Breaking In the Outbreak
It’s indeed a strange time in the world right now. The fears and anxieties of the Coronavirus continue to escalate, and essential quarantine orders are in session in order to halt further spread of the pandemic.
As more cities are ordering their residents to stay indoors, we’re all looking for something to preoccupy ourselves with. May it be a book you’ve meant to read, a video game that’s been waiting to be explored with, or Soundcloud artists that you might actually check out after all this time.
We’ve compiled a shortlist of films, and television shows that we felt were very fitting for our current situation with the epidemic. These films and shows show how humanity reacts to an infection outbreak, whether they be fictional or not, but since we’re bound to stay indoors for the next few weeks, here are 5 media releases that relate – on some level – to our overall issue with the Coronavirus.
The Virus Variety
1.) Quarantine (2008)
The John Erick Dowdle remake of the 2007 Spanish horror film REC follows a small news team that is tasked with accompanying a pair of firefighters during a night shift. As the assignment progresses further, the team find themselves in a sticky and viral situation when a building they’re investigating is suddenly placed on quarantine from the military and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) due to a virus outbreak.
In comparison to our current situation, the CDC is being looked at and continuously updated as the Coronavirus continues to spread and affect people. Cities are being placed on lockdown, and the governments are urging their citizens to stay inside, or “self-quarantine” themselves to avoid contact with the virus. The news reporting is a big aspect of getting the news of the virus out there, though, in today’s time, it’s mainly through broadcasts and then shared like wildfire on social media.
It’s a little far-fetched in Quarantine’s plot and way of handling and subduing an outbreak: military forces gun anyone on site who steps out of the containment zone, infected or not. The blame for the virus in the film is initially blamed on infected rabies from a dog until it’s revealed that a doomsday cult and a stolen chemical virus are to blame; for our virus, it’s the from the supposed ingestion of bat soup from China. Nonetheless, animals are involved with the inception of the outbreak. At the same time, humanity clings to survival and answers, much like how the protagonist from Quarantine fights to survive in the entrapped building while seeking for answers at the end.
Obviously, this film is more horror than fact-based. The infected turn into bloodthirsty maniacs while our real-life infected are either treated or unfortunately, succumb to the infection. Unless by some scientific majesty that our patients turn into flesh-eating psychopaths, Quarantine is for now still an imaginary tale rather than a cautionary one.
2.) 28 Days Later (2002)
Pandemics and disease, looters, and panicked preppers. Both of these things are terrifying enough in their own right, but blend them together into a virus composed of the rage and ugliness of mankind and unleash it onto the populace, and you get the phenomenal apocalyptic landscape of 28 Days Later. A film that revolutionized the stagnant zombie movie industry at the time, 28 Days Later, holds up remarkably well in 2020. From the virus being released due to ignorance and refusal to listen to a scientist to mass quarantining and rapid spread, it hits just the right beats during our pandemic to add an extra bite to a classic horror movie.
Less upsetting is the element of human cooperation and hopes it shows in its main cast: a pharmacist, bike courier, single father, and young daughter. Complete strangers who all come from wildly different areas of the outbreak and subsequent quarantine, they still work together and find ways to bond and hope amid the worst disaster they’ve ever seen. It’s something we could all learn from. Danny Boyle’s fantastic cinematography, a relentlessly pounding soundtrack, and some of the best practical effects in the early 2000’s horror round out 28 Days Later as a must-watch during this long period of isolation.
3.) The Strain (2014-2017)
Like zombies, vampires have also similarly been “done”. They’ve been sexualized, eroticized, badass-ified, and made anti-heroes so many times that they have also lost a lot of the “bite” their original stories had.
Enter horror auteur Guillermo Del Toro’s The Strain. Originally a three-part novel series, it was then adapted by FX in 2014 and ran as a limited 4 season saga. In The Strain, vampires are not a species per se but created by infectious, parasitic worms. These infected eventually become humanoid parasites themselves, feeding off others and injecting the worms into their bodies through their fluids or, in a particularly grisly scene, vomiting the worms onto a victim’s face and allowing them to burrow into their eyes. When an empty airplane containing the patient zero creature and its parasites lands in JFK airport, it plunges the city of New York into a hellish nightmare of infection, madness, and murder. The plot only deepens when whispers of the parasite as a bio-weapon experiment leftover from WWII as the Nazis sought immortality begin to emerge.
More medical procedural and government drama than horror series, The Strain may be a bit slow for those hoping for something more akin to Del Toro’s work in Blade 2 or the ravenous vampires of 30 Days of Night, but the realism is what makes it perfect right now. We see the panic of the CDC to understand and quarantine the infection, not knowing what it is or how it spreads. We see the people considered the lowest of the low in society, old pawnshop owners, and exterminators, become the last hope for society and humanity. And, unfortunately, we also see how the wealthier bodies can stand to benefit from the death and chaos of the lower classes during an outbreak.
4.) The Stand (1994 miniseries & books)
Speaking of standing…
There seems to be a Stephen King work for every occasion. For a global semi-apocalyptic pandemic, we have The Stand. Originally written in 1978, The Stand is the one item on this list that you can consume in about four different ways: the original novel, the uncut novel, the 1994 miniseries, and the Marvel adapted comic book series of the same name.
A sprawling horror epic, The Stand may be one of the works of fiction that unfortunately mirrors this time the most, at least in its base conceit. A weaponized strain of influenza is released on accident by the US government onto the American public. It is resistant to all known drugs at the time and spreads with immense speed. Within a month, 99% of the world’s population is infected and dies. Society collapses, and the government is incapable of stopping the pandemic, even with the application of martial law. The survivors respond in one of two ways. Some commit suicide, broken by the extreme loss. The rest form Mad Max-esque packs of individuals and struggle to fend for themselves in a viral wasteland.
In terms of quality of enjoyment, the graphic novel would be the best bet. The tone of the actual novel is, honestly, quite dated, and the film adaptation was straight to viewing and is one of the weaker adaptations of a King novel. The graphic novel is based on the uncut novel, plus additional material, and gives the perfect blend of haunting, disturbing visuals in sync with excellent dialogue. Even more convenient, a full compendium was released in 2012, so you can binge through it all at once instead of seeking out individual issues and volumes like a wasteland scavenger.
5.) Contagion (2011)
The ensemble-led film that focuses on the outbreak of a new pandemic virus follows several characters who are health-care professionals trying to combat the spread amid global panic and uncertainty. With no zombies or blood-hungry fools insight, the real villain of the film is how the world reacts to it as opposed to the actual virus that’s wreaking havoc on humanity.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh, Contagion was released to praising reviews, especially scientists who appreciated the accuracy that was put forth into the narrative. From human panics at a pharmacy that’s very similar to what we’re seeing at the grocery stores today, to teams of scientists figuring out how to halt and contain the spread of the virus.
The script takes inspiration from the real-life H1N1 pandemic from 2009, studying and observing how the world reacts to a pandemic when a new virus is introduced. Being told through multiple countries, H1N1, or the swine flu, infected a great number of individuals across airlines, much like how Contagion’s fictional outbreak is spilled across the globe.
Furthermore, contact between a bat and a pig showcase the inception of the virus in the movie, whereas today for the Coronavirus is being blamed on the aforesaid bat soup. Interrupting an animal ecosystem can disrupt the human ways of life, and Contagion shows that as social order decays and people become more afraid and anxious than being responsible with their health. We’re urged to wash our hands and practice social distancing to avoid spreading the virus, and the results are already catastrophic. People are dying quickly, and the film’s presence feels more important now than it did nine years ago when it was first released.
C. Anthony Rivera is a freelance writer born and raised in the city of Chicago. Rivera graduated from Columbia College Chicago in 2018 with a Bachelor’s in Writing. And yes, deep dish pizza is the best.