Heartland: New Life
Two talented actresses make this a killer viral thriller.
For Heartland Film Festival schedule and tickets, please click here.
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After the past few years the last thing many of us would wanna see is a horror-thriller about a burgeoning global plague. However, when the movie is as engaging as “New Life” this idea goes right out the window.
Jessica Murdock (Haley Erin, a soap opera veteran who’s appeared on “General Hospital” and “The Young and the Restless”) and her fiancé Ian (Nick George) go on a camping trip and encounter an abandoned dog. Jessica takes a shine to the pooch – going so far as to snuggle it while she and Ian are sleeping.
Upon returning home (sans canine), Ian begins coughing and developing lesions. Jessica shows no symptoms. The couple is taken into governmental custody where they’re studied by scientists. Jessica, tired of being a detainee, attempts to escape and accidentally dispatches one of the researchers. She’s free, but must now flee.
Jessica is helped while on the road by a kindly old farmer named Frank Lerner (Blaine Palmer) and his wife Janie (Betty Moyer) who feed and clothe her. Friendly barkeep Molly Presser (Ayanna Berkshire) provides Jessica with work as a barback and a place to stay.
Jessica needs all the assistance she can get as she’s being pursued by dogged governmental fixer Elsa Gray (Sonya Walger, who I’ve always remembered from HBO’s early aughts sitcom “Mind of the Married Man”). Elsa takes her marching orders from Raymond Reed (Tony Amendola) and is assisted by her techie “guy in the van” Vince Harding (Jeb Berrier).
Elsa’s got issues of her own after being recently diagnosed with ALS, which she hasn’t disclosed to her colleagues. Elsa’s brain is still sharp, but her body is flagging. This makes her pursuit of Jessica all the more daunting.
“New Life” is the writing and directing debut of John Rosman and it’s an assured effort. Walger and Erin are both electric playing opposite sides of the same coin. They’re greatly aided by Rosman’s script, which brings a good deal of sensitivity to each character’s particular predicament.
There are a lot of little things “New Life” does right. I loved its incessant usage of Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” (which I’ve listened to on loop while writing this review … God only knows how the filmmakers got the budget for this tune?) and the espionage movie-esque editing from Enzo Rafa Rain Collective calling to mind Tony Scott efforts from the late 1990s and early aughts (namely “Enemy of the State” and “Spy Game”).
Rosman is a cinematic voice to be watched. He’s made a movie concerning ALS and a virus with nary an Ice Bucket Challenge nor anyone f*cking a bat. This plays out like some sort of strange amalgamation of “The Crazies” (either George A. Romero’s or Breck Eisner’s) and one of the “Bourne” pictures. I’m here for it. I suspect you will be too.