When you break it down, a virus is really an army of itty-bitty little monsters. So, this particular section of the cinematic menagerie might not have as many quick-to-the-tongue monstrosities like the Predator or the Xenomorph, but its exhibits are certainly just scary and varied. Why don’t you throw on a hot towel, sip some chicken soup and down a couple antibiotic tabs for this sick, sick countdown...?
6. The Plague from Hobo with a Shotgun
If you’ve seen this outrageous duo of medieval torture enthusiasts in action, you know damn well why their inclusion on this list is simply a given.
5. The Super-Flu from The Stand
Pestilence so often spells loud final doom in fantasy, horror and sci-fi’s visions of the end times. Chimps ever-so-fatefully become man’s new pets after a plague kills all the dogs and cats in the old Planet of the Apes movies, and it’s a damned man-made virus that turns all the monkeys smart in Rise. Hell, the doomsday virus of 12 Monkeys even comes in golden vials. However, I feel like this would be the less flashy, but more accurate, reality of how the great sickness would come. It wouldn’t be sexy, it’d just be a more jacked-up strain of that same bug you fight with NyQuil because it’s giving you aches and pains.
4. “FEVER!” from Nic Cage’s Sankyo Commercial
Would you believe it’s been caused by an addiction to Pachinko?
That’s right, the Asian slot machine equivalents with all the little silver balls. That’s the answer to the Cage conundrum. He’s got a gambling compulsion and it gives him fever!
Seriously, he does. Japanese commercials never lie.
3. Da Vinci from Hackers
Hackers might be the most awesomely-dated 90s movie ever. It comes from a time when “VR” was a hip term in the parlance and the “world wide web” was still so strange and scary that America bought The Net’s premise that just a few key strokes could erase our identities entirely. It was also a time when computer viruses were depicted with better graphics than their host computers could have any hope of rendering, and I'd say Da Vinci was certainly the most stylish of these malignant programs. Maybe he isn’t as terrifyingly personified as Agent Smith nor are his abilities as over-the-the-top outrageous as that starship-destroying bug from ID4, but he makes up for it in Kenny G locks and groovy psychedelic colors.
2. Rage from 28 Days Later
Zombies had to be one this list somewhere. They’re the monster of the modern popular imagination, are they not? And there’s maybe something significant to be inferred from how an actual virus turns people into zombies over, say, the sort-of/kind-of STD that turned folks into vampires for decades. Although, identifying Rage like this cuts through some traditionally-avoidant terms. 28 Days Later refused to be called a zombie movie, even though it clearly was, and Romero’s seminal Dead movies never quite came out and said it was a virus that made the zombies walk again. So here’s an answer cobbled from the two.
As much as zombies and malware are the "pestilent contemporary," I’d still argue that “harmful sensation” is the real scare of our times. That is, the virus of ideas. The plague of excess information. This disease isn't spread through bodily fluids or airborne pathogens, but by the exposure of the eye to infamous cathode ray and of the brain to dangerous stimuli. Cronenberg played almost exclusively with horrific forms of sickness and disease for the first part of career, but there's no denying that this is the most potent synthesis of cerebral metaphor and visceral "body horror." Just look at the wretch above. Gross, yes, but can you think of a better symbol for man swelling and bursting with excessive knowledge?