If you saw Contagion this past weekend, chances are you haven't left your house since. You are probably sealed in a protective bubble even now. (If you are, I'm happy you've turned to me and Film.com to while away the hours.) If you have, it's been with the aid of hand sanitizer and a ready supply of Vitamin C and zinc. Perhaps you've even taken the drastic measures favored in foreign lands, and swathed yourself in a surgical mask or are wearing surgeon's gloves to touch anything that isn't your iPhone.
All I can say is...what took you so long? Some of us have been freaked out by the outside world for years thanks to films, television, CNN, and friends and family in the World Health Organization.
If you walked out of Contagion with a shrug – "Whatever! That wasn't so bad!" – then allow me to gross you out a little further. Below is a list of films that will (if you're normal) make your skin crawl, your body spasm, and your hands instinctively reach for the Purell. Not all of them deal with viral outbreaks. Several of them just deal with germs and filth. But I guarantee at least one -- if not all -- will tempt you to take a very, very hot shower, possibly followed-up with a fierce scrubbing in even hotter shower. If only science had discovered a way to sanitize one's eyeballs and wipe one's brain...
Please add to the list so we can all germophobe out together. And don't read anything into the ranking, they are simply in the order I thought them up.
Drug movies are always guaranteed to bring the squickiness (see Rush, Sid and Nancy, Requiem for a Dream, etc.), but Trainspotting may have taken it to a new level of grime. The discussion could begin and end with the dirtiest toilet in Glasgow scene, but then you remember the unspeakable moment with the sheets, Tommy and Swanny's respective flats, and those cold and grubby Scottish streets. There's just nothing clean in this film. Nothing.
Todd Haynes' film is like the anti-Contagion, full of ambiguity about the nature of Julianne Moore's illness. Is it real? Psychosomatic? It doesn't matter. The film squeezes all healthy sensation away from you, leaving your skin crawling, your lungs tight, and your fingers feeling for sores. You'll need a hot shower and a thick, fuzzy blanket ... and possibly a mirror to tell say "I love you" in.
A grindhouse movie always makes you feel a little grubbier for having watched it, and Crank is no exception. Jason Statham does so much sweating and grappling in unseemly places that you just want to toss him in a shower, and scrub him with an elephant brush. But then he pauses to snort cocaine off a stripclub's bathroom floor, and you realize he's beyond all soap.
4. Planet Terror
Zombie movies are always a haven for splatter and ooze, but there's something about Planet Terror that just begs for an antiseptic shower. Maybe it's the bubbling. Or the gangrene. Or the drip of slime from Quentin Tarantino's unmentionables. Why pick one reason? (You could extend this to include all of Grindhouse, including the guest trailers. I find the Don't trailer particularly unsanitary, but that might just be my discomfort with dust, spiders, and baby eaters.)
5. Cabin Fever
Sniffling, sneezing, aching, stuffy-head, fever and flesh eating. And you thought The Blair Witch Project cured your desire for camping. Shudder. It's hard to walk away from this one without feeling a bit...peely, hot, and nauseous.
6. Meet the Feebles
Who knew creatures of felt and fur could be so nasty and drippy? Even knowing it's fabric and not flesh doesn't help one's gorge from rising at any one frame of the film. There's a rabbit with an STD, for crying out loud, and he has a conversation with a fly who is hanging out in his toilet. I'm not going to describe it further. My stomach flipped just typing that much.
7. Black Death
The 1348 version of Contagion. Any medieval film worth its salt will make one feel a little shivery, but this one has coughing, fever, and a textbook example of the buboes which gave "bubonic plague" its name. Just in case those aren't gross enough, Black Death found a far more gruesome way for them to rupture.
Laughter helps some of the sluggy horror go down, but only if you don't think too hard about what happens to Brenda James in the bathtub or what, exactly, kissing an infected Michael Rooker would smell, feel, and taste like. And there's just so much gook. So very, very much.
9. Anything by David Cronenberg
I was going to pick The Fly, but when you are talking about the master of body horror, it's hard to say whether The Brood, Dead Ringers (the final scenes of the Mantles alone is the definition of revulsion) or The Fly might be the most skin crawling. They might also make you deeply suspicious of medical professionals.
Do you know how you feel if you walk through a spiderweb? Or discover a creepy crawly on your arm? Or see one on the ceiling before you go to bed? Bug stretches that sensation over two hours, but dosed with more sweat, blood, and gasoline. It's hard to get through the film without slapping an arm or a leg, certain you feel something tickling.