The virus movies that frightened us or drove us crazy.
The Coronavirus or COVID-19 has not only cancelled a variety of movie events from SXSW to Tribeca and postponed select movies (“No Time to Die,” “Mulan,” “A Quiet Place: Part 2,” etc.), but it found its way to the United States. Most of us are taking precautions by washing our hands throughly, wearing masks, and struggling to find antibacterial wipes. And some of us are reflecting on some of the best and worst virus movies to ever hit the cinema.
I understand how most people don’t want to be reminded of our current horrors, but we should still take a moment to look back how the scientists and survivors had their own ways of dealing with the movie outbreaks.
In Terry Gillam’s 1995 version of the 1962 French film “La Jetee, “a virus, conjured up by the Army of the 12 Monkeys group, has forced the remaining survivors to live underground. Bruce Willis plays a convict, who is given a chance at redemption, if he travels back in time to find information about the virus that has plagued mankind. I think we can agree we all want to know how COVID-19 was conceived, too.
Anyway, the scientists have to send Willis back to 1996, but sent him back too far in 1990, where he ends up in a mental hospital with Brad Pitt as a real nutcase and Madeleine Stowe as a psychiatrist and author. And you also get Christopher Plummer as Pitt’s famed virologist father, David Morse as a mysterious figure, and Frank Gorshin as an institution doctor.
The movie goes crazy with Willis dealing with reality and delusions, and how his time traveling experiences reveal one clue after another. He, Pitt, and Stowe all deliver pulsating, and memorable performances. And Gilliam and screenwriters David and Janet Peoples all balance memories and allusions to movies and dreams, while representing dark futures.
This virus movie was directed by Steven Soderbergh, and had an all-star cast of Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwenyth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne, Marion Cottilard, Kate Winslet, Bryan Cranston, Elliott Gould, Sanaa Lathan, John Hawkes, and Jennifer Ehle. It was also inspired by the previous SARS and swine flu epidemics, and it was thrilling and ingenious from beginning to end.
It deals with a variety of issues, from Paltrow being infected and killed by the virus to Damon protecting his daughter to the quarantines; and it scares us in how we, too, have to live in this reality. And I’ll never forget that ending sequence, where it reveals how the virus came into existence with the bats and pigs, leading up to the “Day 1” title.
Wolfgang Peterson’s 1995 hit introduced us to the Motaba virus, which comes from the African jungles, and gave Zaire an outbreak. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, because a white-faced capuchin monkey is smuggled in America, and the Motaba virus begins to spread through human contact and goes airborne.
Dustin Hoffman plays a virologist, who knew the virus would spread; Morgan Freeman is his superior, who ignores his warnings; Rene Russo is his ex-wife; Donald Sutherland is the corrupt general; Cuba Gooding, Jr. is the new soldier recruit; Kevin Spacey (Yes I know) is the Lt. colonel who eventually catches the virus, via ripped suit; and Patrick Dempsey is one who spreads the virus.
Because of the COVID-19, “Outbreak” entered Netflix’s Top 10 most watched films, and I was able to be given a fresh reminder of how good it really is. The performances from the cast ignite the screen, the suspense of the virus spreading is nonstop and scary, and it’s able to prioritize its situations.
In regards to the COVID-19, Jesse Eisenberg jokingly told everyone at a screening of his new movie “Resistance” to get some Purell. You recall the quote: “You guys want some Purell?” from his 2009 comedy “Zombieland?”
That movie was one of the best comedies I’ve ever seen, because of its fearless satire on the zombie apocalypse and the virus that causes it, and the actors who all deliver the good. Along with Eisenberg, you also have Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, and even cameo guest star Bill Murray.
Eisenberg’s character has a number of rules in order to survive the zombie apocalypse, like “cardio,” “double tap,” and “don’t be a hero.” Yes, he admits some rules were meant to be broken, but these rules are how he and his new partners are able to go on living.
“Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse”
Don’t, just don’t. This was one of the worst comedies, which failed to be smart and original in its zombie outbreak, and gave a lame set-up about Boy Scouts battling them. You’ve had Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller, David Koechner, Cloris Leachman, and even Dillion Francis cameoing, but this still ends up being forgettable.
And if you think that a teenager taking a selfie next to zombie breasts is comedy gold, then congratulations on teaching your grandmother how to use an i-Phone, and “Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse” is the movie for you.
This animated/live-action hybrid was a box office bomb in 2001, but it remains as a guilty pleasure for representing an healthy body as a rundown city, and for reminding kids about hygiene. Bill Murray eats a poached egg that has just been in a monkey’s mouth, and now a deadly virus (voiced by Laurence Fishburne) makes his way in his body with big plans to shut him down. Now, it’s up to a white blood cell cop (voiced by Chris Rock) and a cold pill (voiced by David Hyde Pierce) to save his life.
Germs are everywhere, and you really have to make sure you know where your food has been, if you drop it or if it’s been licked. It also reminds you to take really good care of your body with exercise, healthy food, and diets. We’re at a time when we really need to be take these measure seriously, and supplies are limited.
The movie itself (The Farrelly Brothers made the live-action parts, and Tom Sito and Piet Kroon made the animation parts) is gross, but flexible, and I think animation fanatics should look back at this.
The “Resident Evil” movies
You know the gist: a virus breaks out of the labs, and turns humans into zombies, and now the infection begins to spread globally. So it’s up to Mila Jovovich to fight back.
The only “Resident Evil” movie I did like was “Resident Evil: Afterlife,” because it had some goofy moments that I actually liked, but the rest of them are empty and incompetent video game nonsense. Granted they helped Jovovich become an action star, but the rest of the movies are so empty to me, and I even skipped the last entry from 2017.
“Resident Evil: Afterlife” ⭐️⭐️⭐️
1, 2, 3, and 5 ⭐️
The last one I skipped
The “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” trilogy
“How did the humans turn into apes, and how did the apes turn into humans?,” you may ask. Well, the prequel series to the classic 1968 movie explains how a science experiment has conjured up a virus outbreak, which lead the apes to become smarter, and the humans to become sicker. The motion capture suits for the apes, particular Andy Serkis as the main ape Caesar, make them more convincing than obviously Tom Hooper’s “Cats,” and outside their CGI, they have personalities and emotions that make them so memorable.
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes” ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2
“War for the Planet of the Apes” ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“The Last Man on Earth”
Before the Will Smith “I Am Legend” came out, “The Last Man on Earth” was the first to be inspired by Richard Matheson’s “I Am Legend” story. This version features Vincent Price as the only man to survive a global outbreak, and now, he has to deal with vampires.
These vampires are more like weak and dumb zombies, who can barely get their hands on Price, and thus, he’s stronger than them.
Before we get to that, we see his flashback when he lost his wife (Emma Danieli) and daughter (Christi Courtland) to the widespread disease, which blinded them before they could die. Now those symptoms are scary, and yet it makes sense in this case. After all, you’ve heard of the “blind as a bat” saying, even though it’s not entirely true.
I can’t call it a Vincent Price classic, because of how dull it gets at times, but there are enough creepy moments and emotions to make it a solid flick. Anything is better than CGI junk food.
“28 Days Later”
Danny Boyle’s zombie hit begins with a group of animal activists trying to steal some chimpanzees from the labs, only to be infected by their rage virus. And 28 Days Later, Cillian Murphy wakes in the hospital thinking he’s the only person left in London. He’s wrong, because zombies are now roaming the streets. Luckily, there are still some humans (Brendan Gleeson, Naomie Harris and Megan Burns) who help him dodge them.
Yes, “28 Days Later” does get crazy and shaky from time-to-time, but still, Boyle and writer Alex Garland both reinvented the zombie genre by making them faster and more vicious. The performances are gripping, the zombies are scary, and the thrills are provocative. And I also love the MiniDV scope and Canon XL1 digital video cameras used to film these shots. This is a dangerous zombie movie.
Good or bad, these are some virus movies that either can or can’t help us get thorough this global crisis. And I respect those who don’t want any more negativity. But I know we can survive the Coronavirus outbreak, if our top scientists can come up with a cure fast and soon.