During the height of the lockdown, film fans around the world were just waiting for the deluge of pathogen-centered films to dominate the cinematic landscape. The largely unprecedented degree of isolation that the majority of the world’s population was subjected to naturally provided an easy starting point for many writers and directors. Almost every genre imaginable was given the COVID-19 treatment with varying degrees of success. But horror and science fiction are particularly well-suited vehicles for such narratives. Director Daniel Byers’ Eradication, which he co-wrote with star Harry Aspinwall, is better than most coronavirus-inspired tales, even if it’s catching only the tail-end of our cultural obsession with the pandemic.
At least part of the allure of developing a screenplay centered around isolation is that there’s now a built-in audience that can identify with characters like David (Aspinwall). He’s the lone survivor of a deadly virus locked up in an expansive house in the lush wilderness. With the close collaboration of his geographically separated wife, Sam (Anita Abdinezhad), a scientist at a CDC-like organization, he has crafted an exacting routine that permits his continued health. Most importantly, though, David’s strict schedule allows for him to regularly deposit bags of his blood that Sam and her demanding colleagues can study so they can begin the work of finding a cure.
Nothing quite adds up, though, as the swarms of aerial drones purportedly there to protect David seem more like government minders than benevolent robotic angels. It’s not spoiling anything to make clear that there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes in Eradication. And as we get to the bottom of these mysteries, there is no shortage of scares and plot twists – all delivered with an economy of scale apropos of a modest production.
“…regularly deposit bags of his blood that Sam and her demanding colleagues can study…”
Aspinwall is on screen for what seems like nearly the entire film. He’s a great cipher for the audience as he reconciles with isolation and a deteriorating sense of reality. Abdinezhad is also worthy of note because she is effective once the film turns in a decidedly darker direction. With the exception of a few minor roles, this is largely a two-hander, and Aspinwall and Abdinezhad manage to make it work.
There’s nothing revolutionary on display in Eradication. Especially in the post-Covid world, it may seem like we’ve been down this road. But I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, genre conventions often exist for a reason: because they work. Byers still manages to scare and confound us, even while working within these strictures. I found the last few sequences to be perhaps too eager to achieve unnecessary profundity (you’ll know it when you see it), but this isn’t uncommon when filmmakers desire to transcend genre.
All hail the ninety-minute genre film! As prestige films now push three hours on the regular, and the giant streamers push endless algorithmic-based content, we need something like Eradication to bridge that gap. It may not be a life-changing experience or even one we’ll still be talking about a year from now, but it is still better than 90% of Netflix originals that are attempting something similar, so Daniel Byers and co. can always hang their hats on that!
"…manages to scare and confound us..."