The next time you find yourself complaining about having a cold, remember that there are plenty of worse things you can catch -- at least, if you happen to be in a horror movie. Here are some great horror movies featuring epidemic infections, viruses and diseases that would make anyone's skin crawl. (Zombie infections deserve a list all to themselves.)
21. The Grapes of Death (1978)
Perhaps the most accessible of French erotic horror director Jean Rollin's films, The Grapes of Death tells the story of a small French town whose residents are turned into homicidal maniacs by a pesticide sprayed on local grapes. It's surprisingly well-paced and relatively action-packed for a Rollin pic, and with loads of seeping open wounds, it's become known as the first French "gore film."
Something of a precursor to Resident Evil and 28 Days Later, this overlooked chiller with an impressive cast (Sam Waterston, Kathleen Quinlan, Yaphet Kotto) takes place in a government facility that's locked down after an experimental virus contaminates the workers, turning them into rage-filled maniacs.
28 Weeks Later overcomes a few plot issues (How do a couple of kids just waltz into a quarantined area?) to deliver a worthy follow-up to the great 28 Days Later -- even if the best part comes within the first 10 minutes. If there's ever a 28 Months Later, let's hope it doesn't devolve into I Am Legend.
Eli Roth's startling debut about a flesh-eating virus that ruins a weekend getaway at a cabin in the woods is tense, paranoid and uncomfortable with a dark streak of humor -- all good things for a horror movie.
17. The Crazies (1973)
Zombie maestro George Romero turns his sights to the living in this tale of a town infected by a biological agent that drives the residents insane. Unlike the remake (see below), this Vietnam-era original is ripe with political commentary, focusing largely on the military's behind-the-scenes strategizing to curtail the spread of the disease -- at the expense of human casualties (and cinematic pacing).
16. Rabid (1977)
In a story that could only come from the warped mind of David Cronenberg, a woman who receives an experimental skin graft ends up growing an orifice in her armpit that sucks blood from victims who in turn develop a "rabid" craving for blood themselves.
15. The Thaw (2009)
This entry in the Ghost House Underground 2009 lineup is Cabin Fever meets The Thing, as deadly prehistoric parasites are unleashed upon ecology students who discover a woolly mammoth in a melting ice cap. It's tense and unnerving with a clever commentary on global warming.
14. Salvage (2010)
A woman desperately seeks her estranged teenage daughter in a suburban neighborhood cut off by a secretive military operation. It's a thrilling tale that overcomes a low budget with strong acting, great direction and intriguing, well-rounded characters we actually care about. Tense, scary and efficiently told, it's part The Crazies, part Quarantine, part Night of the Living Dead and part something else entirely.
13. Carriers (2009)
Carriers captures the sobering desperation of humankind in the midst of a highly contagious global pandemic. Dark, emotional and deliberately paced, it's as much drama as it is horror, avoiding played-out Hollywood theatrics, stylized gore and any semblance of a happy ending.