God, I love a good plague or virus movie. CONTAGION (2011), the masterpiece that kills off the annoying Gwyneth Paltrow within the first ten minutes, is probably my favourite, although RIGHT AT YOUR DOOR (2006) is excellent too. That one’s about dirty bombs and chemical warfare, but it’s all the same thing, innit?

OUTBREAK, one of the most streamed films on Netflix during the first month of the COVID-19 pandemic (I find that hilarious), probably isn’t the most technically or scientifically accurate movie about a pandemic.

Like, how come every infected person but Rene Russo dies a horrible, disgusting death that includes bleeding from the eyes like a statue of the Virgin Mary in a haunted grotto? An obvious flaw, but it’s still a great romp and references that great American institution, the CDC, or the Centres for Disease Control. You know you’re in for a good watch when they have to call in the CDC! I think they brought ‘em in to the Stephen King six-hour mini-series THE STAND (1994) as well. A great bunch of lads, the Chinese. Erm, I mean the CDC.

The diminutive method-acting Dustin Hoffman plays army medic Colonel Sam Daniels, MD. All the main men in this film play different ranks of army personnel, and, unless you know which rank supersedes which other rank, you’re apt to become a tad confused. Here’s a simple trick to following Who’s Who: Sam ranks higher than Kevin Spacey and Cuba Gooding Jr., his old muckers and colleagues, but lower than Morgan Freeman and Donald Sutherland, the top brass. Got it…?

Sam’s ex-wife, Roberta ‘Robby’ Keough, MD, is an army medic too. They are going through a messy divorce when it’s obvious they still love each other and their two beautiful dogs. They should put the nonsense aside and have an honest conversation for once instead of all the sniping and snapping.

Anyway, the virus, right? It’s brought into America- Cedar Creek in California, to be exact- by an adorable disease monkey similar to the ones that people initially thought were responsible for the spread of AIDS.

A big dope called Jimbo steals the little critter from the animal testing laboratory where he works after it’s been smuggled into the country. He hopes to sell it to a pet shop on the black market, no questions asked, but before you can say, ‘we’d better put a call in to the CDC,’ Jimbo and the pet-shop owner are dead of the virus and the monkey is running amok in the woods after being released by a misguided Jimbo.

Dozens of Californians (not the Californians, they’re the beautiful people!) immediately catch the virus and die horribly. Sam wants to find a cure, for which he’ll need to find the monkey, but Donald Sutherland just wants to nuke the town of Cedar Creek in Operation Clean Sweep, something he did thirty years ago when the same virus showed up in a village in darkest Africa. He clearly just really loves to nuke stuff, and gets really annoyed when Sam keeps trying to stop him.

Dustin Hoffman is quite funny and endearing as Sam, the sort of loose cannon, maverick medic. He strides around the place standing up to his superiors (especially Morgan Freeman, who might know more about this virus than he’s letting on) and saying things like, ‘With all due respect, Brigadier, fuck you,’ when he’s about to contravene a direct order, which is most of the time.

The scene where Dustin Hoffman helicopters onto the exact right boat that brought the plague monkey into ‘Murica before helicoptering back off again is a little far-fetched. Sam’s speech to the soldiers who are tasked with dropping the bomb on poor old Cedar Creek is hokey in the extreme, mawkishly sentimental, but that’s the kind of fun, over-the-top disaster movie this is, lol.

I love the spooky scene where the nice, normal ordinary Cedar Creek mom has to leave her husband and kids and go somewhere unknown in order to be ‘isolated’ by the Army, who are of course working for the government. THE CDC, the CIA, the FBI, they all terrify me, even though I said earlier that the CDC were a great bunch of lads.

It’s just the thought of all the secrets they must have kept over the years, all the things they must have decided at the highest level that it wasn’t in the ‘public’s best interests’ to know.

And, if you’ve seen RIGHT AT YOUR DOOR, you too might have a fear of the Army turning up at your house one day in the middle of a terrifying public health crisis, but not to help you by bringing you bags of oranges and stores of penicillin…

It’s interesting to watch stuff like this in the context of our own recent pandemic. CONTAGION probably mirrors our COVID experiences the closest, with masks and self-isolation and vaccines and people who say the vaccines are a load of bollocks and all part of a wider government conspiracy and whatnot, but OUTBREAK is great craic too, and it vanishes from Netflix at the end of November, so chop chop! Catch it while you can, but not the virus. Definitely don’t catch that…



When I first watched this psychological serial killer drama on television, I was so scared by the guy tied to the bed I think I stopped watching it, and then didn’t pluck up the courage to go back to it until a few years later. It still looks good today, as it happens, and it still spooks me.

Morgan Freeman, he of the iconic voice, plays tired old homicide detective just a short time from retirement, William Somerset. He’s seen it all, or so he thinks, the very worst that human beings can achieve and inflict on their fellow men.

He’s been there, done that, bought the T-shirt, spilled Diet Coke down the front of it and smeared it with peanut butter and jelly from the sandwich he habitually eats at his desk when he’s not missing lunch altogether because of his heavy caseload, brought the T-shirt home to be washed, washed it, worn the T-shirt again, decided he wasn’t that keen on it after all and donated it to Goodwill. Whew. The journey of a single garment, much.
He’s taciturn, the kind of television gumshoe we normally refer to as ‘jaded’ or ‘hard-bitten.’ He’s looking forward to retirement, when he probably plans to do the crossword, go fishing and catch up with a bevy of other superannuated old geezers like himself whom he’s known since Moses went up the mountain and came back down with a load of pills. Tablets, sorry, I meant tablets…!

Brad Pitt plays David Mills, the hot-headed ambitious younger detective who’s the Ying to Somerset’s Yang. He’s just moved to this rainy, crime-filled unnamed shithole of a city with his beautiful blonde wife Tracy, played by Gwyneth Paltrow. Tracy is up the duff and is considering not having the baby. She confides in Detective Somerset, to whom she’s taken a shine, that this filthy city is no place to bring up a child.

Disgraced actor Kevin Spacey is brilliant and chilling as John Doe (sorry, but he is!), the cold-blooded, supremely confident and methodical serial killer sought by Somerset and Mills. He kills his victims according to the Seven Deadly Sins, otherwise known as Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Envy, Wrath, Pride and Lust. No matter how many times you think you’ve remembered ‘em all, there’s always one you forget. Try it! It’s like trying to remember the Ten Commandments. I always run out of steam when it comes to all the coveting.

A fat man is forced to eat until his stomach explodes. Sin of Gluttony. A prostitute is savagely raped with a strap-on metal blade. (Yee-ikes!). Sin of Lust. See? Each crime represents one of these Seven Deadly Sins.

Can Mills and Somerset catch this twisted, sadistic serial murderer before he kills again, or is it already too late? Or, if it’s too late to stop the deadly roll-out of pre-planned murders, can the two detectives at least have a ringside seat to the Grand Finale…? I have a distinct feeling that the killer will insist on it…

I love the dark, rainy, gritty feel to this movie. It’s a very brown-looking movie, if you get me, just like David Fincher’s later crime thriller, PANIC ROOM (2002), which is one of my favourite films.

SE7EN is considered by some to be the best serial killer flick ever made, next to 1991’s THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, in which Hannibal ‘the Cannibal’ Lecter is the psychopath to, quite possibly, end all psychopaths. I prefer LAMBS, personally, but that doesn’t take away from how good SE7EN is and you can’t twist my arm on that.

By the way, do you think that Dr. Lecter was named ‘Hannibal’ by his creator, Thomas Harris, because it rhymed with ‘Cannibal?’ Almost certainly. I feel like the monikers Andrew the Cannibal, Bob the Cannibal or even Laurence the Cannibal might not have had the same punchy, catchy memorable sound to them.

Brad Pitt was engaged to Gwyneth Paltrow during the making of SE7EN, the horny beast, and was later married to and divorced from Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie. I don’t think he’s ever been hitched to or divorced from either Cameron Diaz, Julia Roberts or Penelope Cruz. He missed out there, anyway. Top birds, these.

Brad Pitt also has a minor planet named after him. My God, how the other half live. Planets and top actresses and such like. Shure you couldn’t be up to them. That’s an Irish-ism, by the way, that signifies that your attempts to replicate the celebrity lifestyle will be feeble and pitiful at best and you should just not bother your arse even trying.  

I like the shock ending to SE7EN. My only regret is that I’ll never again be able to watch it without knowing what’s in the box. Once you know it, you know it for life. What’s in the box, you say? I can’t tell you that. It would be a massive head. I mean, spoiler. Sorry. Sorry about that. I meant it would be a massive head. Fuck it, I did it again. Never mind me, you’d better just go and watch the fillum if you want to know…!


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: