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Binge Watch These 4 Pandemic and Viral Outbreak Movies for Serious Survival Tips

First you hear rumors on the web and watch a few videos on YouTube, that say a terrible virus is ravaging China. What little information the country allowed to escape its borders anyhow, thanks to authority sources like The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

 The average person thinks “okay, that sucks, but I got my flu shot, I should be good”. The slightly more anxiety prone person thinks “oh $&#@, can that thing make it here to America?”. 

The horror movie fan on the other hand is like… “I’ve been training for this moment my whole life!”.  

Fist bump if you agree that the multitude of horror movies, series and books you may have read about post-apocalyptic life, global contagion, mysterious viruses and outbreaks have given you some serious survival chops?

Research.  It was research all along.  Since we are all sitting at home doing that ‘social distancing’ thing to prevent the virus from infecting everyone,  now is probably a good time to revisit some of those classic outbreak movies and glean some extra survival tips that could come in handy.  Particularly if this health threat continues longer than authorities think it will.

Folks Are Streaming the Wrong Prepper Movies on Netflix (In Our Opinion)

Before you think it’s a little weird to be watching pandemic movies during a pandemic, Netflix reported a significant spike in the genre of outbreak and virus movies on Friday, March 20th. In fact, the Netflix original docuseries “Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak” and the disaster movie “2012” were two of the highest streamed movies on Netflix this week.

Our take on those two titles? While the Netflix docuseries “Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak” is very informative and interesting; we’re in a pandemic.  Not particularly useful information at this point, as we navigate the COVID-19 global health crisis. But at least you understand the ongoing work that health organizations do globally to prevent more of these devastating viruses from going ape shit on the human population. At this point though, we feel it’s a little redundant.

The disaster movie “2012” is a high action reaction to a cataclysmic global warming and flood event.  It’s not even about a virus.  Sure, Bill Gates resigned his leadership of Microsoft (we think he headed to a bunker) about a week before things got really bad, but unless volcanoes start popping off all over the world and you get an email for a lottery ticket to an Ark, probably not that useful.

Our Top 4 Practical Pandemic Training and Global Virus Movie Picks

After our team at Puzzle Box Horror scratched our heads (on Zoom… social distancing) and had our “holy #!%& this is real!” moment like the rest of the human race, we thought about the top five movie s that actually provided some valuable ‘how to’ in terms of survival tips for a global viral pandemic.

1. “The Stand” By Stephen King

Let’s ease you in with an epic, because if you have never watched or read “The Stand” you are missing out on some serious survival and prepper tips.  The story revolves around a slow but deliberately moving respiratory virus, or super flu called “Captain Trips” kills victims in less than a week with horrible pneumonia like symptoms and fever.  

Key pandemic takeaways from this movie?

  • Stay home (it’s safer).
  • Dumb people who don’t take the virus seriously are usually to blame for pandemic spread (sigh).
  • Have a lot of unperishable foods.
  • A can opener is really important.
  • Know how to start a fire.
  • Laura San Giacomo is really hot.

Eventually in the movie the virus kills almost 95% of the human population. The book was first published by Stephen King in 1978 and it is a BIG book thanks to the character development of an epic good vs. evil end of days storyline, pitting survivors into two main groups.

2. “Dawn of the Dead” (1979) George C. Romero

No offense to Sarah Polley (love you!) and amazing cast of the remake of the George C. Romero zombie apocalypse movie “Dawn of the Dead”, but when it comes to survival tips, nothing beats the 1979 original.  

Forced from their homes in a rapid exit by helicopter in Philadelphia, an intrepid team of two SWOT officers, and two reporters find themselves setting down on top of a mega mall. After clearing the mall of said zombies, the survivors set up one of the most amazing doomsday shelters, having fun shopping for stock in the mall (and grocery store).

Key pandemic takeaways from this movie?

  • Non-perishable supplies are really important.
  • Have more than one exit to your home if you barricade yourself in.
  • Never underestimate the desire of people with no supplies, to steal your supplies.
  • Life is really boring without cable tv when you are quarantined.

For fans of the “Dawn of the Dead” series, did you know that Romero actually had a far darker ending written for the original movie? Instead of Peter (Ken Foree) changing his mind at the last minute with a gun to his head and fighting his way to the pregnant Francine (Gaylen Ross), the suicide is followed through.  Hearing the gun shot, Francine herself gives up hope, and walks straight into the helicopter blades. 

Bleak ending right? Romero said by the end of filming that he had become pretty attached to the characters of Peter and Francine and wanted to give them a ‘fighting chance” so he rewrote the ending into something indeterminant but with a possibility of survivorship. 

3. “12 Monkeys” (Screenplay by Janet and David Peoples)

Hearing that Cher song “if we could turn back time” and had the ability to time travel, would we send our best and brightest to Hunan China, shut down the despicable wildlife ‘wet markets’ where the animal virus made the jump to human super virus?  Hell yes.  Let’s do that.   Time travel would be particularly useful, since humans seem to make these critical errors of judgement the jeopardize the planet.  But we digress (unless someone has a time machine handy).

Key pandemic takeaways from “12 Monkeys”:

  • When we wreck the planet, there are consequences.
  • Time travel is really tricky.
  • As smart and strong as we are as a species, we can be wiped out by a microscopic virus.
  • Social distancing is crucial in outbreaks.

In this movie, our favorite American hero Bruce Willis is sent back from the year 2030 to the 1990s to intervene and prevent the unleashing of a virus that would wipe out most of the human population, sending survivors into the underground to hide from the infected.

4. “Outbreak” (Screenplay by Laurence Dworet and Robert Roy Pool)

Who doesn’t love Dustin Hoffman? The guy pretty much exudes everything that is good about Americans in general; smart, strong, and in this case, the world’s best defense against a super bug that kills with symptoms far worse that Ebola.  Which essentially liquifies your organs until you bleed to death on the inside.

Yeah, we don’t like Ebola.  And we thought COVID-19 and the injuring pneumonia symptoms were scary enough.   But the African Motaba virus is also airborne (like COVID-19), and in several instances throughout the movie you see how quickly an airborne virus can spread.  From something as simple as a cut on your finger to breathing it in through the ventilation system in a hospital.

And… now we want to order one of those big yellow inflatable level 4 lab outfits with independent oxygen and install a microbial cleansing shower in our garage.   Because you know people like Jack Ma, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos totally have one.  Sigh…

Key pandemic takeaways from “Outbreak”:

  • Airborne viruses spread really quickly.
  • Limiting your exposure and self-quarantine are effective ways to protect your family.
  • Viruses that jump from animal to human genomes are particularly deadly, because we have no antibodies or immunity against them.
  • Facemasks only protect you from inhaling viruses or coughing and spraying out moisture particles infected with the virus.  If you want to be out in public (only when you have to be) invest in a full mask and face shield that protects your eyes.  Viruses enter the body through mucus membranes and your eyes are two big open doors to viral infection.
  • People who don’t follow quarantine measures risk infecting thousands of people.
  • Human contact with exotic wildlife is the number one-way pandemic level viruses are created.
  • Marshall law is always a possibility in a pandemic (and it sucks).

One of the most important takeaways from the movie “Outbreak” is that there are really brilliant medical researchers working on a cure and vaccine, round the clock, and at their own peril.  And we should call these people heroes.  Because they are.

Make smart choices during the quarantine period.  Do not take unnecessary risks and even if you consider yourself to be very healthy, understand that one person who is not symptomatic for up to 14 days can infect thousands of people.   Stay home.  Binge on Netflix.  Alphabetize your horror DVD collection, but do your part to keep your friends, family and yourself safe.

And don’t forget to stock up on toilet paper. If you can find any.

Categories
Featured Reviews Scary Movies and Series

Brahms: The Boy II Left Us With ‘Lunch Box Let Down”

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Brahms The Boy II Image Source: Exhibitor Relations Co. 2 – Box Office Boogaloo

We love movies about haunted artifacts and apparently so do millions of people. There is just something about an evil spirit trapped inside an inanimate object when it causes suffering and chaos to the unfortunate owner that is so mysteriously macabre.

We Really Like Katie Holmes (But Not in Horror Movies)

Laura Cohen was the central character of The Boy (2016) and she had already mastered horror after playing Maggie in The Walking Dead (2010 – ). As a horror actress, she’s an instant hit, because she brings a sort of fearless badassery that makes us believe she is experiencing authentic terror. When Cohen is scared, we are scared. This is something that Katie Holmes has not quite mastered because horror is not really a genre that fits her profile or range.

It takes someone who loves horror to act with believable fear in a horror movie. Laura Cohen had more than a decade of that experience as she was slaying zombies on-screen every week. She has the survivor chops that someone like Katie Holmes cannot quite muster in a scary movie. She does, however, play a really awesome victim who is being stalked by a psychopath, but even her performance in the 2002 movie Abandon was panned by critics. Katie Holmes is not someone we want to see in a horror movie; she belongs in forty-something adult romantic comedies or suspense movies.

Brahms: The Boy II is not the first horror movie that Katie Holmes has been cast in, which is kind of strange since we feel that she’s not really the kind of person you want to see fighting in a life or death situation with a demonic entity.  Holmes also appeared in “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”, “Teaching Mrs. Tingle” and “Disturbing Behavior”, which do not top the list of truly scary movies. More like, the kind of scary movies you watch with your mom who hates horror movies. Watered down. Decidedly un-scary.

We wondered if Katie Holmes was a closeted horror fan. Was she someone that had a massive collection of every horror movie ever made? Did she snuggle on the couch with Jamie Foxx with a big ass bowl of popcorn and watch The Exorcist for the 100th time? There has to be a reason why she seems to get cast into horror roles right? Is she asking for work in the genre, without knowing she would be a better fit on feel-good shows like a Gilmore Girls reboot?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNJgte__mIc

Apparently, she does love horror, but her inspiration for the movie was communicating the vulnerability of Liza, the mother of Jude (played by the talented Christopher Convery). In several interviews Holmes has said she wanted to show the protective nature of a parent, and she nailed that (tapping into her own real-life experiences). But while she states in several interviews that Brahms: The Boy II will ‘have you on the edge of your seat terrified” the truth is that the scariest scenes barely involve Holmes at all. That is not where the few (but impactful) terror moments in the movie come from.

A High-Quality Scary Movie Which Pales in Comparison to the First Iteration “The Boy”

There is a checklist of cinematic techniques and storytelling that make for a good (but maybe not great) horror movie. Real fans of the horror genre and writers are able to see these commercial cookie cutter elements that are (unfortunately) a predictable and repetitive recipe for mainstream scary movies.

  • At least one A-list actor to ensure audience enticement
  • A scary filming location (the Craigdarroch Castle in Victoria, British Columbia Canada)
  • Eerie but pristine old looking wooded areas
  • Creepy doll
  • An older historian type figure who connects the dots for the family with facts they were not aware of about the house, and the doll
  • A dog that can sense the malevolent spirit is brutally killed (we hate this by the way but understand the psychological trigger of including it in the plot). Cheap shot.
  • A strained marriage because of [insert trauma type] that makes the protagonist feel like he/she may be going insane as they start to witness paranormal behaviors
  • The injury of a child playing with the possessed or influenced child, within the geographic influence of the haunted artifact.
  • A male partner who thinks the female protagonist experiencing paranormal is hormonal or possibly insane. (We love it when horror writers throw in the ‘female is batshit crazy’ card… thanks.)

Sounds familiar right? With very few exceptions and breakout moments of script and storyline originality, Brahms: The Boy II feels like a movie we have seen before. Time and time again.

We cannot call it ‘horror’ because we were not afraid to go into the basement with the lights off, after watching the movie. We did not feel the need to sleep with the closet light on, and we had no bad dreams after watching Brahm: The Boy II.  It made us jump a few times which was fun, but it failed to penetrate into that squishy psychological area of our brain which makes us think about the movie for days afterward. Zero trauma. We were disappointed.

Hollywood horror producers, if you are looking for some talented writers in the genre, we have a long list of talented horror creatives. Just in case, you know, you are actually looking for some truly terrifying novels to adapt to the kind of horror movies we want to see.

REAL. SCARY. HORROR.

Brahms: The Boy II is Less Intense and Terrifying Than “The Boy”

At time of publishing “Brahms: The Boy II was out in the theaters (hello pandemic, not that we can actually go see it or anything… anyone else missing hot pretzels and insanely large sodas?). We went to Redbox on Demand and found that it was not yet available for rent, but we could buy it for $9.99. So, we did.

In the first film The Boy, we see a much more violent and malevolent demonic presence and influence in the doll. Yep, we are Maggie fans, because the talented Laura Cohen makes you feel the same fear she is experiencing. By comparison to Liza, played by Katie Holmes, we have a ‘concerned mother’ who feels a little slow moving to connect the dots.

The trauma is to blame? Maybe, but Holmes comes across as the kind of Mom that is distracted (not distraught), and definitely not the horror movie hero we want her to be in the movie. She comes across as being too nice, like a Mom you would like to invite to your wine and book club. This movie and storyline based on the original had so much potential, and literally falls on its face. Great cinematography however and some amazing camera angles, set and performances by other new and supporting actors in the film.

The creepy factor of Brahms activities are really limited to moving his head, footsteps in the hall (or up the stairs), slamming doors and one particular scene with a flashlight that we won’t ruin for you.  But overall, the dolls behavior in this sequel is pretty tame when you compare it to his epic and eerie malice in “The Boy”.

For the record, we REALLY wanted to see this movie. We paid $10 to watch it at home! We wanted it to be a fun and scary experience but ended up watching something scarier after the movie was over. My 14-year old stepson (who is only toe dipping into the genre with books and movies) said it best:

“That wasn’t really a scary movie. Can we watch something scary next?”

Go back to what worked in the first film. We look forward to the potential twist of storyline in The Boy 3.

Definition of Lunchbox Let Down:  When your mom tells you that she packed something extra special for your lunch. And you get all excited about it, until you open it on the bus and find a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a bottle of water, and an apple.

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Release date: February 21, 2020 (USA)

DirectorWilliam Brent Bell

Film series: The Boy

ScreenplayStacey Menear

Production company: Lakeshore Entertainment

Distributed by: STX Films

Run time: 86 minutes

Image: Theatrical release poster

Feature Image Source: Exhibitor Relations Co. 2 – Box Office Boogaloo