We've written, as recently as today, how current events can re-contextualize our past monster and horror films. However, considering that COVID-19 is already climbing the ranks of deadliest events in our lifetime, it will undoubtedly redefine how we view future scary movies as well. Just like how the atomic bomb gave birth to Godzilla, and the events of September 11 made the public so desensitized as to pave the way for "Torture Porn" like Saw and Hostel, Coronavirus is going to transform the genre profoundly. The question that lies before us is: How?
The obvious place to start is with films like Contagion. There will be more movies that deal head-on with the threat of disease, but that premise is so close to reality that it is almost rendered tepid. It'd be like if you made a scary movie about an evil German dictator in the 1940's. That's not horror. That's history. You'd have to change the scope or really get innovative with the premise if you wanted to make it work. Perhaps the pathogen only attaches to those you love, or it follows you into hell after you die, or it could be purely psychological. Maybe the disease is limited to one person, and our protagonist is desperate for someone else to be infected if only to have someone else feel their pain. Maybe it explodes your genitals.
It's more than likely though, that Coronavirus will inspire horror movies in more subtle ways. After an era of social distancing and face-coverings, perhaps we'd fear those who don't wear masks more than those who do. A mask-less Michael Myers leaping out to grab you might be infinitely scarier than his masked variant.
There are also our preconceived notions of safety to consider. Typically being with other people makes you safe in a slasher movie. The worst thing you can do is split up and isolate because then the bad guy picks you off. But, in our current world paradigm, safety is isolation. Maybe a post-COVID-19 slasher is a shapeshifter, able to take the guise of other people and rendering you unable to live safely unless you are alone.
We haven't even touched on zombie movies, which is an infection metaphor if we've ever seen one. But perhaps our future COVID-flavored zombies won't transmit through a bite, but rather through a touch or a sneeze. Maybe the zombies themselves will feast not on our brains, but on our lungs. Or, maybe most terrifying of all, perhaps we won't even be able to tell who is a zombie, much like we can't always determine who carries COVID-19.
There's a lot to work with when it comes to how this pandemic shapes up horror films. Unfortunately, the virus is mutating, meaning our COVID-horror inspiration might mutate along with it. The real question might not be how COVID-19 will inspire future horror movies, but if anyone will be around to watch them in the first place. (And also if it explodes our genitals.)
Top Image: Universal Pictures