When the mysterious rage inducing MN-2 virus begins to spread in Karachi, Pakistan the impact hits close to home for American engineer Craig Evans (Robin Dunne). After his wife Insiya (Juggan Kazim) contracts the virus, and is subsequently placed in a medically induced coma, Craig struggles keep hope alive that her condition will improve. Although the Ingenec pharmaceutical company has developed a wearable patch that temporarily sedates the symptoms in milder cases, the remedy has not had any effect on severe cases such as Insiya.
Hearing rumors of the existence of a possible cure, Craig finds himself in an in web of intrigue when the body of a dead journalist raises questions about the origins of the virus.
Altered Skin may dip its toes in the pool of the zombie genre, but director Adnan Ahmed is not too concerned with fully swimming in familiar tropes. There are the traditional scenes where Craig must fight his way through a horde of infected individuals, referred to as “carriers”, but Ahmed is more interested in constructing a layered mystery. This allows the film to be an effective thriller without being stifled by the need to simply check off boxes.
While it is great to see a film like this set in Pakistan and feature a predominantly South Asian cast in prominent roles such as journalists, CEOs, doctors etc, one cannot help but be a bit disheartened that the “savior” in the film is still a white male. Though I understand the reasons from a business perspective, the industry sadly still unjustly sees white males as the biggest bankable commodity globally; Altered Skin serves as a reminder of how far the film industry still needs to go in representation with respect to leading roles.
Despite these quibbles, Altered Skin is a satisfying thriller that offers a fresh cultural take on a familiar genre.
Friday, November 23, 7 PM, The Royal Cinema