The concept of a corrupt prison system using inmates as test subjects dates back to 1771, when the Italian physician and philosopher Luigi Galvani stimulated dead flesh with bioelectricity on the inmates of London’s Newgate Prison. His work, alongside the tales of Johann Konrad Dippel’s experiments in tissue reanimation, fueled Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
And now . . . in an undisclosed future, Warden Crowe and Dr. Brooks conduct “volunteer” clinical trials for commuted sentences at the all-female Saint Leonard’s International Detention & Medical Facility on Saint Leonard’s Island off Ireland’s North Atlantic west coast (based on Spike Island, “Ireland’s Alcatraz” in Cork Harbour, but filmed inside the U.K.’s 400-year old HM Prison Shepton Mallet). Of course, the ends justify the means in the corrupt end of the medical spectrum: the good doctor is developing a cancer-curing drug that could mean a financial windfall to the Warden Crowe.
Just as the experiments go astray—as the test subjects die (graphically) and reanimate—in steps St. Leonards’ newest arrival: Stone (French actor Jess Chanliau in her leading lady debut), an ex-Special Forces and political body guard set up by a corrupt U.S Senator. While the battle lines are drawn inside the prison walls—with Stone leading a small band of survivors against a corrupt guard leading another band of survivors—the island’s small population of 1100 are infected as well, and attacking the prison.
Released in the overseas, international marketplace as Patients of a Saint and rebooted for the U.S. market under the Patient Zero moniker, this second effort by Welsh-born writer-director Russell Owen (the 2013 psycho-thriller Welcome to the Majority) hasn’t done that well in the critical marketplace, with the main complaint being, “we’ve seen it all before.”
While I won’t argue the “derivative” point (and lets be honest: when’s the last time, since the gooey, Italian zom-’80s, we’ve seen a “not derivate” zom-flick), Owen expertly knows how to maximum a tight budget to bring us an A-List Hollywood-styled film that rises above the glut of what’s been way too many Asylum-styled zombie cheap fests. While the Irish and Welsh accents can be a bit trying at times for American ears (as are American-English accents on European ears), Inmate Zero is nonetheless well-acted and undeniably a well-shot horror film. So don’t let the “Americanized” retitle and artwork lead to you believe Russell Owen’s take on the zombie genre is a cheapjack bore fest: it’s packed with plenty of zom-action and top-notch gore effects for horror hounds who like it bloody n’ icky.
Bottom line: I enjoyed this flick! And it gave me chance to work Luigi Galvani and Johann Konrad Dippel into the conversation.
Disclaimer: We did not receive a screener or review request for this movie. We discovered it on our own and enjoyed the film.