With the DVD and Blu-ray release of The Crazies, M&C decided it was time to take a look at some past films that made you want to grab the shotgun, duck tape the windows, and think twice when someone sneezes in a crowded movie theater.
With the recent outbreak of Swine Flu and other flu bugs, it seems that movies like The Crazies (which is a remake of the classic George A. Romero horror film) aren’t too far-fetched. This helps give even the tamest of these titles a bit of edge and suspense.
With that in mind, M&C has put together a little list of some of the best the genre has to offer.
The Crazies – A sleek remake of the 1973 classic, The Crazies saw director Breck Eisner and screenwriters Scott Kosar and Ray Wright reminding the audience it is not always safe to drink the water or trust that the government has your best interest at heart.
The film is set in a small Midwestern town where the residents start to go a tad homicidal after the water supply is contaminated with a biological weapon following a plane crash.
The film may not have some of the edge that Romero’s work features, but there are more than a few moments that will make you jump and a scene or two that might make you want to look away.
Outbreak – You don’t often think Dustin Hoffman and suspense in the same sentence, but 1995’s Outbreak showed just how deadly a simple sneeze in a dark movie theater could be to us.
Following an outbreak of the deadly Motaba virus, Hoffman’s Col. Sam Daniels takes his team to try and save the day. They quickly discover that the disease won’t be that easy to beat, and that the military isn’t that thrilled with the idea of them being there.
Instead of trying to save the good people of Cedar Creek, California, the military thinks it would be better to firebomb the entire town and its population. Of course, the bomb would also help to cover up all the evidence of the military’s involvement in growing the bug for its own use.
Survivors – The BBC series based on Terry Nations’ series of the same name that ran from 1975 to 1977, the show was a cold and harsh look at the aftermath of a “European Flu” bug that wipes out England leaving only a handful of people who were immune to it.
The series examined what would happen to society if there were no longer laws and a government left to keep people on their best behavior. It also showed how far normal people would go to survive.
Naturally, it was slowly revealed that the bug was created in a lab, but this time it was more the pharmaceutical companies doing the evil deed to get more money and a monopoly on the cure.
The series lasted two seasons and was cancelled due to poor ratings. It would have been nice to see a conclusion to the Season 2 cliffhanger, but is still worth taking the time to watch.
28 Days Later/28 Weeks Later – Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later and its sequel might not be the first films to pop into your head when you think of the virus genre, but the film deals with the aftermath off an outbreak of a “Rage Virus.”
This time it isn’t the government responsible for the outbreak, but a group of animal activists who accidentally unleash the bug on the UK after freeing test animals from their pens at a lab.
The film follows a group of survivors as they make their way out of London and try to find sanctuary. Its sequel was a tad weaker in plot, but saw the U.S. Army coming to help re-establish London for the survivors of the “Rage Virus.” They have set up a small section of the city, but naturally an outbreak occurs and we are back to blood flying and people running for their lives.
Both films are great suspense movies (28 Days has a few more chills than the sequel) and do a good job of combining the suspense of the virus genre with the gore you would expect from a zombie film.
Carriers – Although the film had a weak ending and a small release, Carriers makes the list for me due to a few scenes that show how far people will go following a deadly outbreak of a bug that simply kills anyone it comes in contact with and is highly contagious.
The movie stars Chris Pine (who broke big with his turn as a young James Kirk in the Star Trek re-launch) and follows two brothers and their girlfriends as they are trying to get to a beach the brothers used to visit as children before the virus destroyed their world.
The film has several problems, but manages to give some good suspense from time to time and features a great performance from Christopher Meloni.
Meloni’s character comes into it after the brothers need his car due to their breaking down. He is trying to find a safe place to take his daughter (who is sick) and only agrees to give the brothers the car if they promise to take him and his daughter to town where there is supposedly work on a cure being done.
The journey to the beach proves to be anything but a vacation, and the film will keep you talking about its plot long after the credits roll.
I Am Legend/The Omega Man/The Last Man on Earth - I am including all three of the film adaptations of Richard Matheson's 1954 classic horror/science fiction novel I Am Legend - which follows the aftermath of a worldwide apocalypse due to disease.
Each of the films put its own spin on the novel, but the core of Matheson’s theme remains. The book followed a disease (which turns normal people into something like vampires) that wiped out the world’s population and seem to leave main character Robert Neville as the only survivor.
1964’s Last Man on Earth saw horror icon Vincent Price taking on the role of Dr. Robert Morgan. The character spends his days preparing for the night – where he will lock himself in his house or fight off the remaining human population which has been turned into vampires due to the plague. The film used flashbacks to show how the world turned to undead and how Morgan discovered the value of a wooden stake.
1971’s The Omega Man saw screen legend Charlton Heston stepping into the shoes of Robert Neville and trying to survive in a world where biological warfare has wiped out civilization.
Instead of vampires, Neville has to deal with crazed mutants that want to kill him and try nightly to succeed in their goal. The film feels a little dated now, but is still a solid adaptation of the book – even if it takes a few liberties with the source material.
2007’s I Am Legend sees superstar Will Smith taking on the Robert Neville role and trying to survive in world that has been wiped out by a virus that was originally designed to cure cancer.
Neville was a scientist that was working on a cure and continues his work determined to right the wrong he feels he created. The film is a combination of action and suspense, but suffered from bad CGI – which left the infected looking more cartoonish than scary.
The Stand – Stephen King’s novel got the made for television mini-series treatment in 1994 and followed the aftermath of a man-made super flu bug that wipes out the United States and leaves only a few survivors in its wake.
The story takes on several elements that are different from the normal virus genre (King blends in supernatural elements with a showdown between good and evil taking place in Las Vegas), but is one of the best virus tales to date.
The series is worth watching due to its cast (which includes Gary Sinise, Rob Lowe, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, and Molly Ringwald) and the fact it has teleplay written by King and the handling of horror director Mick Garris.
With a running time of about 6 hours, everything in The Stand feels epic, and the story is well worth the time it takes to for the journey.
As with any list, there are more that belong up here (the Resident Evil series or the recent film Daybreakers for example) and some that were forgotten. Feel free to let us know what virus flicks you would put on the list and don’t forget the Germ-X and anti-bacterial wipes.