One of my favorite genres of horror is the pandemic/post-apocalyptic genre. Maybe because I absolutely love zombie movies and these films usually feature zombie-like behavior from “humans” as a result of a widespread infectious epidemic.
My 5 favorites in this genre include:
28 Days Later (2002)
Directed by Danny Boyle
One of my all-time favorite horror movies ever, 28 Days Later opens with the protagonist Jim waking up from a coma in an abandoned hospital. Once Jim detaches himself from his medical paraphernalia and exits the hospital, he quickly realizes that more than just the hospital is abandoned–the entire city of London is a shambles. It seems that while Jim was in a coma, an extremely contagious blood-born virus called “rage” was released and overtook the population. Aptly named, “rage” caused the Infected to become extremely enraged and aggressive. The Infected behave much like zombies (though they sprint instead of lumber toward their prey), with seemingly no consciousness, merely grunting and attacking anything in sight. Jim meets a few uninfected survivors along the way, and the small group band together to ward off the enraged population. This film is extremely suspenseful and fast-paced, and paints a grim picture of post-pandemic London.
The Crazies (2010)
Directed by Breck Eisner
Okay, so it’s not quite a “virus” that affects the townspeople of Ogden Marsh, Iowa, it’s a toxin in the water supply that causes people to become homicidally deranged. However, I would still classify this creepy movie starring Timothy Olyphant, Radha Mitchell, and Joe Anderson, in the pandemic category. The 2010 film is actually a remake of George Romero’s 1973 rendition, but the plot is slightly different. After a plane carrying a biological weapon crashes into a bog that feeds into the town’s water supply, the townspeople start going inexplicably mad, emotionlessly and savagely murdering family and friends. Timothy Olyphant is the town sheriff, who is shocked when government military shows up and start mercilessly gunning down citizens. He soon realizes that it’s not just “the crazies” he needs to run from, but also the military, who have been sent to Ogden Marsh to contain the issue, at the expense of crazy and sane alike. Timothy, wife Judy, and Deputy Russell are eventually the only uninfected people left, and they must figure out a way to escape town or become the next casualty.
Directed by David Pastor and Àlex Pastor
A bit more drama than it is horror, but nonetheless I really enjoyed Carriers. In the aftermath of a widespread viral outbreak in the US, Brian (Chris Pine), his girlfriend Bobby (Piper Perabo), Brian’s brother Danny (Lou Taylor Pucci), and their friend Kate (Emily Van Camp), are headed to Turtle Beach in the southwest in hopes that it will be a sanctuary from the plague that has overtaken mankind. On their way, they run into a father and daughter stranded on the road. The daughter is, in fact, infected and the father begs the gang to take her to a nearby school where a doctor is rumored to have developed a serum to cure the virus. This movie is a bit more cerebral than the others, but it’s got its moments of horror and suspense.
Directed by John Erick Dowdle
This film is actually a remake of a Spanish movie, REC, released the year prior. A found footage-style movie, it stars Jennifer Carpenter as Angela, a local reporter who is doing a story on the local firefighters. While Jennifer and her cameraman Scott (Steve Harris) are at the fire department, the department gets a call to respond to an emergency call from an apartment building. They could have not have made a worse mistake. Upon arriving at the apartment building to subdue a rabidly aggressive older woman, it becomes clear that something very serious is going on. The movie is seen from the point of view of the cameraman, who captures the chaos that ensues. It seems that a perturbed tenant, a member of a doomsday cult, stole a virus from a chemical weapons lab and released it in the building causing those who came into contact with it to present signs similar to rabies. Like The Crazies, this is another situation where the characters are plagued not only by the infected but also by the government who want to cover up and contain the catastrophe.
I am Legend (2007)
Directed by Francis Lawrence
And last but not least, I am Legend, stars Will Smith as Robert Neville, a scientist and apparently the lone survivor of a massive virus, which was originally created to cure cancer, but instead killed 90% of the world’s population. The remaining “infected” are vampire-like, avoiding daylight, and attacking anything in sight. All alone except for his dog Sam, Robert spends his time trying to develop a cure, which involves the dangerous task of capturing the infected and taking them back to his lab for vaccine trials.
Got a favorite that’s not on the list? Let us know which plague movies you love most!