This week’s topics
With COVID-19 topping the news, of course, so is Contagion Survival Horror! There’s an important but subtle difference between Contagion Thriller, and Contagion Survival Horror. Thriller is more about the struggle to cure (or fail to cure) the contagion. Horror survival is about exactly that… survival. If you’re not surviving the virus, you’re surviving the monsters it creates, or you’re surviving the social meltdown and what it does to the people. If there’s a cure at the end, its almost a fluke. World War Z was more of a contagion action flick than a Zombie film. In my review, I explained that the zombies could be replaced by Terrorists, and Invading Army, or Robots, and it wouldn’t change anything about the movie.
However, Contagion Survival Horror is hard to pull off unless it’s zombies or zombie like creatures. Very often, there isn’t a lot about surviving social meltdown unless it includes zombies or monsters. It’s like the reveal from The Happening, -SPOILERS- when we find out the trees are killing people. An outbreak movie where the victim just kills themselves was already pretty weak.
So, what does Outbreak Horror need to be good? In my opinion, it requires global pandemic. Meaning movies like REC, are really more like Quarantine Horror. I guess that makes The Thing (1982) something like Quarantine Horror in some respects (just kidding). It also requires that struggle for survival. The ‘brink of madness, on the edge of oblivion’ sense of struggle that makes Zombie Survival so right. In a sense, Outbreak Horror, needs to be Zombie Survival Horror, without the biters.
Reeds all time top five Outbreak Horror Movies (no undead this time).
It Follows (2014)
I’m going to make the case that It Follows is Outbreak Survival Horror, so bare with me. First of all, this movie is effectively about a Sexually Transmitted Infection. Yes the infection is the curse of a demon, but it’s still transmitted through intercourse like an actual STI. Perhaps there isn’t going to be a mass die off any time soon, but multiple people can still be effected at the same time, and if they don’t continue to spread the curse, then they die. It begs the question, does the victim of an outbreak have to die for it to be horror? There’s still the fight to survive, and in this case the fight to find a cure. We still have social meltdown, even if just with the infected, but the Demonic STI isn’t the only thing you have to worry about, the people are just as dangerous. What ever you think, this movie was unique and interesting.
A shoe-string budget film that was mostly overlooked but criminally so. Pontypool is an Outbreak Horror that is done from the perspective of a ‘fire brand’ radio talk show host reporting on what appears to be sudden and strange outbreak of riots. These turn out to have been spurred on by the spread of some strange contagion. And –SPOILERS– the rioters turn out to be zombified individual with a strange virus that short circuits their mind and makes them violent. It’s simple, doesn’t lean needlessly on the zombies to be terrifying, and brings out all the elements of Survival Horror without leaving the only set. It’s brilliant and it doesn’t get nearly enough attention.
This little horror comedy gem has a lot going for it, given that its a little Lovecraftian, a little Zombie Survival, a little Outbreak Survival, and a little B Horror Creature Feature. As a mater of fact, while Slither mostly lipped by the radars of movie goers, it became a cult classic and helped to redefine the ‘New B’ heading into the 2010. That would be, you can make a terrifying horror, make the story interesting and unique, and still make it silly and fun, all at the same time. For a horror comedy, Slither (2006) pushed boundaries on what makes a good horror, as well as what makes a good horror comedy. It did so by going into fascinating detail about the gestation of a parasitic organism trying to spread over our planet. It a lot like Dream Catcher (2003), but actually good.
The Signal (2007)
A movie that clearly wanted to be a remake of The Crazies, but actually turned out to be better than the remake. The contagion isn’t the usual sort either. And we’re using the word contagions looooooosely to say the least. However, while it’s not viral, it is contagious, just not from the usual biological means. The host is anything that can broadcast a radio signal and once it gets in your head, you go bonkers. But not just dangerous bonkers, actually funny bonkers and dangerous. Making The Signal not just great horror, but great horror comedy.
The Crazies (2010)
While it was far better produced than the original 1973, it lost a lot of the mirth and the zaniness from the original. However, it also dropped the extra padding for a better story. The original spent a bit too much time on the medical response and containment efforts. And while this should have added an extra layer, it really just made it boring and drawn out. The Crazies (2010) focused solely on the survival elements within the containment zone, and made the containment efforts just as much an antagonist as the crazies themselves. It wasn’t perfect, but it also wasn’t a completely thoughtless rehash and does retain the ability to go pretty bonkers from time to time. It doesn’t top any of my lists by any measure but it’s definitely worth the watch.
Joe’s Top 5 Outbreak Movies (includes undead)
While considered more drama/sci-fi than horror, what makes this movie truly terrifying is the realism and how (expecially with the current events) we can see similar reactions by government and people. The movie has an ensemble cast including Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Kate Winslet. And this probably one of my favorite performances of Matt Damon.
I Am Legend (2007)
I Am Legend is a 2007 American post-apocalyptic action thriller film based on the 1954 novel of the same name by Richard Matheson. Directed by Francis Lawrence, the film stars Will Smith as US Army virologist Robert Neville. In 2009, a genetically re-engineered measles virus, originally created as a cure for cancer, turns lethal. The virus kills 90% (5.4 billion out of 6 billion) of the world’s population and turns 9.8% (588 million) into vampiric, cannibalistic mutants called Darkseekers, who are extremely vulnerable to sunlight, that kill 0.2% (12 million) who were immune to the virus. Three years after the outbreak, U.S. Army virologist Lt. Col. Robert Neville lives an isolated life in the deserted ruins of Manhattan, unsure if any other uninfected humans are left. This movie is on my top 5 list because of how it turns a scenario that could be “realistic” into a worst case scenario and the horrifying events that would follow.
28 Days Later (2002)
28 Days Later is a 2002 British post-apocalyptic horror film directed by Danny Boyle, written by Alex Garland, and starring Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Christopher Eccleston, Megan Burns, and Brendan Gleeson. The plot depicts the breakdown of society following the accidental release of a highly contagious virus and focuses upon the struggle of four survivors (Murphy, Harris, Burns, and Gleeson) to cope with the destruction of the life they once knew while evading those infected by the virus. Here is a prime example of how a virus can go terribly, terribly wrong and the “zombies” in the movie are truly terrifying.
Resident Evil (2002)
Resident Evil is a 2002 action horror film written and directed by Paul W. S. Anderson. The film stars Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Eric Mabius, James Purefoy, Martin Crewes, and Colin Salmon. It is the first installment in the Resident Evil film series, which is loosely based on the video game series of the same name.
Borrowing elements from the video games Resident Evil and Resident Evil 2, the film follows amnesiac heroine Alice and a band of Umbrella Corporation commandos as they attempt to contain the outbreak of the T-virus at a secret underground facility. Again, another zombie movie that starts with the virus. This one is mainly on my top list because of my love of the Resident Evil game series.
The Stand (1994)
The Stand is a 1994 American television horror miniseries based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King. King also wrote the teleplay and has a minor role in the series. It was directed by Mick Garris, who previously directed the King adaptation Sleepwalkers (1992). The Stand was a mostly faithful adaptation to the original book, with only minor changes, and ABC kept content that would have otherwise not met broadcast standards and practices in order to satisfy expectations from King fans. To me, even though Stephen King himself apparently says there isn’t, this is the closest actual horror to our current events in terms of the virus and how it was being spread and the flu-like symptoms. While, obviously, the happenings in The Stand are much, much worse, there is a vague similarity that is, at least in me, creating some unease.
With the outbreak of the Coronavirus COVID-19, we’re bound to get an eventual string of “I survived Corona 2020” horror movies, and books. Indeed, horror writer message boards and groups are all ready clamoring with their own spin on how to capitalize on the pandemic. Even horror writer Stephen King was forced to step into the public discourse about COVID-19 when it was compared to the likes of his epic novel The Stand. King pointed out in a tweet that Captain Trips was a far more deadly airborne contagion. COVID-19 doesn’t have to be deadly and we can easily prevent the spread with a few precautions.
So horror heads, this is Surviving an Epidemic 101:
First, don’t panic. Do not rush to the stores and start buying bread an milk. Do stock up on food for a month, but if you rush to the grocery store at the same time everyone else does, that increases the possibility of contamination. Once the immediate scare dies down, go out and get what you need. Trust me, there will still be plenty of stuff. We haven’t hit total social collapse yet, and there aren’t going to be scores of roving gangs looting the grocery store. Simply relax, wait until low traffic hours, go out a purchase at leisure. Stock up for at least a month for the virus to spread and move through your area. Don’t go out unless you need to.
Second, wash your damn hands. Yes it really is just that simple. You don’t even need to carry around a bottle of disinfectant, just be mindful of your hands once you touch something. Don’t touch your face until you wash your hands. Make an extra point to wash all places of frequent contact at your house as well. Pro tip, it’s not just light switches and door knobs, it’s actually your phone and your remote.
Cough into your arm, not your hands. Look, if you get it, you could be asymptomatic for up to 14 days. Again, don’t panic. You’re very unlikely to die unless you have lung issues like asthma, COPD, or are immunocompromised. To prevent death, these are the people we need to be looking out for. So preventing spread, even if you don’t have symptoms is of the utmost importance. So cover your mouth when you cough. Doing it into your arms means it’s unlikely you’ll spread it if you touch something. And the moment you have symptoms, call the CDC.
The moment there is a treatment, GO AND GET IT. Look, this is not the time to be an anti-vaxxer. Once a treatment is available, we need to do everything we can to become blockers for the sick, the elderly, and the immunocompromised. If you don’t, this will spread like wild fire, those people will die, and you are at part responsible.
Up Coming Viral Content
Stick around this week and check out our Memes of the Day. I’m sure we’ll be inundated with COVID-19 memes before the week is out. Also, check out our surveys for the best Outbreak Survival Horror and see which title wins. Don’t forget, the quizzes and to find out if you would survive a contagion horror scenario!
For the review this Thursday C.H.U.D. (1984). I didn’t have an outbreak movie prepared for this so this is the closest I had.