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“Contagion” Catching On; Will Soderbergh’s “Really Dark” Thriller Foment Further Panic?

"Contagion" Catching On; Will Soderbergh's "Really Dark" Thriller Foment Further Panic?

Movies, especially mainstream ones, do engender mass public responses.

No one who has seen “Jaws” hasn’t thought twice about going for a little swim. Or felt a slight tinge of concern closing the shower curtains after watching “Psycho.” Will Soderbergh’s new pandemic thriller “Contagion” have a similar impact on a body politic, already shaken by global economic worries and a stock market meltdown?

The New York Times reports: “No other major studio movie scheduled for release between now and the year’s end appears to match the insistence of “Contagion” on facing something terrible — in this case, the death of millions by disease — without the edge of fantasy that made recent apocalyptic films like “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” “The Book of Eli” or “2012” perhaps less threatening.”

From the Times story, it sounds as if the film–and the studio–are churning out a seriously disturbing film. The story quotes one source who saw an early screening, calling the film “really, really dark and really, really scary.”

“Over the next week or two,” the story reports, marketing will be “expanding the scare factor with bus posters and billboards that will feature, among other things, a gasping, bug-eyed Ms. Paltrow beneath a legend that warns potential moviegoers to steer clear of one another. ‘Don’t talk to anyone,’ the posters say. ‘Don’t touch anyone.’”

Soderbergh hasn’t played around much with fear tactics, so it’s hard to know whether he cares to actually scare his audience. But he does like to get under the viewer’s skin: What’s more disquieting than the James Spader videotaping scene in “sex, lies and videotape”?

Below, check out the new TV spot for “Contagion.” As I reported in an earlier post, it looks like the film will still be presenting Big Pharma as the nefarious source of the disease. But I wonder if the political and conspiratorial subtext will play a backseat to the suspense, or vice versa. Soderbergh is the director of “Che,” after all.

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