COVID-19 has turned our world upside down and greatly impacted everyone’s lives—whether you’re working remotely, on furlough or working on the front lines of this pandemic. And while many of us are doing our best to distract ourselves from what’s going on outside our homes, there are also those who chose to amp up their anxiety with a fear mongering film. People who enjoy horror, specifically horror that depicts realistic scenarios, are a special breed. There have been plenty of studies done on why people choose to indulge in horror and based on my own experience, I indulge for the rush. And let me tell you, when I began watching these movies over the past several weeks, my heart started racing.
This ensemble cast, which features performances by Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard and Jude Law, hits hard right now. Not only is the virus spread in a similar way to COVID-19, through respiratory droplets in China, the film references real pandemics such as the 2002-2004 SARS outbreak and the 2009 swine flu pandemic. While this film may feature a virus that’s far more aggressive and deadly than COVID-19, it still feels strikingly similar because of the impressive attention to detail director Steven Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns put into it.
Another pandemic film with a star studded cast, this 1995 feature takes inspiration from the Ebola virus. Featuring performances by Dustin Hoffman, Morgan Freeman, Patrick Dempsey and Kevin Spacey, the film portrays a fictional virus that begins in Central Africa but eventually spreads to a small town in California through a white-headed capuchin monkey (which is actually native to South America, NOT Africa). The United States military plays a large role in this film, attempting to contain the spread of the virus at any means necessary—and we do mean ANY means necessary.
South Korea is one of the top countries for horror and in 2013, they took on their own pandemic disaster film with “Flu.” This film portrays a mutated version of the H5N1 virus, which is also known as bird flu or avian influenza. In real life, this virus has a mortality rate of 60% and in the film, the virus kills its victims within 36 hours. Like other films on this list, this virus is spread by contact between humans and animals, with rats sharing the disease with the town’s population.
Shortly after his breakthrough performance in “Star Trek,” actor Chris Pine appeared in this pandemic inspired film alongside Emily VanCamp, Piper Perabo and a young Kiernan Shipka. The film takes the concept of social distancing to the extreme, with a group of friends escaping a deadly virus by traveling to an abandoned motel in Turtle Beach, where they believe they can wait out the pandemic. The film leans more post-apocalyptic as opposed to the other features on this list, showing what “could happen” if a virus runs rampant for months or years.
93 Days (2016)
This Nigerian drama takes direct inspiration from the 2014 Ebola outbreak and depicts the experience of healthcare workers in Lagos fighting to contain the virus before it became an epidemic. The film features a number of performances by Nigerian actors, as well as “Lethal Weapon” actor Danny Glover and television actor Tim Reid. “93 Days” is dedicated to real life Nigerian physicist Ameyo Adadevoh, who’s credited with curbing the spread of the 2014 Ebola outbrek after quarantining patient zero. While in quarantine, Adadevoh contracted the Ebola Virus Disease and passed away on August 19th, 2014 in Lagos.
This Indian medical thriller premiered in 2019 and takes inspiration from the 2018 Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala, India. This virus took the lives of 17 people and caused fever, cough, headache, shortness of breath, confusion, as well as comas in extreme cases. The film was a major box office success in India, pulling in many talented actors within the Malayalam film industry.