The world is a scary place, teeming with awful diseases that range from old favorites, like tuberculosis and leprosy, to terrifying newcomers, like SARS and necrotizing fasciitis. But they’ve got nothing on the super-bugs that filmmakers have cooked up. Just keep telling yourself, “It’s only a movie, it’s only a movie, it’s only a movie…”
Trixie, The Crazies
A plane crash near the small town Evans City, in Pennsylvania, unleashes a psychotropic biological weapon developed by the military and code-named Trixie. It turns ordinary folks into raging psychopaths who rape, kill, or destroy everything in their paths. And if that sounds bad, the official response is no picnic, either: finding a cure takes a distant second place to making sure no one ever finds out about this major snafu.
Emmanuel appears out of nowhere and condemns its victims to a lingering, painful death, marked by grotesquely blistered skin and blood-streaked vomit. Eek! But when a saintly priest volunteers for a desperate experiment that stands a small chance of producing a cure, he comes away a vampire. Can you say, “The cure is worse than the disease”? But them’s the breaks when you’re fighting deadly movie pathogens.
Ebola-like virus has a twofold destructive potential. The virus is only
the beginning: once it’s done wiping out most of the population, the
survivors devolve into Mad Max-style savagery. Pity the fools charged with going in and finding folks whose natural immunity might produce a vaccine.
Krippin, I Am Legend
Alice Krippin is trying to create a cure for cancer by tampering
with the virus that causes measles but, instead, whips up a pathogen
that kills 90 percent of the human race and turns the rest into weird
vampire- and zombielike hybrid creatures, hell-bent on getting Will Smith
and his cute dog. Oops — but at least her name goes down in history for something. That’s the dream, isn’t it?
Rage, 28 Days Later…
bioengineered Ebola-esque contagion spread through contact with
tainted body fluids. The aptly named Rage turns victims — the
Infected — into mindless, all-but-unstoppable killers. All hell
breaks loose when animal-rights activists accidentally unleash it on
the U.K., during a raid on an animal-testing lab. Everything turns out okay (at least, in the original ending) — well, unless you count half
of England being annihilated as an unacceptable result.
T-virus, Resident Evil
by the multiarmed Umbrella Corporation in the Hive, a top-secret
underground research facility, the T-virus is a bioweapon that destroys
every cell in the body of anyone unfortunate enough to be exposed. The
company’s security protocols can’t contain the infection when it’s
accidentally set loose, creating zombies, undead doggies, and mutant
monsters called “lickers.” On the bright side, it gives Milla Jovovich
a very good reason to kick some undead ass.
Chimera, Mission: Impossible II
for the grotesque mythological monster that melds bits of lion, snake,
and goat into an unnatural horror, the Chimera virus is cooked up by
Biocyte Pharmaceuticals, for the purpose of creating a market
for a vaccine called Bellerophon. Chimera’s symptoms — swollen glands,
bloody vomit, necrotic skin, and vicious pain — resemble those of the
bubonic plague, which killed a third of fourteenth-century Europe.
Bellerophon is sounding pretty good right around now, isn’t it? Evil
corporate mission accomplished.
And, yes, yet another
Ebola-like virus — it must be that bleeding-from-every-orifice thing
filmmakers can’t resist. This one makes its way from Africa to the
United States, via a cute little monkey; next thing you know, it’s
ripping through California, with Dustin Hoffman in hot pursuit. Outbreak was indirectly inspired by the 1994 nonfiction book The Hot Zone, which, briefly, put the fear of God in folks who’d never even heard of hemorrhagic viruses or given a thought to global pandemics in the age of cheap international air travel.
Andromeda, The Andromeda Strain
Perhaps the most famous movie strain hitches a ride from outer space on a
military satellite and kills every living soul in Piedmont, Arizona, by
turning their blood to powder — everyone except a little baby and an
old drunk. (Perhaps confirmation that alcohol is great
for you, after all.) If scientists don’t find a cure fast, the whole
human race will be dust in the wind. Somehow, a mutation in the
virus itself fixes the problem. Go figure.
Virus Omega, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
it: you had no idea that the one James Bond movie starring that other
guy (George Lazenby) involved biological weapons. Created by James
Bond’s number-one nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Omega is
designed to be spread by a bevy of brainwashed beauties and sterilize
every living thing on earth. Bye-bye, food chain; hello, Soylent Green-ish nightmare.