Ever since Danny Boyle introduced us to the “rage virus”, there has been a marked trend of framing the zombie movie as more of a viral outbreak thriller than the old-school creature feature conventions that initially kicked off the genre. In Altered Skin, the directorial debut of visual-effects artist Adnan Ahmed, the virus has spread throughout Pakistan, where American expat Craig Evans (Robin Dunne) desperately needs to find a cure for his wife.
As the outbreak becomes more widespread, a local pharmaceutical company called Ingenec develops a drug in the form of a patch to temporarily ward off the symptoms of flying into a murderous, bloodthirsty rage. But the infected all eventually succumb to the disease in the end and once Craig’s wife, a doctor herself, moves into the advanced stages, they have no choice but to induce a coma. Fearing all hope may be lost, he is suddenly contacted by the wife of a missing journalist who had been investigating Ingenec’s shady practices, plunging Craig into a dangerous pharmaceutical conspiracy.
While throwing zombie horror and corporate espionage mystery together isn’t inherently a bad idea, Altered Skin doesn’t excel enough at either to make it particularly worth watching. In fact, the zombies themselves are absent for such long stretches of the film that you almost forget they’re even a threat. Meanwhile, watching Craig sneak around the streets of Karachi trying to expose Ingenec’s secrets has all the enthusiasm of a bland network TV procedural. The foreign location is utilized nicely but brief attempts to tie the narrative to the sociopolitical climate of the region are also quickly squashed.
Once the undead finally do pop back up, we don’t even get the satisfaction of any gory or memorable gut-munching kills. It’s enough to make you cry out, “More Brains!”