Contagious violence

by Mighty_Emperor | created - 10 Dec 2011 | updated - 4 months ago | Public

Often very similar to zombie movies but the dead aren't reanimated, instead some kind of "infection" turns the population into raging cannibals.

Despite not ticking all the boxes for a zombie film there is plenty of crossover (especially as The Last Man on Earth inspired Romero's zombies) and a fan of the undead should be just fine with these too, especially as classifying them separately from zombies means any extra abilities (like running fast, and even free running) won't be too jarring. Most are worth a rental although some, like almost all the I Am Legend adaptations, 28 X Later, The Crazies, Quarantine and Pontypool are good enough to seek out.

See also: The vengeful dead (another group of films often grouped with zombie films) and contagion (for films where a lot of people get sick and just die). There is also they walk amongst us for more subtle takeovers (as some of the films on this list involve infection by an alien virus or parasite in order to violently take over the world - see Slither as a good example)

Comments: As I don't have a Facebook account I cannot interact with the new comments system, so have switched it off and replaced it with a thread on the message board.

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1. The Crazies (1973)

R | 103 min | Action, Horror, Sci-Fi

63 Metascore

The military attempts to contain a manmade combat virus that causes death and permanent insanity in those infected, as it overtakes a small Pennsylvania town.

Director: George A. Romero | Stars: Lane Carroll, Will MacMillan, Harold Wayne Jones, Lloyd Hollar

Votes: 10,520 | Gross: $0.15M

Here for the thumbnail graphic, the list starts below:

2. The Mad Ghoul (1943)

Not Rated | 65 min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

A university chemistry professor experiments with an ancient Mayan gas on a medical student, turning the would-be surgeon into a murdering ghoul.

Director: James P. Hogan | Stars: David Bruce, Evelyn Ankers, George Zucco, Robert Armstrong

Votes: 584

Possibly not contagious but definitely induced, zombie-like cannibalism amongst the living, which is exactly what we are looking for here.

3. The Brain Eaters (1958)

TV-PG | 61 min | Sci-Fi, Horror

The inhabitants of a small Illinois town begin disappearing after a strange cone is found sticking out of the ground nearby.

Director: Bruno VeSota | Stars: Ed Nelson, Alan Jay Factor, Cornelius Keefe, Joanna Lee

Votes: 1,107

An early pioneer of the parasitic possession theme.

4. The Last Man on Earth (1964)

Not Rated | 86 min | Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi

When a disease turns all of humanity into the living dead, the last man on earth becomes a reluctant vampire hunter.

Directors: Ubaldo Ragona, Sidney Salkow | Stars: Vincent Price, Franca Bettoia, Emma Danieli, Giacomo Rossi Stuart

Votes: 16,475

The first "I Am Legend" adaptation and an important one for zombie movie fans researching the sub-genre's history because, while the infection and general mythology is more vampiric, a lot of the feel of the film inspired Romero when he was making Night of the Living Dead.

The film is public domain.

5. I Drink Your Blood (1970)

R | 83 min | Horror

A group of hippies wreak havoc on a small town and a young boy, whose grandfather and sister were attacked by them, decides to get even, with deadly results.

Director: David E. Durston | Stars: Bhaskar Roy Chowdhury, Jadin Wong, Rhonda Fultz, George Patterson

Votes: 3,074

The film is public domain.

6. The Ωmega Man (1971)

PG | 98 min | Action, Drama, Sci-Fi

56 Metascore

Lone survivor, doctor Robert Neville, struggles to create a cure for the plague that wiped out most of the human race while fighting The Family, a savage luddite death cult formed by the zombie-like infected to erase the past.

Director: Boris Sagal | Stars: Charlton Heston, Anthony Zerbe, Rosalind Cash, Paul Koslo

Votes: 27,719 | Gross: $8.72M

Also based on "I Am Legend"

7. Doomwatch (1972)

PG | 92 min | Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller

The waters surrounding an island become contaminated by chemical dumping, and people who eat fish caught in those waters become deformed and violent.

Director: Peter Sasdy | Stars: Ian Bannen, Judy Geeson, John Paul, Simon Oates

Votes: 752

8. The Crazies (1973)

R | 103 min | Action, Horror, Sci-Fi

63 Metascore

The military attempts to contain a manmade combat virus that causes death and permanent insanity in those infected, as it overtakes a small Pennsylvania town.

Director: George A. Romero | Stars: Lane Carroll, Will MacMillan, Harold Wayne Jones, Lloyd Hollar

Votes: 10,520 | Gross: $0.15M

This helped define these films early on. Romero wanted to try something different after redefining the zombie movie but he didn't stray far from home, just making the infected faster.

9. Messiah of Evil (1973)

R | 90 min | Horror

A young woman goes searching for her missing artist father. Her journey takes her to a strange Californian seaside town governed by a mysterious undead cult.

Directors: Willard Huyck, Gloria Katz | Stars: Michael Greer, Marianna Hill, Joy Bang, Anitra Ford

Votes: 2,856

A difficult one to classify as the cultists are often called vampires (but they eat meat and go out in daylight, there is an I Am Legends feel to them though) or ghouls, but we do see this spreading to the woman Thom meets and the cop, so I'm putting it here.

10. Shivers (1975)

R | 87 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

58 Metascore

The residents of a suburban high-rise apartment building are being infected by a strain of parasites that turn them into mindless, sex-crazed fiends out to infect others by the slightest sexual contact.

Director: David Cronenberg | Stars: Paul Hampton, Joe Silver, Lynn Lowry, Allan Kolman

Votes: 16,649

The parasitic infection doesn't make the hosts become quite as violent as they do in other films (and they aren't cannibals) but they are very "insistent" that other people also become infected to the point it becomes violent, sinister and just plain nasty.

11. Rabid (1977)

R | 91 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

A young woman develops a taste for human blood after experimental plastic surgery, and her victims turn into blood-thirsty zombies, leading into a city-wide epidemic.

Director: David Cronenberg | Stars: Marilyn Chambers, Frank Moore, Joe Silver, Howard Ryshpan

Votes: 14,672

12. Blue Sunshine (1977)

R | 94 min | Horror, Thriller

A bizarre series of murders begins in Los Angeles, where people start going bald and then become homicidal maniacs. But could the blame rest on a particularly dangerous form of LSD called Blue Sunshine the murderers took ten years before?

Director: Jeff Lieberman | Stars: Zalman King, Deborah Winters, Mark Goddard, Robert Walden

Votes: 2,383

13. The Grapes of Death (1978)

R | 85 min | Horror

A young woman discovers that the pesticide being sprayed on vineyards is turning people into killer zombies.

Director: Jean Rollin | Stars: Marie-Georges Pascal, Félix Marten, Serge Marquand, Mirella Rancelot

Votes: 2,007

The slow, sadistic, pustule-pocked, psychopaths are clearly not zombies and even have relapses where they show remorse or ask for help. This plus the setting in desolate upland France (presumably somewhere in southern-central France from the landscape) all help to give this a genuinely creepy atmosphere, that sometimes borders on backwoods horror. It is a very different feel to a lot of the post-28 Days Later infected films (which with their usually fast and brutal infected tend to lead to more action-horror movies) but it is definitely worth a watch if you are looking for something a little different, perhaps with the feel of something like The Children (2008).

14. The Children (1980)

R | 93 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

A nuclear-plant leak turns a bus-load of children into murderous atomic zombies with black fingernails.

Director: Max Kalmanowicz | Stars: Martin Shakar, Gil Rogers, Gale Garnett, Shannon Bolin

Votes: 1,734

15. Nightmare City (1980)

R | 88 min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

An airplane exposed to radiation lands, and blood drinking zombies emerge armed with knives, guns and teeth! They go on a rampage slicing, dicing, and biting their way across the Italian countryside.

Director: Umberto Lenzi | Stars: Hugo Stiglitz, Laura Trotter, Maria Rosaria Omaggio, Francisco Rabal

Votes: 5,303

From Wikipedia: "Director Umberto Lenzi felt the film was not as much as zombie film but a 'radiation sickness movie' with hints of an anti-nuclear and anti-military messages"

Lenzi only did one proper zombie film - Black Demons (often given as Demoni 3, even though it isn't part of the series). Instead this is more a way to combine the zombie and cannibal genres, although not that successfully.

16. Cannibals in the Streets (1980)

R | 96 min | Horror, Thriller

Mentally unstable Vietnam vets who were held captive by the Vietcong come back to America after being rescued carrying a dangerous virus that turns people into cannibals when bitten.

Director: Antonio Margheriti | Stars: John Saxon, Elizabeth Turner, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Cinzia De Carolis

Votes: 2,749

aka Cannibal Apocalypse

Another interesting attempt to make a zombie/cannibal film with bites infecting people with violent cannibalism but it rarely makes the best use of its premise, with only a handful of stand-out scenes. Unfortunately, John Saxon didn't realise what he had signed himself up to and refused to get involved in the cannibalism which meant that his character (the core of the film) is presented with the real internal conflict this type of film should have.

17. Toxic Zombies (1980)

R | 89 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

After drug crops are sprayed with a chemical by a passing airplane, the growers of the crop are poisoned by the chemical and turn into zombie-like mutants.

Director: Charles McCrann | Stars: Charles McCrann, Beverly Shapiro, Dennis Helfend, Kevin Hanlon

Votes: 756

18. Night of the Comet (1984)

PG-13 | 95 min | Comedy, Horror, Sci-Fi

59 Metascore

A comet wipes out most of life on Earth, leaving two Valley Girls fighting against cannibal zombies and a sinister group of scientists.

Director: Thom Eberhardt | Stars: Catherine Mary Stewart, Kelli Maroney, Robert Beltran, Sharon Farrell

Votes: 17,515 | Gross: $14.42M

So Eighties it hurts.

A comet kills everyone not protected by steel, turning them to dust. Some with only slight exposure are turned into violent, oddly-coloured cannibals, but we only see a few of them - the biggest threat is other survivors.

19. Impulse (1984)

R | 91 min | Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi

After a small earthquake in a tiny, quiet town, local citizens start to exhibit bizarre, violent and self-destructive behaviour.

Director: Graham Baker | Stars: Tim Matheson, Meg Tilly, Hume Cronyn, John Karlen

Votes: 1,178 | Gross: $2.50M

20. Mutant (1984)

R | 99 min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

Two brothers discover that the residents of a small Southern town are being infected by a form of toxic waste, turning them into blood-ravenous zombies.

Directors: John 'Bud' Cardos, Mark Rosman | Stars: Wings Hauser, Bo Hopkins, Jody Medford, Lee Montgomery

Votes: 1,746

A classic example of this type of film - it provides the kinds of thrills a zombie movie fan is looking for, without any of the post-Romero rules: no reanimated dead, bites aren't infectious and headshots aren't required, but did it have to be quite so dark? Dark as in the light conditions, not the story. At a lot of crucial moments all you get are abstract dark blobs moving against a black background, something that might have worked in a cinema once the viewers eyes had adjusted to the light, but one home media any effect there might have been is a hindrance to the viewer in working out what is actually going on.

21. The Spirits of Jupiter (1984 Video)

106 min | Horror

The planet Jupiter has moved closer to the Earth causing an increased gravitation pull which affects the human brain, and people with certain blood types in higher elevations. The result is... See full summary »

Director: Russell Kern | Stars: James Aerni, Chopper Bernet, Rex Cutter, Carol Engel

Votes: 28

22. Warning Sign (1985)

R | 99 min | Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller

A woman working as a security guard in an agricultural research facility finds herself and her co-worker Schmidt fighting to survive against their former friends.

Director: Hal Barwood | Stars: Sam Waterston, Kathleen Quinlan, Yaphet Kotto, Jeffrey DeMunn

Votes: 2,097 | Gross: $1.92M

23. The Stuff (1985)

R | 87 min | Comedy, Horror, Sci-Fi

A delicious, mysterious goo that oozes from the earth is marketed as the newest dessert sensation, but the tasty treat rots more than teeth when zombie-like snackers who only want to consume more of the strange substance at any cost begin infesting the world.

Director: Larry Cohen | Stars: Michael Moriarty, Andrea Marcovicci, Garrett Morris, Paul Sorvino

Votes: 12,671

I'm not 100% sure of this so will need to rewatch it.

24. Demons (1985)

Not Rated | 88 min | Horror

A group of random people are invited to a screening of a mysterious movie, only to find themselves trapped in the theater with ravenous demons.

Director: Lamberto Bava | Stars: Urbano Barberini, Natasha Hovey, Karl Zinny, Fiore Argento

Votes: 18,756

A touch of demonic infection.

25. Creature (1985)

R | 97 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

An expedition to Titan uncovers an alien being, that goes on a rampage.

Director: William Malone | Stars: Stan Ivar, Wendy Schaal, Lyman Ward, Robert Jaffe

Votes: 3,171 | Gross: $4.78M

As well as being a blatant Alien rip-off, there are contagious violence elements. I suspect this was done to keep the rather poor Creature in the background (and shadows) as long as possible, instead relying on the cheaper option of people in make-up, pulling faces.

So a crossover with my Space Horror list.

26. Night of the Creeps (1986)

R | 88 min | Comedy, Horror, Sci-Fi

62 Metascore

Alien brain parasites, entering humans through the mouth, turn their host into a killing zombie. Some teenagers start to fight against them.

Director: Fred Dekker | Stars: Jason Lively, Tom Atkins, Steve Marshall, Jill Whitlow

Votes: 19,426 | Gross: $0.59M

Classic 80s flick (for the full retro hit watch this in a double bill with Night of the Comet), with alien parasites on the loose causing all sorts of problems by animating the living and the dead.

27. Demons 2 (1986)

R | 88 min | Horror

A group of tenants and visitors are trapped in a 10-story high-rise apartment building infested with demons who proceed to hunt the dwindling humans down.

Director: Lamberto Bava | Stars: David Edwin Knight, Nancy Brilli, Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni, Bobby Rhodes

Votes: 8,342

aka Demons 2

28. Alien Predator (1986)

R | 90 min | Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi

Three American friends travelling through Spain get stuck in a remote town where something very dangerous is changing the town's people.

Director: Deran Sarafian | Stars: Dennis Christopher, Martin Hewitt, Lynn-Holly Johnson, Luis Prendes

Votes: 899 | Gross: $0.00M

aka Mutant 2

An unofficial sequel to "Mutant".

29. The Abomination (1986)

100 min | Horror

An old woman coughs up what she believes to be a tumor. While asleep, the thing crawls inside of her son and reproduces inside him, then causes him to go on a killing spree to feed it.

Director: Bret McCormick | Stars: Scott Davis, Jude Johnson, Blue Thompson, Brad McCormick

Votes: 524

30. Nightmare Weekend (1986)

R | 85 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

A female scientist performs experiments on three college girls that turn them into drooling, murderous mutants.

Director: Henri Sala | Stars: Debbie Laster, Dale Midkiff, Debra Hunter, Lori Lewis

Votes: 579

31. Ozone: The Attack of the Redneck Mutants (1986)

93 min | Horror

A hole in the Ozone layer turns some rednecks into flesh-eating mutants.

Director: Matt Devlen | Stars: Scott Davis, Blue Thompson, Brad McCormick, Janice Williams

Votes: 182

32. Cannibal Hookers (1987)

91 min | Comedy, Crime, Horror

As a sorority initiation, two girls have to pose as hookers. Then they turn into zombies and start killing and eating the locals.

Director: Donald Farmer | Stars: Drew Godderis, Sky Nicholas, Donald Trimborn, Michelle Fox

Votes: 384

33. The Curse (1987)

R | 92 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

When a meteorite lands near his family farm during a storm in Tennessee, the son of a struggling farmer believes it's connected to strange plague-like events afflicting the crops, the farm animals and even the family themeselves.

Director: David Keith | Stars: Wil Wheaton, Claude Akins, Malcolm Danare, Cooper Huckabee

Votes: 2,543 | Gross: $1.93M

34. The Pink Chiquitas (1987)

PG-13 | 83 min | Comedy, Horror, Sci-Fi

A pink meteor controlled by aliens lands near a small town and turns the local women into nymphos. A deputy sheriff and a local private eye investigate.

Director: Tony Currie | Stars: Frank Stallone, Bruce Pirrie, Elizabeth Edwards, Claudia Udy

Votes: 196

35. Night of the Demons (1988)

R | 90 min | Comedy, Fantasy, Horror

Ten teenagers party at an abandoned funeral parlor on Halloween night. When an evil force awakens, demonic spirits keep them from leaving and turn their gathering into a living Hell.

Director: Kevin Tenney | Stars: Cathy Podewell, Alvin Alexis, Hal Havins, Allison Barron

Votes: 12,627 | Gross: $3.11M

Although some of the kids were indeed dead (or damn close to it) before turning violent and cannibalistic, the film sits more comfortably in this list, alongside Demons and Demons 2.

36. Nightmare at Noon (1988)

R | 96 min | Action, Sci-Fi, Horror

Scientists poison the water supply of a small town, turning the residents into homicidal maniacs who kill each other and anybody who passes through.

Director: Nico Mastorakis | Stars: Wings Hauser, Bo Hopkins, George Kennedy, Kimberly Beck

Votes: 832

A remake of "Mutant" also starring Wings Hauser and Bo Hopkins.

37. Flesh-Eating Mothers (1988)

R | 89 min | Comedy, Horror

Suburban housewives turn into vicious cannibals after committing adultery with the neighborhood womanizer.

Director: James Aviles Martin | Stars: Robert Lee Oliver, Donatella Hecht, Neal Rosen, Valorie Hubbard

Votes: 772

38. Primal Rage (1988)

R | 91 min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

A scientist at a Florida university inadvertantly creates a "rage virus" while performing experiments intended to restore dead brain tissue in baboons. When a journalist for the college ... See full summary »

Director: Vittorio Rambaldi | Stars: Patrick Lowe, Cheryl Arutt, Sarah Buxton, Mitch Watson

Votes: 451

39. Death House (1988)

Not Rated | 90 min | Action, Horror, Sci-Fi

A renegade federal agent uses a new drug to create an army of unbeatable warriors.

Director: John Saxon | Stars: Dennis Cole, Anthony Franciosa, Dino Paskas, Dana Lis Mason

Votes: 428

40. My Lovely Burnt Brother and His Squashed Brain (1988 Video)

52 min | Horror

Underground Italian extremely gory, gross-out "comedy" (in early John Waters vein) about a badly burnt morphine junkie who is turned into a zombie after he gets injected with infected urine by his pug-ugly, crazy sister.

Directors: Giovanni Arduino, Andrea Lioy | Stars: John J. Bridge, Nick Tortone, Bernie Burnt, Giovanni Arduino

Votes: 51

41. Redneck Zombies (1989)

R | 84 min | Comedy, Horror

A barrel of radioactive waste is lost out in the woods. Some demented rednecks find it and use it as part of their still. Everybody who drinks the liquor they produced turns into zombies.

Director: Pericles Lewnes | Stars: Steve Sooy, Anthony M. Carr, Ken Davis, Stan Morrow

Votes: 2,846

42. Beware: Children at Play (1989)

R | 94 min | Horror, Thriller

A mentally-disturbed teenager kidnaps and brainwashes children into cannibalistic psychopaths - but not when the adults intervene.

Director: Mik Cribben | Stars: Michael Robertson, Rich Hamilton, Robin Lilly, Lori Romero

Votes: 1,015

43. Ghoul School (1990 Video)

90 min | Comedy, Horror, Sport

Sex, babes and rock 'n roll! Two thugs in search of hidden treasure mistakenly unleash a chemical into the school's water supply, causing everyone it comes into contact with to become flesh-eating ghouls.

Director: Timothy O'Rawe | Stars: Joe Franklin, William Friedman, Scott Gordon, Paul Venier

Votes: 284

44. The X-Files (1993–2018)
Episode: Ice (1993)

TV-14 | 46 min | Crime, Drama, Mystery