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Flashback Five – Swine Flu Has Nothing on Outbreak‘s Motaba Virus


flashback_five.JPGAh, the H1N1 virus, or as it’s better, and more disgustingly known, Swine Flu. The rapid spread of the piggy disease has taken everyone by surprise… everyone except movie fans, of course, who always suspected that that it was only a matter of time before some new disease went rampant, pillaging its way through the human population and engendering hysteria among the masses. In case you need a refresher in movie history, Flashback Five is here to help. And remember, a disease, like a good joke, is all about the delivery.

1. Outbreak (1995)
Though Dustin Hoffman and his team of trusty disease experts do their darndest to stop the spread of the Ebola-esque Motaba Virus, they aren’t in time to stop it from traveling from one man’s cough in a movie theater to every other patron at the cinema. This scene, in particular, is noticeable for being one of, if not the only example of a scene told from the disease’s point of view, as the camera memorably follows the infection from mouth to nose, until the entire theater is filled with coughing, sneezing, and worse.

2. Cabin Fever (2002)
If it isn’t airborne, it’s waterborne, and the doomed kids camping in Cabin Fever don’t know the flesh-eating virus is in their water bottles until it’s far too late. In fact, it’s their freak-out at a diseased vagrant — they set him on fire, those crazy kids — that forces the carrier into the cabin’s water supply. The disease works it’s way into showers, lemonade made with the infected stream’s water, and even, er, sexual… fluids. Lesson learned: If you see a diseased vagrant, leave him be.

3. The Ruins (2008)
Once again, those pesky American kids just don’t understand how diseases work. This time, they think the Mayans guarding an ancient temple are trying to kill them, when in reality, the Mayans are protecting the outside world from the vine-based plant plague that’s infected the nosy teens. The vines themselves are the disease in this case, spread by touching the plants, and held at bay by salt. As a nasty side effect, the vines sing ringtones. No joke.

4. 28 Days Later (2002)
The Rage virus of 28 Days Later is spread in almost every imaginable manner, with very few (if any) people immune. The zombies, who have evolved the uncanny ability to move approximately one million times as fast as their human counterparts, spread the virus through touch, bites, and even, in one memorable moment, a drop of blood falling from one of the “infecteds” into a non-infected’s eyeball. That’s one virulent disease, I’ll tell you what.

5. The Happening (2008)
Say what you want about M. Night Shyamalan’s eco-thriller (as many reviewers have, and then some), the “virus” in the movie certainly has a creative delivery method: Neurotoxins released by trees and plants, carried by the wind, cause human beings to go crazy and die. The message: Stop killing plants, or they’ll kill you.

Honorable Mentions:

1. In Blindness (2008), most of the world becomes blind for some reason, except Julianne Moore, who just pretends to be blind. A twist!

2. Sometimes a virus gives you a new take on zombies, like in 28 Days Later; and sometimes, it’s a new take on vampires, like I Am Legend (2007)

3. The T-Virus in Resident Evil (2002) and its sequels is transferred through injection, and can do everything from create old school zombies to turn men into monsters. It also gives Milla Jovovich beautiful, beautiful skin.

4. The virus in 12 Monkeys (1996), which has forced most of the world’s remaining population underground, is never seen in action and never explained, but its nefarious effects are ubiquitous.

5. In The Andromeda Strain (1971), the granddaddy of all outbreak films, an airborne alien virus constantly mutates, until it becomes non-lethal and dies in the salt-water of the Pacific Ocean.

To see Outbreak on AMC, you can get the movie’s full online schedule here.

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