Adrenalin: Fear the Rush (1996)

In the year 2007, Eastern Europe has collapsed after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. On top of all the misery, a lethal virus is spread throughout the continent. People are desperately fleeing to the United States in large numbers, and are quarantined and sealed off into what used to be the city of Boston. In this quarantine zone, a mysterious flesh-eating killer is on the loose. Police officers Lemieux and Delon are sent into the zone together with their team to find and take out the killer. What they do not know is that they are dealing with an enemy of superhuman strength that is also the carrier of the virus. Lured into the dungeons of an old prison, the squad faces terror and pain of extreme proportions.

Filmed in 1996, Albert Pyun provides a bleak vision on the fate of Eastern Europe after the demise of Communism. During that time, this outlook may not have been too unrealistic considering the break-up of Yugoslavia and the subsequent civil war that ensued, and the complete collapse of the Russian Economy in those years. Some gruel real-life footage is added to the intro scenes which set a grim premise for the movie. Also filmed in Eastern Europe, the run-down buildings and deserted streets create a unique, depressing atmosphere throughout the movie. In those years, a whole new vision of a decaying society could be presented from the utilization of Eastern Europe as filming location. I do not know if Albert Pyun was the first director to take advantage of the setting and the lower production costs associated with working there, but I think Adrenalin: Fear the Rush was one of the first movies to utilize it to great effect.

From the first scene on we’re getting acquainted with the style of direction Pyun chose for this movie. A single shot, lasting several minutes through a hospital littered with infected patients and mutilated corpses forms the starting sequence that sets the stage. In the first half of the movie we’re getting embedded into the chase for the killer through ruined buildings and dark alleys. The camera is always on the move, which creates a convincingly immersive atmosphere. The endless chases through empty rooms and corridors have an almost hypnotic effect. Halfway into the movie our characters enter an old prison dungeon. This is when then things get even more nasty, and are intensified by the claustrophobic setting.

This was Natasha Henstridge’s second movie after her successful debut in Species. She is joined by Christopher Lambert, who embarked on a journey through numerous low-budget productions from the mid-90s on. Both play their parts well enough, with Lambert’s character enduring quite the ordeal, as he gets stabbed and shot multiple times during the course of the movie. Pyun regulars Norbert Weisser and Nicolas Guest also have some roles in the movie.

For some reason, the location of the plot was transferred to the US, even though it is clearly visible that buildings like these do not exist in Boston, and the police cars with the label “Policia” were probably not intended to make the refugees feel more at home. But that’s not really a problem, as there is not much reference made to the location where the story takes place anyway. Of course the movie has its flaws, special effects are mostly absent, dialogues are not of the highest level, and shootouts and melee combat is staged rather choppy. Apparently the movie was shot in 3 weeks, so the end result should always be considered in this context.

With Adrenalin: Fear the Rush Albert Pyun again showcased his skills as a director for movies on a tight budget. Cinematography and atmosphere are as good as they can get considering the constraints he probably had to work with. His first take on the horror genre provides a convincing blend of horror and action, and Pyun fully exploits the setting provided by Eastern Europe to stage a gruesome cat- and mouse game that never bores.