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Nocebo, Pontypool, Contagion, and The Andromeda Strain
Weekly Horror Bulletin Newsletter 212
We’ve got our usual lineup of four movies and a short film this week— This time, all “plague related” films. We’ll start with “Nocebo” and “Pontypool,” which feature two supernatural-adjacent diseases. Then we’ll go the traditional plague route with “Contagion” and the original version of “The Andromeda Strain.”
As a bonus this week, we’ll look at future plagues:
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• “La Jetee” (1962)
• “12 Monkeys” (1995)
Four years ago this week...
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• Tales to Make You Shiver, Volumes 1 and 2
Here. We. Go!
• Directed by Lorcan Finnegan
• Written by Garret Shanley
• Stars Eva Green, Mark Strong, Chai Fonacier
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 36 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
Some excellent acting takes us through this tale of witchery and creepy insects. Overall, it’s well done and entertaining.
Christine and Felix argue about who must pick up their child at school. She takes their daughter, Bobs, but he cannot pick her up later. They’re having a children’s fashion show. She gets a call in the middle of the show— something about bodies. She sees a large, blind, disease-ridden dog walking toward her in the dressing room. It shakes dirt and ticks all over her. She stands up, and we see that she does indeed have a tick on her neck. Credits roll.
Eight months later, we see Christine is on a CPAP machine. She looks sick, and there’s a wound on the back of her neck. She visits a client who asks how she’s been “after everything.” “I’m fine now, just eager to get back in the saddle.” Christine’s hands start shaking uncontrollably, so she calls Felix to pick up Bobs. The client likes her designs but needs some modifications in a hurry.
The doorbell rings, and it’s Diana. “I’m here to help you,” she says. Christine doesn’t remember but lets her in. She’ll be living there, but Christine doesn’t remember any of that. Diana catches a tick in a match box.
Felix and Bobs arrive, and they didn’t know about Diana either. Felix asks where in the Philippines she came from, but he doesn’t know the place very well. Felix and Christine argue about the arrangement, but since Christine is busy with work, they decide to let things go for a week.
Christine falls over and has a seizure, and Diana makes it go away– by tickling her.
Diana leaves ashes from the fireplace in a pile outside her bedroom door before going to bed. We flash back to her in the Philippines dancing and having a good time. In the morning, there are child-sized footprints in the ashes.
That morning, Christine doesn’t remember the way to Bobs's school, so later, Diana uses some Filipino folk medicine on her. She tells the story about how an old witch-woman’s soul flew into her when the old woman died. After that, she knew medicine and the power of nature. She had the power to heal or destroy. Once again, it works, and Christine feels better.
Christine tells Diana about the dog and the ticks. A tick bit her, and she got sick after that. We see Diana burn some of Christine’s hair and toenails in a ritual.
We get another flashback to Diana and her family evacuating after the military takes over and burns their house down. In the morning, all of Christine’s medicines are gone; Diana says Christine threw them all out yesterday, but Felix is skeptical.
Felix confronts Diana that night. He explains that Christine is punishing herself over guilt. He calls her a “backward snake oil merchant,” but she doesn’t accept his threats. Diana and Bobs finally become friends the next morning after Felix kills Bobs's bird.
Diana and Christine do more rituals, and it’s arguable whether it’s helping or making her worse. Felix goes through all Diana’s stuff and finds a little altar with a picture of Diana and her own daughter, as well as a vial of blood. He also finds all of Christine’s medicine stashed under Diana’s bed.
Diana teaches Bobs how to call Crows. Felix and Christine confront Diana about the meds when she gets home. Christine calls her a “pitiful wretch,” and fires her. Before she goes, Diana releases the tick into the air vent. Diana also tells Bobs to do one last thing for her…
That night, Christine sees a foot-long tick crawling up her legs in bed– Nope, just a nightmare. The next morning, Bobs says Felix was the one who took Christine’s medicines. Christine believes every word of the story and throws Felix out. He falls down the stairs, something Diana had warned him about.
There’s another children’s fashion shoot, and Christine takes Bobs to watch. Elsewhere, Diana starts another ritual. Christine starts seeing ticks covering all the children and adults at the show. Christine screams and has a seizure right in the middle of the show.
Christine goes home to bed, sick, and Diana returns. Diana feeds Christine some of the fireplace ashes and tells her it’s time to confront what ails her.
We get another flashback of Diana and her own daughter going to work in a sweatshop making children’s clothes. Christine tours the sweatshop and demands that workers go faster. She suggests the managers lock the doors so nothing can go missing. Christine takes a selfie with Diana’s daughter. The manager unlocks the door to let Diana go out and get a drink for her daughter, and a fire starts. Since the doors are locked, everyone burns to death, including Diana’s daughter.
This whole thing has been a way for Diana to get revenge on Christine. She sent the tick-infested dog to bite Christine. Diana says she will take Christine’s daughter from her as well. Diana tells Christine to face her own judgment for what she’s done. She tells Bobs to go to the garden and look up.
Bobs goes outside and watches Diana jump off the roof to her death. The little witch-soul flies out of her mouth and into Bobs’s mouth. Felix finally comes home and finds Christine burned to ash– just like Diana’s daughter was.
Kevin and I had a theory about why this was happening about a half-hour into the movie when we saw the photo of Christine and a little girl in the Philippines. We guessed it– revenge!
The acting is excellent all around, Eva Green never looked so sickly. The little girl Bobs was particularly good. The plot– well, we guessed the “twist” far too early, but it was still well executed. The sets were good, the characters all acted more or less reasonably, and the Filipino “magic” was interesting and unique.
• Directed by Bruce McDonald
• Written by Tony Burgess
• Stars Stephen McHattie, Lisa Houle, Georgina Reilly
• Run Time: 1 Hour, 33 Minutes
• Trailer: •
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s a story that builds nicely and a simple setting, mostly taking place within a few rooms of a building. And it’s well done with a good script and skillful acting. Stephen McHattie in the lead is perfect for the role.
In the small town of Pontypool, Grant Mazzy encounters a strange woman on the road, but she wanders off into the snowstorm. Grant arrives at the radio station; he’s a DJ. Laurel-Ann, his technician, welcomes him to work. His producer, Sydney Briar, is there as well. The whole studio is in the basement of a church.
There’s a big storm going on, so they switch to talking to a helicopter pilot about the weather. Grant and Sydney argue about him talking about pot growers. He just wants to make the listeners angry to build his audience.
Laurel-Ann hears over the police radio that there’s a developing hostage situation. Grant makes up a bunch of details about the sketchy story, which really annoys Sydney. Sydney admits that Ken, the helicopter reporter, is really just a guy in his car up on a hill playing sound effects.
The police ask them to drop the story. The “copter” guy calls in with more trouble– Dr. John Mendez’s office is surrounded by an unruly mob. Hundreds of people are clamoring. People are trampling one another, and the copter guy says it looks like people are dying. The military arrives in trucks and actual helicopters. Ken the copter guy goes silent.
Then Grant must interview a bunch of awful singers dressed in brownface, and they sing. Meanwhile, Sydney and Laurel-Ann try to learn more about what’s happening outside. One of the singers starts repeating a sound over and over, and then they must leave.
Ken doesn’t call back, but they find an eyewitness. When they go to the witness, there’s nothing on the line but screaming. They finally get through to a police officer who fills them in on “a herd of people'' near the edge of the forest. Some people were said to be imitating windshield wipers, and a car has been buried under a “mountain of people.” It’s all very weird.
Then they get a call from a reporter with the BBC. He’s asking about the Canadian police putting up roadblocks in and out of town. Grant doesn’t know anything about that and tries to deny that the problems going on are terrorists or political. The BBC guy says it sure looks like an insurgency.
Ken finally calls in again. He’s in trouble– the rioting crowd came after him, and he’s barricaded himself in a silo. He’s hysterical at the terrible things he’s seen tonight. Ken talks about naked cannibals that act like dogs. He reports that people are eating each other like piranhas. Sydney wants Grant to stop the interview; she doesn’t want to hear Ken get killed on the air. They lose Ken. They are warned to avoid the English language. What?
Sydney gets a call that the whole town is now under quarantine. Ken comes back and plays audio of a mortally wounded teenager calling for “Mommy,” and making sounds like a child.
Grant and Sydney argue about whether this whole thing is a hoax or not. They’re both having trouble believing any of this. He starts getting upset and demands to go outside and look around. He’s only out for a few seconds before people attack the very solid-looking doors.
Grant decides to read the obituaries to fill in the dead air, and it sounds like about half of them were murdered. There were a lot of deaths yesterday!
Laurel-Ann starts repeating the word, “Missing” uncontrollably. When the teapot starts whistling, she starts making the same monotone sound. All of a sudden, Dr. Mendez crawls in through a window and tells Sydney to stay away from Laurel-Ann. Mendez and Sydney hide in the sound booth with Grant. Laurel-Ann tries to get in, but Mendez says no, it’s dangerous.
Ken calls in, and he keeps using the words “Symbol, Simple, and Sample” in inappropriate places. He seems to be losing his sanity as they listen to him on the phone. Mendez says whatever it is has gone viral but is carried in words and sounds. “Some words are infected, and it spreads out when the contaminated word is spoken.” It’s more about understanding a word rather than just hearing it.
Grant thinks this is all a little crazy. “Should we be talking about this? Should we be talking at all?” Could they actually destroy the world over this broadcast? Through all this, Laurel-Ann is beating her head into the unbreakable glass of the studio.
Laurel-Ann suddenly explodes in blood and puke as others break in from outside. They turn off the lights and hide under the desk as zombified people wander in and press their faces into the glass. They try to send a message, “Sydney Briar is alive.” The zombies outside latch onto the message and start to repeat it.
Mendez starts babbling in German that only the English language is infected. Since they’re in Canada, Grant and Sydney switch to talking in French.
The loudspeaker starts playing “Oh Canada” which gets the crazies all riled up. Dr. Mendez runs outside as a distraction to save the other two. Sydney and Grant hide in the storeroom, but she gets drunk and won’t stop talking.
Grant wants to figure out a way to stop understanding words. As he works through this, Sydney starts repeating the word “Kill.” He repeats the word in strange ways to confuse her, and it actually works. Grant decides that he’s found the cure and wants to save the world with one final broadcast.
They get back on the air and tell people that “Kill is kiss. Sample is Staple. Everything is something else. Happy is Handy." Meanwhile, there are bombs falling outside, with explosions everywhere. The two of them spit out nonsense words back and forth until the bombs stop.
Then they hear a countdown, and everything goes black.
It’s very tense, and we see very little outside the studio. The acting here is everything, there’s only one set and four main characters. It’s a weird and unique situation, and it’s fun to learn what’s going on with Grant and the gang as the story unfolds. It’s never really explained why this is happening or what started it all.
It’s very original and very good!
Short Film: The Plague (2019)
• Directed by Guillermo Carbonell
• Written by Guillermo Carbonell
• Stars Gabriela Freire, Rafael Soliwoda, Walter Rey
• Run Time: 8:25
• Watch it: •
Two men park at the end of a pier and wait for another car. One of the men wipes blood from his jacket.
Elsewhere, Rosa wakes up. Someone’s in her house. She finds her father there, in the bathroom. He’s gotten away from the nursing home… again.
As she calls the nursing home, there’s another knock on the door, and this one isn’t as benign…
Well, that got weird fast. You’d think they could have done the job a bit more neatly, but OK.
It looks good; it’s nicely shot and well lit. The music works well here too. We don’t really get an explanation of what happened, but it’s cool anyway. What kind of plague is it?
• Directed by Steven Soderbergh
• Written by Scott Z. Burns
• Stars Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow
• Run Time: 1 Hour 46 Minutes
• Trailer: •
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
Imagine if COVID had been a much more serious disease. That’s how the events of this movie unfold with a very realistic outbreak, spread, and reactions. It’s well made with a powerhouse cast, and disturbingly entertaining. And… it’s from 2011, nearly a decade before COVID actually happened.
Beth Emhoff has a cough. She gets a phone call at the airport. A sick-looking kid in Hong Kong walks through a crowded city. We see various people around the globe getting sick, including one fatality. The sick people are on buses, elevators, crowds, and – you know how it goes.
The next day, at the CDC in Atlanta, Dr. Ellis Cheever goes to work and talks to an employee about his kid with ADHD. Alan Krumwiede is a journalist who wants to talk about these people getting sick.
Beth’s son gets sick at school; he caught it from his mother. His father, Mitch, has to go to school to pick him up. By the fourth day, Beth collapses and goes into convulsions; soon after, she dies. The doctor thinks it’s either encephalitis or meningitis, but he’s not sure. By the time Mitch gets home, his son has died as well.
The CDC starts gathering blood samples from Hong Kong, London, Tokyo, and other places. They know something’s up. Dr. Erin Mears arrives to help with the research. During Beth’s autopsy, they open up her skull and look at her brain. They find something shocking inside. They put Mitch into isolation, but he’s not showing any symptoms.
The government people argue about what to tell the public. This is the biggest shopping weekend of the year, after all. Homeland Security comes to see Dr. Cheever. They wonder if someone has weaponized the Bird Flu.
The guy who picked up Beth at the airport gets sick and infects a whole busload of people. The CDC learns that the disease originated in pigs and bats. Cue the “tracking down patient zero” montage. Dr. Sussman is ordered to shut down his research and let the government deal with it, but he doesn’t listen and learns how to grow the virus.
Dr. Mears decides that Mitch is probably immune to the virus and lets him go. The virus continues to spread, and by this time, everyone knows it. Dr. Mears gets sick and calls Cheever.
Dr. Orantes with the WHO is kidnapped in Hong Kong and taken to a small village as a hostage to get the vaccine that is rumored on the Internet. Cheever learns that mass transport of all kinds is shutting down and most people start working from home. Forsythia is said to be a cure, and that spreads around the Internet, but it doesn’t really work. Cheever tells his fiancé to leave Chicago, and she tells a friend the “secret.” Before long, there’s a run on food at the grocery stores, and rioting starts. The borders are sealed.
Alan Krumwiede starts putting out fliers claiming that “The CDC Lies” and putting Forsythia promotions and conspiracy stuff on his video blog. There are mass graves, and the people burying bodies run out of body bags. Alan Krumwiede debates Cheever on the TV news, and the fact that Cheever told someone to leave Chicago comes back to bite him.
Then the virus mutates. The vaccine development process isn’t working. The fatality is between 25 and 30 percent. People can’t get food, and there’s more fighting and rioting.
Mitch starts breaking into dead neighbor’s abandoned houses looking for food. One doctor who has been working on a vaccine infects and injects herself, and it seems to work, but it’ll take time to produce enough to stop the virus. Who will get the vaccine first?
Alan still insists that Forsythia works because he makes money from them, and now he’s trash-talking the vaccine. He’s arrested for a whole bunch of things but is soon released. There’s a lottery based on people’s birthdays deciding on who gets the vaccine soonest.
The men in Hong Kong release Dr. Orantes when they get a hundred doses of the vaccine. Turns out they gave the kidnappers placebos instead of the real thing. Dr. Cheever gives his fiancé the vaccine but gives his own dose to one of the employee’s kids.
Things start to go back to normal, and we see a fruit bat fly into a pig pen. The pig winds up in a restaurant where Beth was eating. That’s how this all started– she was patient zero all along.
This came out in 2011 and was a big hit. If this came out today, it’d be slammed for political reasons. We’ve heard all this stuff repeatedly over the past three years with COVID. Most of the way the film progresses is exactly like what happened with COVID, although it was a lot less fatal in real life. And the real world wasn’t the level of disaster in this movie. But for a “speculative” film, it’s awfully realistic in hindsight.
This was a horror movie twelve years ago, but the vast majority of it feels like history today.
The Andromeda Strain (1971)
• Directed by Robert Wise
• Written by Michael Crichton, Nelson Gidding
• Stars James Olsen, Arthur Hill, David Wayne
• Run Time: 2 Hours, 11 Minutes
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
This is heavily science fiction, but there are some horror elements for sure. It’s steady and tense and a little low on action, but it never gets boring. It has held up over the years and is worth a watch.
We are told that what we are about to see is top secret and based on an actual four-day long event. Credits roll.
A man looks at the little desert town of Piedmont in his telescope using night vision. He gets back into his van, and we see that it’s a satellite recovery vehicle, here to pick up what’s left after a satellite came down. They notice the town is being circled by buzzards. They call into Vandenberg Air Force base, and they report that there’s no sign of life in the town. There are lots of bodies on the ground. They are ordered to proceed to the satellite. There are screams, and then the radio goes dead.
Major Mancheck orders an air flyover. He confirms the whole town is dead. Mancheck calls his superiors and declares it a “Project Wildfire” situation.
Various scientists and experts are called in. Dr. Jeremy Stone reads the classified report on the way to the base. Dr. Charles Dutton is picked up in the middle of the night. General Sparks is in charge. Dr. Ruth Leavitt doesn’t want to cooperate with the soldiers but is convinced. Dr. Mark Hall is interrupted in the middle of surgery.
We’re told that Stone predicted that something like this might happen several years ago. The next morning, Mark and Stone are in a helicopter checking out the town. The man in the copter briefs him that they think it’s some kind of space plague. The buzzards are eating the dead people; there is concern that they’ll fly off and spread the contamination, so they drop gas canisters to kill the birds.
Mark and Stone land on the ground, and it’s obvious that whatever killed most of these people was nearly instantaneous. A few seem to have gone crazy and lived long enough to kill themselves. None of the bodies appear to have bled at all; all their blood has instantly clotted and turned to powder. They find the satellite, opened in the doctor’s office. They do find one baby, alive, as well as an old man who isn’t doing so well.
The plan is to nuke the town to sterilize the site, but various approvals will take hours. No, the President refuses to give the order. Charles and Ruth arrive at Wildfire, a secret base in the desert set up because of Stone’s warnings a few years ago. It’s disguised as an agricultural research center with a secret elevator to the lab beneath.
Stone shows Mark how to use the special keys that activate the nuclear self-destruct device. There’s some theory that an unmarried male is the best choice for countermanding the destruct order, and he’s it. A bomb will go off automatically after a short countdown if a “leak” to the outside is a real concern, and only he can stop it if he decides to, with his key. They all go through various fairly invasive decontamination procedures. Then they all go to sleep.
Next morning, they all have a strange breakfast; real food can transmit diseases. Charles is concerned that the space bacteria may be intelligent, but the others don’t really care.
They all go into a room where Stone manipulates the satellite using robotic arms. They very quickly learn that the satellite is still contagious on a rat and a monkey.
The baby and the old man are plugged into a medical computer that knows everything. They do tests that show the disease transmits through the air. In the satellite, they find a single tiny grain of meteor with green stuff on it. That may be what caused all this. Then they find out that the green stuff is growing.
A jet flying over Piedmont crashes; the plague gets to the pilot within two minutes, we see his oxygen mask disintegrating into dust. The pilot is nothing left but a skeleton– it’s mutated into a form that consumes plastic and flesh. The secret Wildfire lab loses communications with the outside world due to a simple malfunction.
Ruth discovers that the particle can survive on literally anything. It can live in deep space and can eat anything. An atomic blast could feed it to the point of destroying the world– it can feed on energy. They make sure they don’t nuke the town, but it’ll take time to disable the nuclear self-destruct bomb in the lab.
Ruth and Charles find out that the base was designed to develop biological weapons and suspect the satellite was sent up to find samples on purpose.
Suddenly, a contamination alarm goes off. A seal has broken in the autopsy room. Charles is inside, but still alive. Ruth has an epileptic seizure. There are tense moments of deduction and guessing before Hall thinks he figures out why the baby and old man are still alive. But then they notice a lab animal in with Charles is still alive too. It’s mutated into a non-infectious form– but it still disintegrates some plastics.
The gaskets that seal off the rooms are decomposing. The base locks down and the bomb is armed with five minutes to go. If the bomb goes off, Andromeda will mutate a million different ways instead of staying harmless.
Mark has to climb into the core of the base to disarm the bomb manually, but there are defenses that he must avoid– gas and lasers. He gets shot in the hand and face with a laser, but keeps on going, even in shock. With only nine seconds left, he manages to insert the key and turn the bomb off.
Stone reports to the government that the crisis has been averted, but that it may easily happen again…
The base is really cool and impressive, although it’s not very efficient to move around in. Did they really kill that monkey? That looked very real.
Some of the technology is made up sci-fi and some is as mundane today as a touch screen using a pen. I would be tempted to call this more science fiction than horror, but there were all those dead bodies in the beginning, and the animal testing is pretty realistic.
It’s focused more on the technology and the procedures for containment and a little light on characterization. It’s very realistic and well-considered, tense and entertaining. There’s no action until the very end, but it never gets boring.
La Jetée (1962)
• Directed by Chris Marker
• Written by Chris Marker
• Stars Etienne Becker, Jean Negroni, Davos Hanich
• Run Time: 28 Minutes
• Watch the full film:
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s a film composed of still black and white images with a narrator telling the story as it unfolds. It’s grim and depressing, but still entertaining. It was the inspiration for the film “12 Monkeys” from 1995 and has a similar time looping story.
This is the story of a man marked by a violent scene in his childhood that upset him. He saw a violent murder at the airport just before World War III.
Parents often take children to the airport to watch the planes take off and land. At the time, the boy didn’t even realize that he’d seen a man die.
Then the war came, and most people died. The survivors settled underground, while most of the surface world was uninhabitable. Prisoners were subjected to experiments. One day, they chose the man who had seen someone die in his childhood; he’s to be the next Guinea pig.
The experimenter says that the world is doomed. The only hope is time travel to reach food, medicine, and energy. They would rob the past to save the present. They chose this man because he has a strong mental image from the time before the war, which may help him survive the transfer.
The experiment proceeds, and he winds up in the past before the war. He finds the woman he’s looking for in the past. He can’t believe all the glass and plastic in the world; that’s all gone where he comes from. He meets up with the woman, and they go to a garden. He weaves in and out of her time but keeps returning.
Then the experiment changes, and he starts meeting her at different times. She starts calling him her “ghost.” The experimenter can aim him to whatever time they want now. They go to a museum and fall in love.
The experimenter wants to send the man into the future next. Paris and the world had been rebuilt, but they didn’t want him there. They gave him a super power unit to get humanity back on its feet again.
His mission is a success, so now he awaits execution. The people from the future rescue him, and he asks to go back to the days of his childhood.
He goes to the airport to meet up with the woman once again. He runs through the crowd, but a man from his own time shoots him in the back and dies. The little boy, him as a child, at the airport watches his own death, and the whole time-loop starts again.
The story is told through still images, like a really depressing slideshow. The destroyed buildings in WWIII are in black and white and grainy, but they definitely get the point across.
It’s heavily narrated, and there’s no visual action, but the story is good, and the images are memorable.
“Jetee” is French for an observation deck which is where the pivotal action takes place. It’s very different; interesting and unusual.
12 Monkeys (1995)
• Directed by Terry Gilliam
• Written by David Webb Peoples, Janet Peoples
• Stars Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt, Christopher Plummer
• Run Time: 2 Hours, 9 Minutes
• Trailer: •
Spoiler-Free Judgment Zone
It’s a heavily science-fiction story, combining an apocalyptic disease with time travel. The cast is good, the direction is wacky, and the story is great. An all-around winner.
We are told that five billion people will die from a deadly virus in 1997. The survivors will retreat underground, and animals will reclaim the surface.
A little boy watches a man get shot in the airport and a woman rushes over to help him as the boy watches. It’s a dream; Cole wakes up in his cell. They have finally called upon him to volunteer for an experiment. None of the volunteers ever come back.
Cole puts on a crazy-looking contamination suit and is sent up to the surface. It’s snowing in what’s left of the ruined city, but he checks things out up there. He grabs a bug for a sample and runs from a bear. He finds a “12 Monkeys” logo and a note saying, “We did it.” They must have caused the plague!
Returning back down, Cole reports to the board of scientists to explain what he saw. He’s told to volunteer for another experiment.
In 1990, Dr. Kathryn Railly gets called to jail to interview a prisoner who doesn’t know what day it is or anything. He must be psychotic, but he’s not on drugs. He’s Cole, and the police think he’s crazy. He says he’s supposed to be gathering information; he’s a good observer. He was supposed to be in 1996, but he hit 1990 instead.
They send Cole to a mental hospital because he’s so disoriented. He meets Jeffrey Goines there, a young guy who’s completely crazy himself. Cole talks to the doctors about the Army of the 12 Monkeys, and the doctors still think he’s crazy when he says he’s from the future. Kathryn thinks he looks very familiar but can’t place him.
That night, Jeffrey talks to Cole about germs and then gets sedated for being too crazy. The next day, they watch a show about disease research and animal testing. Cole talks about the human race getting wiped out and Jeffrey seems to think that’s a good idea. Cole tries to escape with Jeffrey’s help, which gets Kathryn into some trouble. A bit later, a fully sedated and restrained Cole simply vanishes from a locked room.
As Cole wakes up back in the future, the woman in the airport in his dream is now Kathryn because he’s grown attached to her. The scientists interrogate Cole and find out they sent him to the wrong year, but they want to try again. They send him to 1996, only he pops up in World War I and gets shot in the leg. Oops. They correct things and Cole heads back to 1996.
Kathryn is talking about predictions of deadly plagues foretold to end the world soon. There have been people in the past warning of plague going all the way back to ancient times. Dr. Peters comes to her book signing, and he’s a little creepy.
As Kathryn leaves the conference, she’s grabbed by Cole. She knows who he is immediately. He wants her to drive him to Philadelphia, which is where the Army of the 12 Monkeys is based.
Cole explains his mission; he has to find a sample of the virus in its original unmutated form. People are going to start dying from the virus next month. The two go to a homeless encampment and run into trouble. There’s a street preacher ranting about seven vials of destruction.
Cole and Kathryn go looking for the Army of the 12 Monkeys. The people he runs into tell them that Jeffrey is protesting his father, and the 12 Monkeys thing was just part of that. Jeffrey has done some crazy “guerilla” tactics to protest animal testing.
Cole goes to visit Jeffrey’s wealthy father, who runs a bio-research company. Instead, he runs into Jeffrey, who remembers him. Cole confronts Jeffrey about his plans to release the virus. Jeffrey says the whole idea was Cole’s from back in the institution. We also see that six years after that, Jeffrey’s still a lunatic even though he’s out and loose. Cole suddenly vanishes again.
Later, Kathryn talks to the police about what has transpired. Not long after, a news report about a missing child confirms to Kathryn that Cole’s story may have been true.
Back in the future, Cole thinks he’s going insane. In our time, Kathryn tries to plead Cole’s case, but they all think she’s losing her mind as well. She calls Jeffrey’s father, Dr. Goines, who tells her that neither Jeffrey nor any unauthorized people have any access to plagues. He turns around and we see that Dr. Peters works for Goines.
Kathryn goes to track down Jeffrey and his band of eco-terrorists. Cole returns to her time and tries to get caught by the police so he can be cured. He genuinely thinks he’s lost his mind and all the time travel stuff is his own delusion. This time, Kathryn is the one trying to convince him.
Kathryn calls Cole’s emergency phone number and leaves a prank message. That message was what started his whole mission; the scientists believed every word of what was said and sent Cole back here to learn more. None of the stuff about the 12 Monkeys was correct.
Across town, the “Army of the 12 Monkeys” and Jeffrey have kidnapped Dr. Goines. Goines believed Kathryn when she told him Jeffrey’s plan and tells Jeffrey that he no longer has the codes to unlock the virus. We see that Jeffrey’s real plan is to unlock all the cages at the zoo and let the animals out, nothing at all to do with plagues.
Kathryn makes plane reservations for them to go to Key West. The police, however, are now looking for both Cole and Kathryn.
They walk through the airport, and Cole recognizes the place from his dream– he’s been here before, and so was Kathryn. We soon see Dr. Peters buying tickets all over the world– and he has a suitcase full of plague canisters with him. And he opens one as his luggage is inspected. Cole phones in a report to the scientists, and another time traveler, Juan, comes to meet him and gives Cole a gun. He’s to shoot Peters or Juan will shoot Kathryn.
We see young Cole and his mother walking through the airport as well. Kathryn recognizes Peters as Cole argues with Juan. Kathryn tells Cole about Peters, and now that Cole has a gun, he goes after Peters, the apocalypse nut.
The cops spot Cole as Cole spots Peters. Cole runs after Peters and is gunned down by the police. Young Cole is standing right there and watches the older version of himself die. Kathryn finds young Cole in the crowd and smiles at him.
Peters gets on the plane and sits next to one of the scientists from the future, who will be able to get the sample of the virus. So, it’s a happy ending. Sorta.
The underground city is outstandingly steampunk- it looks both really cool and unpleasant at the same time. A lot of the visuals are impressive in a low-budget, post-apocalyptic way.
Brad Pitt is just insane here– he’s a lot of fun to watch. Bruce Willis, on the other hand, mostly drools a lot and acts unhinged. Which is also fun to watch.
It’s a really good time-travel paradox story. Cole caused his own past, which influenced his own future.
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