10 Things Movies Teach Us About Virus Outbreaks

Hot girls, psychos and heroes: all immune to the impending swine flu viral apocalypse...

Unattractive and sane people will be shot on sight.

In case you haven’t heard, we’re all going to die. You, me, everyone we know, and possibly all our pets are all doomed to die from the latest in a long line of fatal pandemics, the swine flu. The experts are on TV every day relaying pant-soiling fact after pant-soiling fact about the upcoming apocalypse. I, for one, look forward to dying from swine flu, just like I died from bird flu in 2006 and SARS in 2003.

Fortunately for me, I’m prepared for the upcoming viruspalooza. You see, I’ve watched dozens of virus-related disaster films, and I am as well prepared as anyone to survive any virus outbreak. I know how viruses work, I know how to combat them, and I know what symptoms to look for when someone I know gets infected. In order to expedite the rebuilding of civilization after the fall, I’ll pass those tips along to you, the Den Of Geek reader, so that we may unite as one and get the Internet running again as fast as possible once the outbreak has run its course.

1. All viruses have a characteristic delivery system.

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28 Days Later

Your traditional natural virus is usually carried by monkeys, as in Outbreak. Even governmentally engineered biological weapon viruses are often monkey-borne. Monkeys are a very popular way for transporting viruses because monkeys are a lot like people physiologically, and monkeys are cute and funny. Take, for example, 28 Days Later. The hippies saw that cuddly monkey in that cage, fawned over him, and let him out. As a result of their good deed, everyone died except for Cillian Murphy, and he was so traumatized by the experience of being threatened by Christopher Eccleston that he ended up so crazy he picked a fight with Batman. If you EVER see a monkey on the street, the best thing you can do is run away as quickly as you can, because nine times out of ten that monkey is rife with plague germs and evil. Even a disease-free monkey, like Ella in Monkey Shines, was still evil and murderous.

I understand that not everyone can afford monkeys. These days, with the recession, your average mad scientist has had to cut back on expenses. Monkey food, diapers, toys, monkey cages… the expenses just keep adding up, and mad science doesn’t pay like it used to. That’s okay, because the other storage system for potent killer viruses is something anyone can afford: fragile glass tubing. The T-Virus in Resident Evil was carried around in a fancy paperweight. Why would you lock your virus up behind Plexiglas walls when you could just pour it into someone’s water glass and hand it off to Opie the clumsy deliveryman who just got done eating a bucket of grease-fried chicken?

The important thing is, you can’t take any precautions at all to avoid your virus getting into the general public, or those precautions have to be so simple that even a turtle with head trauma can circumvent them, because science is crucial in any virus outbreak.

2. Science is always important.

Captain Trips (The Stand)

Either science is directly responsible for your virus outbreak, as was the case in The Stand and 28 Days Later, or science is completely ineffectual at stopping the outbreak before it becomes an apocalyptic situation (and it WILL become an apocalyptic situation). There will always be someone at work slaving for a cure, because at least one biology professor or random geneticist will have enough physical fitness and demolitions prowess to withstand even the most harried and frenetic of post-virus calamities. In the event that a cure is finally discovered, it is guaranteed to be instantly effective at curing even the most virulently sick person in your ragtag band of racially, ethnically, and sociologically mixed survivors. It works doubly fast on the hero’s love interest and/or child. Only unimportant children are allowed to die; if you know the child’s name, then little (fill in the blank) will undoubtedly survive and be disgustingly precocious.

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3. Viruses do awesome things to those infected in terms of their physical abilities.


Sure, everyone has to get sick or die, but that’s not so bad when you realize everyone’s going to come back as something awesome. The viruses will give you powers like super speed and super aggression. You’ll be a crazy, violent killing machine who only knows to destroy! If you do die, then you might come back as a vampire, gain the powers of the werewolf, or even become a brain-hungry zombie. Frankly, it’s okay with me if I die of swine flu to know that I’ve got a good chance of coming back with some super-awesome abilities or as part of a horde of something. I’ve always wanted to be in a horde. If I get to do a lot of pointing and screeching, then it’s a bonus.

4. Viruses always make people 1000 percent more badass.

Cillian Murphy in 28 Days Later

If you become infected, then you will definitely become cooler than you were when you were alive. Most viruses usually affect the blood somehow, so either you’ll bleed out of every orifice and your flesh will slowly melt away (Cabin Fever) or your blood will dramatically turn to dust (Andromeda Strain). Either way, your death will be gruesome and awesome. The creature you come back as will also look incredibly cool and evil. You may be covered in slime and sores, you might get creepy milky white eyes, or you might become even cooler.

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If you are lucky enough to become a survivor, you will instantly become transformed from a mild mannered accountant (or potbellied writer for a geeky website) into a 1980s action hero so boss you’ll make Jason Statham say, “Damn, you’re the man!” Your wardrobe will consist of cool boots, leather pants (for women) or cargo pants (for men), a tight undershirt, a flowing overcoat, and an assortment of impressive weapons. You will possibly have a headband, and someone in your group will wear two crossed bandoleers of ammunition. Someone else will have procured a katana and will be surprisingly proficient at wielding bladed weapons despite having been a video store clerk in his former life.

If you needed glasses before, your eyesight will magically improve (or your glasses will break and you’ll die). Women will never have to shave their legs, and men will have a constant three-day Don Johnson stubble beard. No one will ever have to use the bathroom (if you do wander off to pee, you will also die) and brushing your teeth will become a thing of the past. Your glorious white smile will not be affected.

5. The virus will kill everyone except for a plucky band of survivors.

Survivors (BBC)

One of these survivors will have a dog, and one will be a child. The group will reflect an ethnically and racially diverse cross-section of society. Under normal circumstances, everyone would hate and/or fear one another. However, in the event of a world-ending virus, everyone will band together and push past their minor differences for the survival of the human race. Black or white, rich or poor, young or old… everyone will get along, there will be at least three or four man-hugs between former rivals, and the hard times will forge lasting friendships as you and your new posse band together to eliminate either the attacking monsters or a rival band of evil survivors who possibly are in the thrall of Satan. Nothing brings people together like mass murder!

6. There will always be a perfect hiding spot, and you will always somehow end up in that location.

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Dawn Of The Dead (1979)

Maybe it’s a mall that is locked up for the night. Maybe it’s a well-fortified gun store. Maybe it’s a bomb shelter. Maybe it’s a secluded farmhouse. Wherever you and your fellow survivors gather, you will find everything you need.  The canned goods will be plentiful. There will somehow be fresh water. There will be plenty of things to barricade yourselves into your hidey-hole with, and even an indestructible old pick-up truck that will be needed to escape. There will be a wealth of clothes that just happen to fit every member of your group perfectly, no matter how tall, small, or fat they might be. There will be toys for the children. Your group will definitely be lulled into a false sense of security.

7. There will always be two people in your group.

Dawn Of The Dead (2004)

One of these people you won’t get along with. I’ll discuss him later. The other person will be quiet, unassuming, and usually very dangerous. In any group of survivors there’s always one person who will either A) be a crazy psychopath, B) be some sort of evil rapist, or C) be a coward/moron who will sell out the group to the enemy group of survivors/the plague monsters/anyone promising him a steak dinner. Think of the person in your group you’d least suspect and that’s probably him. Then again, if you pick the one you least suspect, then suspect him the most, that means it’s not him, but someone else. And then that guy will be the one you suspect, and then we’re off on some horrible acid trip of circular logic that’ll drive you Cillian Murphy-mad.

8. Here’s the other crucial member of your group to watch out for, but he’s a lot easier to spot than the psychopath.

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Michael Kelly

There will always be a heroic last stand to be made, and one member of your group will always sacrifice him or herself so that the important members of the survivor corps can get away. Generally, this will be someone whose wife or parents succumbed to the virus in the earlier stages of the outbreak or someone who spent most of the time in confinement being an asshole. He or she will have nothing left to live for and will need some way to make up for his or her previous behavior. This is always through a hero’s death. Afterwards, everyone will think fondly of this person’s sacrifice. One good act makes up for months of otherwise reprehensible and irritating behavior.

9. Civilization will instantly turn back to normal once the cure for the virus has been discovered.

Happy Times

All that running and screaming and chaos? It’s instantly forgotten the moment the virus is no longer an issue. Aside from the fact that there’s a ton of dead people laying around (who are rarely, if ever, properly disposed of), once the threat is over it is completely over. No repercussions. Viruses never mutate or change in any way once it kills people, so once you’re immune or properly dosed up with antivirus, you’re home free. Even the normal things that kill people, like infections or food poisoning, are nothing to be worried about. Everyone goes back to their normal lives almost instantly, except much better than before.

10. The new world post-virus will be a utopia.

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Everyone is dead except for you, your friends, and a random hot girl who magically survived the end of the world. Time to play Adam and Eve, and the world’s your garden! Somehow, the events of the plague have managed to end global warming, deforestation, acid rain, urban blight, suburban sprawl, hunger, drought, and all the other problems the world suffered from in the days before the outbreak. You and your new friends set up shop in a charming country village, turn on the water and power, and the disease-ridden monsters are instantly a thing of the past. Yay!

As it turns out, the inevitable swine flu-based apocalypse will end up being a net good for the world at large. While the millions of casualties will undoubtedly be bummed out by the fact that, you know, they end up dead, the survivors will inherit a wonderland. After all, the flu epidemic of 1918 ended war and famine forever. Err, wait a minute…

US correspondent Ron Hogan is has stocked his home with water, food, and guns for the eventual swine flu rioting. Remember, those who prepare steal the best TVs! Find more by Ron at his blog, Subtle Bluntness, and daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.

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