Virus X

But we feel fine, and we’re already the point where we can make a movie about it, and no one even blinks.

The film in question is “Virus X,” one of the coolest-sounding titles you’ll encounter all year, even if the product isn’t exactly memorable.

The not-terrible thriller takes place inside perhaps the dingiest lab the screen has seen, compared to the sterile, stark white of “Outbreak” and its ilk. The place is attempting to synthesize a vaccine for H1N1, and its new hire is superstar cell doc Malcolm Burr (Jai Day), a 29-year-old hotshot with field experience in South America.

How far will his brilliance and know-how get them when he and his peers become part of the experiment? Under the demands of the lab’s financier (Sybil Danning, still smokin’), humans are used as unwilling test subjects of an aggressive, fast-acting, highly mutated strain that turns them into quasi-zombies. Burr and his labmates find themselves locked inside and observed via surveillance cameras. I’m not sure quite what to make of the creepy, hall-haunting killer character of Jerron (producer Domiziano Arcangeli), an androgynous albino seemingly imported from another film entirely.

This kind of one-locale scenario is a decent idea for a low-budget effort, if only debuting director Ryan Stevens Harris could pull it off. Despite an admirable try, amateurish acting and a half-simmering script do it in.

Lionsgate’s DVD sports a special feature so strange, I doubt it’ll be topped in all of 2011: interviews with cast and crew by one Dawna Lee Heising, from her own interview show, “Eye on Entertainment.” An actress herself (but by no means a skilled broadcast journalist), the poor woman looks like she’s had too many plastic surgeries for comfort. With the trout pout and a Barbie-doll bod, it’s no wonder she’s been cast three times in her career as “Prostitute,” according to IMDb (and, to be fair, once as “Village Sorceress” and another as “Cleo the Snake Dancer”). All her interviews take place before a “Virus X” screening for distributors and buyers; for the occasion, Harris has chosen to dress up in fingerless gloves. —Rod Lott

Rod Lott

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