This post contains spoilers! Reader discretion is advised!
Though entertaining as the movie is the whole thing is built around scientific inaccuracies. Like all found-footage style, the movie starts very slow. It begins with a reporter named Angela doing a story on the LA fire department in a segment she calls The Night Shift. She starts by interviewing the chief about what daily life at the fire station is like. For some reason, he avoids the question by changing the subject entirely. He says that most of there calls are medical and that firefighters can double as paramedics in an emergency. A few minutes later the chief takes her into the mess hall where the entire department is eating dinner. Here is where we meet the two firefighters she’ll be job shadowing for the night. They are Jake and Fletcher. This scene I find slightly inaccurate because there would be a lot more swearing going around the mess hall, as we see in the next scene where she is putting mics on them. This scene is also inaccurate as they would not be allowed to where those chest mics as it puts them at risk of getting burns should they encounter a fire with them on. He would also not be allowed to wear that watch into a fire as well. What they said about dalmatians is factual though, so is the shift details, handball court, and truck washing scene. Though I challenge the accuracy of the locker rooms. Firemen usually don’t put their boots on a top shelf, they prefer to keep them on the ground so they have easier access to them. Also, they have assigned lockers to them and wouldn’t use a shelving unit like that for gear. Again that would be a time waster and could easily cause a mix up in a rush.
Fifteen minutes later we get the call sending us to the apartment complex. But, not before an unrealistic dash down the stairs. The reason I call this unrealistic is that in the real world the firefighters would not have waited for her. More than likely once they were on the truck they would have left with or without her. Second, most fire departments assign seats in the truck for the firefighters that work there. This is for recovery purposes. By assigning seats it lets the captain know who wants into the building, so they know if you never got out and they don’t waste precious time looking for someone not there. So, in other words, her riding in the truck would have been a zero. Though the chick-o-meter joke is realistic.
When they arrive they are greeted by the superintendent Yuri. He says he called 9-1-1 because a resident in the building was screaming in pain. They enter to find almost all the residents in the lobby. They are concerned about there fellow neighbor’s health. Officer James takes them upstairs to an apartment occupied by a Mrs. Espinoza. When they enter her apartment they call out for her, but instead, they spook her dog who runs out in the hallway. Shortly after this jump scare, we find her covered in blood, foaming at the mouth. You think with two people in the room with advance medical training they would know the signs of rabies. Even if they didn’t, it’s still a common fact (thanks to Cujo) that foaming of the mouth is a sign of rabies. How do I know for a fact that there are two people in the room with advance medical training? Well, I remembered that random tidbit the chief said at the beginning of the movie where he said that all firefighters are trained as paramedics. Though a few have professional EMS training it’s not that widespread among the firefighting communities. Since we’re on the subject of paramedics, where is the ambulance? You would think with a medical emergency where a woman is screaming in pain so loudly it disturbs the whole building that they would have been dispatched along with the fire department and police. I find the lack of EMS to be very inaccurate. As they slowly approach the old woman the cameraman turns on his light which causes her to scream in pain. Sensitivity to light is another symptom of rabies. As the cops scold him someone finally requests an ambulance to the scene. A long overdue request. Mrs. Espinoza turns of the cops biting Officer James in the neck, causing him to start to bleed out. Jake and his partner Officer Danny grab him up to rush him out for medical treatment. They reach the lobby just in time to discover the door is locked. They begin asking other residents if one of them is a doctor when a man named Lawrence steps forward saying he is a vet. This is a huge inaccuracy! Vets are not legally allowed to perform medical treatment on humans. If they do so they can run the risk of losing their medical license. If they wish they can perform basic minor medical tasks like removing a tick but not to be an acting doctor in a medical situation. Again, isn’t that what the firefighters were trained in? Jake tries the door again as Officer Danny tries his radio, both go unanswered. A booming voice over a loudspeaker tells them to remain call and listen to the officer inside the building. Shortly after the announcement is made the residents turn on the cop demanding answers he doesn’t have. Jake and Yuri work on finding another way out of the building. One of the residents, a mother named Kathy, tells everyone that she just spoke to her husband who told her the place is swarming with cops and the block is shut down.
This is why the movie was given a three rating. During a new viral outbreak, the government would often lie to the people trying to downplay the crisis as to not cause mass panic and hysteria. They will tell them oh it’s nothing and remain calm, everything is fine. There is no way they are going to make this big of a scene for a new viral outbreak. Doing so would cause severe panic in the streets, panic they want to avoid. Remember this is 2008, this is when the YouTube craze began and everyone had a Facebook account. Chances are the people in the building would be posting videos and updates explaining what was going on inside this entire time. Most likely the government would lie about it being a normal flu outbreak and they would quarantine the people inside a hospital to study the virus better. Just look at how the government is handling COVID right now, that should give you an idea that they aren’t going to make as big of a show as they did in the movie.
Back in the movie as they search for a second exit for reasons unexplained Fletcher plunges to his near-death. A fall that somehow doesn’t kill him instantly as it does later in the movie to Jwahir. Jake and Danny run upstairs to investigate what happened to Fletcher. They tell Angela to stay downstairs, but she refuses. Instead, she investigates strange noises coming from Mrs. Espinoza’s apartment. They find another resident dead. Mrs. Espinoza shows up. She charges at Officer Danny, who pulls out his service firearm and kills her. At this point, Officer Danny thinks it’s best to get everyone in the lobby of the building. Jake and the reporter are going door to door gathering up the residents. During one of these door checks, they find a sick resident setting in front of static TV. I find the lack of cable a little bit of an inaccuracy because yeah they might be able to cut the outside lines, but the cable company might not like that. Chances are they would sue the city to replace them, though I’m not sure why they would even do it in the first place. Second, what about the people with satellite TV? You can’t cut those lies and I doubt NASA is going to alter its path to accommodate you. They’ll most likely have to rip the dishes of the building and face the same legal trouble they did with the cable company. Being in LA chances are FiOs would be available in the area. This requires the company to lay down underground cable lines, so you’ll have to dig those up. Another thing the city would most likely not approve of.
Alright, so everyone is in the lobby and the quest for the second exit begins. As they reach the backdoor they find it is locked too. Jake goes to break it but is stopped by military personnel guarding the outside of the building. They are ordered by the military to stay inside the building as they seal up all the windows and doors. The residents begin calling out for help when the cell phones go out. Again this is highly impossible to pull off. To do so they would need to knock out a lot of cell towers to accomplish this goal. Cell phones usually go to whatever nearby cell tower that is available to it within a three-mile radius of the phone. Being LA there would be hundreds of them. They would need to shut down communications for the entire city, and maybe some nearby towns, to pull this office. Doing so would not go over well in the city and could trigger a riot. WIFI at this time was still in its infancy so signal blocking devices weren’t even being thought about at this time.
During this chaos, Angela hears Jake mention the word BNC. She demands he tell them what that means. He says they suspect this situation is a Biological, Nuclear, Chemical situation. This information whips the crowd into a frenzy of questions. Yuri pulls Jake aside to say he might know a way out through his office window. They head up there, but it’s too late and the window is sealed. They return to the lobby and Angela continues with her story on what is happening inside the apartment. She says that the phones, cable, and internet are all down. I just explain why that is inaccurate. They ask Lawrence what he suspects it is, but he has no idea. As a vet, I find it strange that not even he knows the signs of rabies. The symptoms between animal and human rabies are not that different, and as a vet, he should be better trained at spotting the signs of rabies. During this break in the action, Angela decides to interview Briana, the daughter of Kathy. She tells Angela that her dog Max had gotten sick recently and was taken to the vet. Angela points out she sounded sick. Kathy says it is bronchitis because that is why her husband wasn’t in the building at the time of the lockdown. Shortly after the interview, the vet makes a breakthrough. He has figured out it was rabies this whole time. He said his delay of knowing is because he had never seen it in humans, which I say wrong. After all, the symptoms are similar in both humans and animals. Everything he says about rabies in this scene is scientifically accurate about rabies. Shortly after this discovery was made the residents start to become angst and demand to be allowed to go back to there apartments. While Officer Danny struggles to keep the peace in the lobby Angela sneaks off with two residents to see if they can get a signal on there old analog (rabbit ear) TV. When they get the TV on to hear the police chief saying that the building was evacuated.
This is another inaccuracy as this would raise questions in the reporters outside. At least one would find it odd that all the windows and doors are sealed if it truly was empty. If the building was evacuated, why are they shouting into blow horns to remain calm inside? Why are there snipers surrounding the building? Why is the CDC entering an abandoned building? Certainly, someone would have gotten to Kathy’s husband who is waiting outside the building. He would be worried sick with his young daughter and wife trapped inside the complex without any way of contacting him. Before we hear any more of the interview the power is cut to the entire building. Fast forward sometime later and Officer Danny is telling them that the CDC just radioed to him to let him know they will be entering the building shortly. He says all they want to do is take some blood samples and help those already sick and injured. Lawrence says that won’t work because rabies doesn’t show up on a blood test. To truly test for rabies they need a brain tissue sample. Unfortunately, this is yet another inaccuracy. A rabies test can be done with a saliva sample by isolating the virus with a polymerase chain reaction. It can also be done with spinal fluid, serum (blood), and skin biopsies from the back of the neck.
The CDC enters slowly in Tevvy suits with rifles. They would never enter a building with firearms, just saying, because they want to advert panic, not cause it. They go into the sick room to perform some tests and take samples. Again, this would never happen. They need medical equipment to perform such tests to provide accurate results. As for collecting samples, they’ll want to do so in a sterile environment to prevent the samples from becoming contaminated. Also doing so in an unsavory environment will likely cause the patient to develop an infection. Since this is a new virus doing this in an uncontained area puts everyone at risk of exposure since they are unsure as to what they are dealing with. Anyways it doesn’t take long for the CDC to lose control of the situation. When things become out of control the run from the sick room locking the door behind them. The surviving CDC doctor tries to flee, but Jake locks him inside the complex demanding answers. He confesses they had got a tip from a vet yesterday about a dog named Max with a strange disease that took down in the entire vet office in five hours. Just as the people turn on Kathy, Briana turns rabid. As they off to get her the CDC guys hands Jake medicine of some sort to inject her with when he catches Briana. Another red flag on the field as this is a new disease so whatever it is wouldn’t be a cure or medicine of any kind. It takes 6 months to develop a vaccine in the first place, not to mention the many tests it’ll have to go through before the FDA would even allow them to use such medication. The CDC can’t just make medicine and start handing it out. As this is a new disease they wouldn’t even have begun development on anything because they would most likely start by isolating those in the infection zone to stop spread in the first place. It’s a common method used by the CDC often called ‘Identify, Isolate, and Inform’. They wouldn’t even begin talks of a vaccine until a couple thousand fall ill. Now begins the epic chaos scenes where the zombies outnumber the people, with an inaccurate appearance from the elevator. Remember before entering the building the government had cut the power. Scientifically though, many modern-day elevators are equipped with battery power to allow one trip to the ground floor to let passengers exit safely. Since this is an old building and probably in a poor community the likelihood it’ll have such a feature is highly improbable.
Now, we reach the end of the movie where it is revealed that the virus was made by a doomsday cult this is another huge inaccuracies. If such a cult was going around talking about making such a virus the FBI and the CIA would be all over this. Especially after they began breaking into medical labs. Medical Labs keep immaculate records of their inventory, so the government would have to know what type of virus they are working with. They would also be following key members of the group and would have raided the lab a long time ago. Now, that they would have kept a secret from the public as to not tip their hands to the cult that they were on to them. Once the break-ins started happening they would have been shut down.
Despite all that is wrong with the movie, it is still a good film I am very fond of. I feel it is one of the best-found footage films of all time, and I have it as one of my top ten zombie films. On a side note though, I do find it strange that nobody in the entire building owns a flashlight or a gun. You think someone would have snuck off for there firearm, or Officer Danny would request flashlights when the power was cut.