History Lessons: “Infection” (Episode 3.2)

Some of the cinematic wisdom from this week’s installment of Eli Roth’s History of Horror:

Eli Roth: Horror stories are built around our fear of threats we know exist but can’t stop, or the threats we don’t know about until it’s too late. Pathogens inspire both kinds of fear. At first, we don’t know what’s killing us, then we realize an invisible monster is on the loose, and it’s coming for everyone.


Bryan Fuller: You had [in Outbreak] the monkey, you had the sneezing in the theaters. And you had these visual expressions that taught people, like, oh shit, it’s actually dangerous to be a human being and have lungs that can absorb bacteria in a way that destroys our entire system.


Scott Z. BurnsWhat I was hoping for [when writing Contagion] was to get to a place where reality was scarier than fiction, and so I was very interested in what human beings perceive as dangerous. As opposed to what really is. It turns out that it tends to be our habits and our lack of willpower that is probably a greater existential threat.


Madeline Stowe: 12 Monkeys is based on La Jetée by Chris Marker, who was a French filmmaker, and he took a really unique concept of using stills–still images–to convey the arc of a love story and a man’s witnessing his own death. And 12 Monkeys took that story, and made a feature film from it.


Rebekah McHendry: Found footage [in REC] became part of the horror, it became part of really using the camera to show the isolation. It uses it so well in the final scene where we’re hurting for light, and so then we get this limited view where she goes into night vision and we are experiencing the exact same limited periphery that the character is.


Nathaniel Thompson: When [Pontypool] came out, it seemed something very alien, like, how can a word or a phrase be something that can actually hurt you? And now, social media, of course, has come such a long way since that movie came out; it’s all about words, it’s so violent right now, that if you just say the wrong thing to someone like, boom–all you say is one sentence and suddenly you’ve got people rioting in the capitol building.


Max Brooks: Marilyn Chambers [in Rabid] didn’t even know that she was Typhoid Mary until it was too late. that’s what’s so scary about being a spreader–you don’t even know you’re a spreader until you’ve already spread.


Axelle Carolyn: [Roger Corman] shot in beautiful Technicolor, and that’s one of the most amazing aspects of [The Masque of the Red Death], actually, the cinematography of Nicolas Roeg–it’s just stunning. The camera’s constantly moving one way or another. There’s a lot of very wide shots because those sets allow a lot of scope. It’s just–it’s stunning. It’s a really, really beautiful movie.


Joe Hill: [Color Out of Space] features a classically unhinged performance by Nic Cage. His performance is a stunner, but in and around that performance is a story about a family’s shared sense of reality being smashed into tinier and tinier fragments by an environmental poison that has leaked into their well water.

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