“Contagion,” opening Sept. 9, looks scary, and not just because of Gwyneth Paltrow’s face in the poster. It’s about the worldwide outbreak of a deadly virus that threatens to kill the entire human population, and if you think about it, that could actually happen.
At the very least, it’s easier to believe in a killer disease than, say, a zombie apocalypse.
'That’s why movies such as “Contagion” are so creepy: They’re tinged with the sense of an actual threat. Here are four more plausible disaster movies that give us the shivers.
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Some movies are scary because they really are based on true stories. Take “127 Hours,” which stars James Franco as Aron Ralston, a real-life hiker who got pinned under a boulder in Utah. He famously cut off his arm to escape, but even if you don’t know that, the movie is gripping. Franco’s performance (which earned him an Oscar nomination earlier this year) makes us feel every minute of Ralston’s ordeal.
'Silence of the Lambs'
Forget the ludicrous sequels “Hannibal” and “Hannibal Rising.” We get chills from “Silence of the Lambs” because psychotic psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) isn’t a superhero or a demon: He’s just a very smart, very disturbed man who can’t control his urges to eat people. Toss in the movie’s other villain — serial killer Buffalo Bill — and you get a double dose of plausible fear.
This 2008 horror film stars Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman as a suburban couple terrorized by three people in masks. We never see their faces, but otherwise, the bad guys seem normal. They wear regular clothes, they speak like everyday people and one of them is a little out of shape. That makes them more terrifying than Hannibal Lecter, even, because unlike him, these three creeps don’t seem extraordinary. We can picture almost anyone beneath those masks, which implies that danger could be stalking us anywhere.
You can’t talk about “Contagion” without mentioning “Outbreak,” the all-star 1995 movie about a worldwide monkey-spread plague. Directed by Wolfgang Peterson (who also directed “Poseidon” and the ocean disaster movie “The Perfect Storm”), the film unites A-listers Dustin Hoffman, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey as they try to stop a disease from wiping out humanity. Likewise, “Contagion” stars Kate Winslet, Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow and several other top-tier performers. While it might be hard to imagine all those famous people running around in surgical masks, it’s still easy to picture the fallout of an infection spreading around the world.
Did any realistic disaster movie frighten you? Discuss with us on Facebook.
Mark Blankenship is on Twitter as @CritCondition
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