Cinemas Closed due to Virus; A few Virus Flicks on DVD

by Tony Rutherford , HNN Entertainment Editor
I Am Legend (a reboot of "Omega Man")
I Am Legend (a reboot of "Omega Man")

A subset of end of civilization films inject a biological disease. Some ("Andromedia Strain") follow a "rare" outbreak; others jump into an overwhelmed zombie sick populace, and a few imagine a strain spreading from contacts with other worlds. 

Where do the stories go and do many peg the unpleasant quarantine/contamination spread?

No, most of the science-fiction endeavors have the pandemic and slaughter at end stages and the scientists are losing the battle. Or, the world has already succumbed to mass zombie virus so only a few are safe and looking for a cure. 

Few envision a lengthy "shelter in place" scenario where households apply for passes to go to the supermarket or pharmacy. Filmmakers likely drop their characters in an out of control event or the tension of preventing one. They seldom pluck a family reacting to a developing state of emergency where the drama remains contained to the household or neighborhood rather than having a superhero speak his "magic" word or shed their corporate appropriate clothing for a cape.

Cinemas Closed due to Virus; A few Virus Flicks on DVD

A Cold War "B" movie, "Panic in Year 0," most closely imagines suburban L.A.  family leaving for a mountain vacation as a nuke blasts the city. Their journey now equates survival not a retreat. Objectives become making it to their out in the sticks camp site and obtaining additional supplies."Year Zero" comprises a months in time sticking to the search for continuing sanctuary in an ever changing environment. 

Dropping the bomb avoids special effects other than a generic A-bomb mushroom. The drama , hurdles, and problem solving relate to malcontent humans whose behavior has little to do with the atomic attack. Essentially, they invaded a house , killed the adults and kept a teen gal alive for repeated assault and handling "female" things around the house. 

 "The Andromeda Strain" (1971) - Based on the Michael Crighton novel,  follows scientists investigating an infectious organism that fell to Earth from space. We'll spoil the ending by telling you they mostly save the day, so relax. Notable for some very innovative cinematography and the amplified sound wearing contamination suits. 

"Outrage" has a reverse premise. The novel virus came from military experiments. A rogue general know that the best cover up would be to nuke the town and chalk up all the deaths to road kill. It a suspenseful rush to save the town from a warmonger. 


"28 Days Later" (2003)/"28 Weeks Later" (2007) - In Danny Boyle's excellent 2003 original, and its very superior sequel directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, the world is beset by a viral pandemic that turns anyone infected into permanently enraged monsters. Don't call them zombies but, uh, they totally are. Partially avoids  much anticipated and stereotypical zombie apocapalypse cliches by limiting the global aspect to words not hopping around the globe in jets (a.k.a. "World War Z")


Cinemas Closed due to Virus; A few Virus Flicks on DVD

However, nearly a decade ago Steven Soderberth hit the Powerball cinematic projection jackpot except he didn't envision the closure of nearly all movie theatres just the HINI esque spread, the wash your hands commandment, and the paradox of social distancing with the demand to "work together" to find a cure. The film skips  much of the social panic in favor of interaction with scientists tracking the disease.

Screenwriter Scott (The Informant) Burns sought input from smallpox eradacator Lawrence Brilliant which led to input from the World Health Organization allowing him to contemplate factors such as "do you close the schools and if you close the schools, then who stays home with the kids? And will everyone keep their kids at home?" Exposure to treatment protocols and containment scenarios snared societal anarachy but not the shelter in place for weeks in a closed down city response. 

Although "fiction" Contagion (2011) mirrored The HINI, SARS and Ebola outbreaks generated from a Chinese open market where the people indulge in their cultural demand for consuming exotic wild animals. Here, the "fictional"  spread scored a bullseye on the anticipated "real" source ...  a suspected  open air market where a diseased bat ate part of a fruit later consumed by a pork chop bound pig.