This list is a tribute to the five best films I can think of that make us fearful of our fellow moviegoers coughing a few seats away from us, in honor of this month’s upcoming indie horror flick from Eric England, Contracted, about a sexually transmitted… well, something horrific. I figure it’s appropriate even in the midst of The Walking Dead’s current “glorified cold,” as Glenn calls it.
This film is Steven Soderbergh at his star-studded finest. He creates a tense and dramatic spectacle through his own stylistic choices but even more so thanks to his talented cast and their seamlessly intersecting subplots. This film makes my skin crawl with how realistic the horror of this disease really is, what it drives people to do, and the gripping mystery of where it even started. Like 1995’s Outbreak (which I would include separately on this list except I cannot remember enough to really talk about it as great length), the race between science against time never becomes easier to watch, but Soderbergh makes it entertaining at least as well.
28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later (2002 & 2007)
I decided to group these two together because in a way, I see them as two halves of a whole (despite the first being considered far more classic and revolutionary and not as concerned with playing by typical horror trope rules as the sequel). I think they both have merit, though, as zombie films and infection films. The fact that these zombies aren’t really undead but rather that they’re sick and ravenous and can run faster than they probably could while they were alive makes them super terrifying. And yet, the military state that we find ourselves in, as we often do during apocalypses of course, is perhaps the scariest aspect of either film.
Cabin Fever (2002)
Eli Roth was already in fine form here, giving the middle finger to the cabin-in-the-woods subgenre in the form of a disturbing and grotesque flesh eating virus. A particular scene of note would make any female cringe at the mere thought of shaving her legs. Plus, Eli Roth’s dark sense of humor helps us stay with the story, as paranoid or disgusted we may become.
When I rented this little-movie-that-could, I was expecting the usual zombie apocalypse story. What I got instead was far more dark and nuanced, an expertly paced drama set merely against a horror backdrop. This story of friends fleeing a pandemic they soon realize is far more dangerous and inescapable than they feared, is emotional and avoids a lot of the things its genre usually demands in terms of structure, effects, and scares, but is satisfying nonetheless or perhaps because of this generic subversion.
Well that’s all folks! An honorable mention would be 2010’s The Crazies remake, but seeing as it isn’t really a clear cut disease, I left it out (despite it being a really worthy and genuinely creepy film).