which was made for television) was directed by Armand Mastroianni and was written by Bryce and Jackie Zabel. It has a number of stars including Tiffani Thiessen, Vincent Spano, Faye Dunaway, Eric Roberts, Bruce Boxleitner, Bob Gunton, Alex Paez, James DuMont, and French Stewart.

Borrowing elements from other disease type movies (such 1995’s Outbreak), Pandemic follows the aftermath of an air-born virus hitting Los Angeles. It starts with a nineteen-year-old man dying from the nasty bug while he is on an airplane headed to L.A. CDC epidemiologist Dr. Kayla Martin (Thiessen) and her partner Carl Ratner (Stewart) make the decision to have the passengers quarantined while they investigate what caused the death. Of course, one of the passengers never makes it to the makeshift hospital, and before long Los Angeles becomes a “hot zone.”

Along with other members of the CDC, Martin and Ratner spend the rest of the film trying to discover just what kind of bug is killing people and how they can stop it before it spreads outside of the city - which eventually becomes quarantined when the governor Dunaway calls in the National Guard.

While all the people are dropping from a bad case of the flu, several subplots are developed. The biggest subplot follows Troy Whitlock (Spano) – a divorced cop who is trying to recapture drug kingpin Edward Vicente (Michael Massee). Vicente was on the plane, but for some reason he doesn’t get sick. This leads Martin and Ratner to believe he could be the key to stopping the bug, and saving the city.

Another subplot is the political wrangling that is going on behind the scenes between Mayor Dalesandro (Roberts) and Governor Shaefer (Dunaway). It is an election year, and whoever handles the pandemic the right way could come out on top. Of course, the mayor’s advisor (Boxleitner) just continues to add fuel to the fire to make sure his guy comes out on top.

Pandemic is a film that borrows from past “killer virus” movies, and adds a bit of its own spin. It has elements of Outbreak (where a city is quarantined by the government while a virus kills everyone), but tries to throw in some subplots to make it different. Sadly, these subplots (such as the nutty government conspiracy freedom fighters) just weigh it down.

It is obliviously a television movie, but doesn’t quite hold up to some of the standards that television has set with its programming lately (such as 2005’s Into the West or any of the shows on HBO). Instead, this feels like a throwback to the bad television events of the 70s and 80s – think Killer Bees. The movie starts off pretty decent, but spirals quickly out of control and into the absurd.

The acting is decent, but it is a bit sad to see some of Hollywood’s best (what is Dunaway doing in this film??) reduced to this movie. The filming is pretty solid and director Armand Mastroianni handles the massive scope of the story. You feel the paranoia that no doubt would follow an outbreak like this, and the political red tape was a nice believable touch. Sadly, it isn’t enough to save the film.

'Pandemic' started off halfway decent, but went downhill pretty quick. It is an entertaining enough way to kill a couple of hours, but don’t expect too much out of it. If you are into this type of genre, then the movie is worth watching. Otherwise, you won’t miss anything if you skip it. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Creating a Pandemic - Behind The Scenes Featurette
Interviews with the Cast
Original Pandemic Trailer