Lou Ruth Blake, of Calvert County, Maryland fell ill with the flu on February 25; six days later she was dead.
On March 4, her son and daughter were hospitalized; the following day both had died from a rare complication of influenza they contracted while caring for their mom. Sounds like the beginning to a bad Hollywood flu film, only this story is real. The continual resurfacing of strange deadly diseases, like the recent case in Calvert County, has helped keep the disease disaster genre alive and well. Earlier this year, Contagion, a blockbuster starring Matt Damon, Jude Law, Kate Winslet and Gwyneth Paltrow came out on DVD. The star-studded flick actually has a pretty ordinary plot, a lethal pandemic spreads quickly and doctors race to find a cure. Below is a list of some lesser known disease disaster films, often with some far from ordinary plots:
Cabin Fever – College students rent a cabin in the woods and fall victim to a flesh-eating virus. It all starts when a man walking in the woods comes across a dog he believes to be sleeping; he pokes it a few times then picks it up and notices the flesh is rotted. Blood spurts him in the face. One of the college students, out hunting squirrels with a BB gun, accidentally shoots the man who discovered the rotted dog—by this point his face is badly decayed. The student flees. The man later shows up at the cabin, desperate for help. And thus begins the madness. The film was actually inspired by the real life story of the director, who developed a skin infection on a trip to Iceland. Another inspiration; the director said he was tired of “watered down PG-13” horror films with low grade violence and no nudity.
Pandemic Archipelago (aka Kansen Retto) – In this 2009 Japanese film a mysterious infection develops in a remote part of the island nation. It doesn’t respond to usual treatment and patients die terrible blood-splattering deaths. Hospitals fill with sick, scared people and doctors race to find a cure. A female World Health Organization (WHO) medical officer comes to investigate the situation and encounters skepticism and sexism from the small town doctors—one of them is an ex-lover she has not seen in years. A party including the WHO doctor, her former love interest and an awkward overweight researcher travel to the remote southern island where the pandemic may have begun.
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Pandemic – Two American surfers bid farewell on an Australian beach, oblivious to the huge number of dead birds littering the sand. The one going home begins coughing up blood on his flight back to the US and dies before the plane even lands; the other surfer is found dead in his apartment back in Australia. A CDC medical doctor assigned to the case and local officials carry the body off the plane then set up a quarantine in order to evaluate other passengers. But one escapes to complete a business deal and spreads the disease, which comes to be known as the “riptide virus”, an offshoot of bird flu, throughout Los Angeles. Another passenger, a convicted drug lord being transported by the FBI, flees the quarantine with some of the infected. Riptide virus begins popping up in cities around the world. SPOILER ALERT. In a twist, it turns out the convicted drug lord is actually immune to the virus and the entire world must rely on him for a cure.
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The Andromeda Strain – A military satellite meant to capture upper-atmosphere microorganisms for use in bio-weaponry crashes to Earth; members of the recovery team dispatched to retrieve it all suddenly die. Aerial surveillance reveals that everyone in the nearby Arizona town where it crashed is also, apparently, dead. A special government team that deals with extraterrestrial biological infestations is drawn into action. They discover that the residents of the stricken town died mysteriously in mid-stride or went crazy and committed bizarre suicides. Oddly, two people survived, an elderly man and an infant. The scientists take the two to a secret government lab where they begin to crack the code of the alien microbe. The 1971 classic was based on a Michael Crichton book; the film turned the author into a household name.
The Crazies (aka Code Name Trixie) – A military biological weapon is accidentally unleashed on the residents of a small American town. The disease turns regular people into stark mad “crazies”. Government soldiers are dispatched to the town with orders to shoot the infected on sight. The film is directed by George Romero, the horror movie guru who directed, among other things, Night of the Living Dead. Although it failed at the box office, The Crazies has since become a cult classic. Two years ago a remake was released. “A lunatic epidemic yarn that impressively delivers murder with a message,” reads one commenter on the movie review website Rotten Tomatoes. On a lovely spring day, with flu season just six short months away, what could be better.
What’s your favorite disease disaster film? Let us know in a comment below..