You don't have to be infected with a virulent, killer disease to work here. But it helps.
Posted on Monday March 1, 2010, 09:27 by Nev Pierce in Empire States
Death is the villain you can't beat. Infection is the villain you can beat, slice, mash and shoot repeatedly in the head.
Infection makes for great cinema. OK, infection makes for OK cinema, mostly... with occasional stabs at greatness. But it's spreading.
Today, you have a choice in your Disease Of The Week movie.
There's Extraordinary Measures, which reviewers tell us is essentially 105 minutes of Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser trying to out-scowl each other in the quest to cure Pompe disease (something to do with over-spending until your football club is on the verge of bankruptcy).
Or you can catch The Crazies, in which an accidentally applied government bio-weapon turns a town of hick Yanks into fury-fuelled simpletons who keep trying to kill each other. Yes, apparently, this is different from usual.
The Crazies is a remake of George Romero's '70s shocker. Not only has Romero made - in Night, Dawn & Day Of The Dead - three of the best films ever about death (eat your brain out, Ingmar Bergman), he's also made one of the best about infection, panic and fear.
Yeah, all right, it's pretty much still a zombie movie - with the distinction being these slavering, blood-thirsty beasts still have a heartbeat, whereas zombies are dead flesh only animated by their still-sparking cerebral cortex.
This was a concept - rage spread through infection - that Alex Garland and Danny Boyle homaged/half-inched for 28 Days Later and you might have thought the success of that splatter series would preclude a straight-ahead remake, but that is to seriously misunderestimate Hollywood's hunger for horror product.
So, The Crazies 2010: a story of a civilian area suffering a hideous, anger-causing infection only made worse by the intervention of American troops. In 1973, the analogy was Vietnam; 37 years later it's Iraq and Afghanistan.
As a government agent explains, of the calamitous virus: "It's designed to destabilise a population. In this case, the wrong one..." The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The Crazies is pretty good - not as cruel or gripping as the original, but a lot slyer and smarter than most contemporary schlockers and ably powered by the criminally underrated Timothy Olyphant, who remains one of America's best-kept acting secrets, despite consistently excelling in virtually everything he's done (his work in The Safety Of Objects is very special indeed).
Olyphant would probably kill - or, y'know, really pressure his agent - to land a role in Contagion, Steven Soderbergh's in-the-works ensemble thriller about a pandemic.
As it is, it stars Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne and Every Other Serious Actor In The World in the globe-spanning story of a virus.
It was inspired by a sneeze in Scott Z Burns's sadly under-appreciated The Informant, which caused the screenwriter to chat with Soderbergh about the nature of infection. "The easy way to pitch it is Traffic meets Outbreak," Burns told an audience at a Q&A for Jeff Goldsmith's excellent screenwriting podcast.
"Outbreak shouldn't really be in there, but it's an easy way to explain it," he added, presumably believing that associating your film with Dustin Hoffman chasing a monkey is not a good thing (little realising there are few films that would not be improved by Dustin Hoffman chasing a monkey; Extraordinary Measures, for one).
Contagion will be released next year and probably bug Oscar voters, but before then British audiences can appreciate Black Death. Opening in the UK on May 28, the latest from Severance director Chris Smith features Sean Bean, a necromancer and the bubonic plague.
Why do viruses thrive on film? And what are your favourite infection flicks or disease DVDs?
And, while we're about it, has there ever been a good movie made about terminal illness? (You are not allowed to suggest Beaches, because I am never, ever, going to watch it.)
My theory is that cinema is about action and nothing - in its essence, its meaning - is more dynamic than a virus. It exists to destroy - a bit like Michael Bay. But you're smarter than that, so: why is cinematic infection catching?
Posted on Monday March 1, 2010, 16:15
Good terminal disease movies?
Ivans XTC was very good. However pretty much anything Danny Huston's in I'll watch... apart from Wolverine which I managed to struggle through 20 minutes of before my brain went "nope... that's just too many nuggets of nonsense for me. G'night!"
Posted on Monday March 1, 2010, 17:20
I love watching zombie/survival/infection movies because you can see what they would do to survive compared to what you would do like sacrificing your friend so you and your girlfriend or wife could survive.
But each one is different like zombieland where the main character has a set of rules to survive.
Dawn of the dead is my favorite the original movie,i'd rather, go against slow zombies than fast ones, but i liked the crazies because they weren't all just mindless zombies each crazy had their own particular method of killing.
Posted on Monday March 1, 2010, 17:57
Timothy Olyphant for Captain America....You know he's the right choice!
Posted on Tuesday March 2, 2010, 10:50
Resident Evil Extinction is good.
Posted on Wednesday March 3, 2010, 14:42
Dawn of the Dead is so overrated.
It becomes increasingly rubbish after they get settled in the mall.
Posted on Wednesday March 3, 2010, 20:33
The Andromeda Strain is a great film about a virus from space. Not only is it faithful to Michael Crichton's book, but it keeps the tension running high despite being set mostly in a few rooms in an underground lab/bunker.
And for terminal illness - Philadelphia is good, but I think Angels in America is better. It's not a film, but it portrays the whole AIDS scenario better than Philadelphia. I know I'm only thinking of AIDS choices - but are there many other films out there with terminal illnesses in them that arent AIDS or cancer related?
I think infections and viruses are another cycle that Hollywood is going through with inspirations for films - or indeed an offshoot of all the zombie films and remakes have been coming out. For example - Romero's films and Andromeda Strain came out in the 70s - and they've been popular in the last two decades with films like Outbreak and 28 Days. We'll probably see even more again in 20 years time - if Hollywood gets tired of them fairly soon that is........
Posted on Thursday March 4, 2010, 06:21
Dellamorte Dellamore (outside Italy Cemetery Man) -- Rupert Everett living in and caretaking a freaksihly beautiful Gothic cemetery, side job of splitting the heads open of the dead who come back -- and they all do. Of course they bite, and it's amazingly funny and gory.
Posted on Friday March 5, 2010, 09:56
Thanks for the tips: I've never seen Angels In America - it's felt a bit bleak, long and intimidating to me, though it is directed by Mike Nichols, isn't it? And Carnal Knowledge if one of my favourite movies. I'll check it out.
Cemetary Man sounds insane - I'll have to nab that, too. Ta.
Posted on Friday March 5, 2010, 17:39
Angels in America is quite long, and very weird in places, but if you get it on DVD you can always to choose to watch it in parts rather than altogether. It may be hard work, but its overall more enjoyable than Philadelphia (in my opinion....)
Cemetary Man is quite rightly insane - I didn't enjoy it much when I first saw it, but I think I was a bit too young to get it then. Definitely worth a second look.
Posted on Saturday March 6, 2010, 00:48
There's been a few reboots/rehashes through the decades, The Andromeda Strain as J.L. mentioned for the 70's, 80's The Thing, 90's Twelve Monkeys and Shaun of the Dead for the noughties (rom-com-zom...genius). In the current climate of climate-change-mania it's a genre that will pique interest more and more. Damn you Al Gore