Liv­ing out reel fear

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MOVIES - By PA­TRICK GOLDSTEIN con­ta­gion

When times are tough, fear spreads to the big screen.

IS it re­ally a big sur­prise to dis­cover that while Amer­ica is en­dur­ing its worst eco­nomic down­turn in 70 years and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a parox­ysm of par­ti­san po­lit­i­cal in­fight­ing that the No.1 movie in one re­cent week­end was Con­ta­gion, which de­picts a planet over­whelmed by a mys­te­ri­ous virus threat­en­ing the lives of mil­lions?

When peo­ple are be­set by anx­i­ety, they of­ten turn to movies that al­low them a vi­car­i­ous re­lease. As the crafty mar­keters at Warner Bros put it on their movie poster: “Noth­ing Spreads Like Fear.”

It is prob­a­bly no co­in­ci­dence that these times of eco­nomic gloom and doom have also spawned a wave of alien in­vader films, in­clud­ing such hits as District 9, Bat­tle: Los An­ge­les and Su­per 8. There is more to come, with a re­make of The Thing ar­riv­ing in the­atres next month in the United States.

Of course, it’s easy to shrug off an alien in­va­sion as a pop­corn fan­tasy. What makes Con­ta­gion so po­tent is its knock­out punch of plau­si­bil­ity – the movie’s story is so deeply rooted in ac­tual sci­en­tific re­search that screen­writer Scott Z. Burns, who be­gan writ­ing the movie sev­eral years ago, held off fin­ish­ing the script un­til he could fol­low the out­come of the 2009 swine flu epi­demic.

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