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Film / Carriers

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Cover your mouth when you cough, please.

Carriers is a 2009 survival horror film about four people fleeing a viral epidemic in US. Two brothers, Brian and Danny, along with Brian's girlfriend Bobby and Danny's friend Kate, are heading to a place where they believe they can take shelter and wait for the viral pandemic to die out - a place called Turtle Beach, where Brian and Danny used to spend their holidays as children. Of course it all goes to hell from there.

In order to survive, the group agrees to a set of rules:

1. Avoid contact with the infected at all costs.

2. Sanitize anything an infected person might have touched in the past 24 hours.

3. There's nothing you can do to help the infected; they're already dead.

4. If you follow these rules, you'll live ... maybe.

But then again, it's easy to come up with a set of rules; it's much harder to actually stick to them. Think of it as a road movie version of Cabin Fever played bone-chillingly straight.

Provides Examples Of:

  • Apocalypse How: Seems to be a Class 0. Humanity's completely screwed, and we only see one dog carrier in the whole film and not long enough to find out if this is lethal to animals.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Invoked, when Brian reveals that Bobby had wanted to have a kid with him after reflecting on leaving her behind.
  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: Brian considers his constant Shooting the Shaggy Dog to be this: everything from abandoning Frank and his daughter, to killing the two women for their gas, to the reveal that he had left his and Danny's parents to die when they left their home, though he told Danny that they were already dead from the virus. He is NOT happy about this role, mind you, and eventually gets into a fight with Danny over his perceived moral superiority.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Though it borders on being a Downer Ending. Danny and Kate survive and arrive at Turtle Beach, but all Danny can do is think about his childhood there with his now dead brother, and that he will always be alone.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Maybe but probably averted - Brian has an M1911 pistol, which holds 8 rounds (7 + 1 in the chamber), yet nobody is ever shown reloading the gun. However, time passes between scenes so it's reasonable to assume it was reloaded as necessary over that time, since it was never fired too many times at once.
  • The Chosen One: Brian says that he considers himself "chosen", since he dug graves for 400 bucks a day and yet never got sick, while people who instantly holed themselves away died. Frank then immediately calls him out on this, asking what the hell makes him so much more worthy of living than his infected five-year-old daughter.
  • Death by Pragmatism: While all the characters are relatively competent when it comes to survival, Brian - the most pragmatic of the bunch - dies.
    • It could be argued that everything bad that ever happens to the main characters comes from their pragmatism and Brian's Lack of Empathy.
  • Deconstructed Character Archetype: Brian is one for the "Genre Savvy survivalist-type that sticks to the rules" in the vein of Columbus. Turns out a guy willing to kill and abandon people is still just a crazy survivalist, main character or not.
  • Deconstruction: Sure, many horror films are filled with young groups who die from being Genre Blind. But this movie goes to show just how hellish it would be to stick to unsympathetic survival rules no matter what the cost. And yeah, you might survive - maybe - but would it even be worth it in the end? And could there have been situations that might have been avoided if they showed an ounce of compassion?
  • Despair Event Horizon: All of the characters eventually, but most notably Frank when he finds out that there is no cure for the virus and the Safe Zone Hope Spot is a dead end. Kate has similar, when she eventually stops looking for a working phone.
  • Disaster Scavengers: How the group gets by.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Brian's story about him having buried victims of the virus alive are very reminiscent of some accounts of the Black Death.
  • Due to the Dead: The shrine at the gas station.
  • Dying Alone: Brian does this to Bobby, leaving her, behind in the middle of nowhere. And then he forces his own brother to be shot rather than face similar fate.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Played With. At first glance, Brian is the fool, endangering everyone with his bravado, while Danny is the one who came up with the rules. However, Brian is also one that's willing to stick to them and makes all the tough decisions, while Danny is perfectly fine with coasting on Brian's back - something he's eventually called out on.
  • The Fundamentalist: One of the radio stations has a long, furious sermon from a minister saying how the plague was an act of God to punish the wicked and "separate the wheat from the chaff" ... until he starts coughing.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Downplayed, but the three blonde group members all have more Pet the Dog moments than Brian.
  • Hidden Depths: Kate is the most reserved and quiet of the main characters, but when they stop at the golf course she turns out to have a pretty good swing, revealing she was her country clubs junior champion for three years in a row and saying "Tiger Woods can kiss my ass" with a rare smile.
  • Hypocrite: Brian was willing to leave Frank, Jodie and Bobby behind to their own devices and inevitable lonely death, but forces his brother to kill him rather than remain to die alone.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Some characters (especially Brian) are determined to survive, no matter the cost.
  • Idiot Ball: Most of the plot (and tension) happens, because the characters keep passing it between each other. It undermines a lot of the genre deconstruction the script is clearly aiming for. Most notable is the very opening sequence, which could be entirely avoided, should Brian, Bobby and Danny didn't decide to keep taking turns as picking the most stupid option. Instead, the end result is acting like jerks, totaling their car and ultimately Bobby getting herself infected. Which she then hides and gets Brian infected, too.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: The main symptom of the disease, combined with Blood from the Mouth. Getting coughed on is the most common way to get infected, but skin to skin contact also works.
    • The disease is also literally incurable.
  • Insufferable Genius: Possibly Tom, with his insistence his rules have to work, even after one of his men is infected. We never find out if the rules were insufficient, or the poor schmuck broke them.
  • Jerkass: Brian, full stop. Even the rest of the group tells him what an asshole he is, both jokingly and seriously, and he makes many situations worse by just being an asshole. Most notably, should he leave Frank a gallon of gas in the opening, rather than do his very best to antagonise him, most of their problems would never happen.
  • Jump Scare: The dead woman in the chair with a shotgun.
  • Justified Criminal: They scavenge what they need from abandoned places and from the dead. Not that there are any authorities left to chase them.
  • Kill the Cutie: We don't actually see it, but the odds that Jodie or Bobby. survived long after we saw them are nearly nonexistent.
  • Lack of Empathy: Brian's most defining trait. It doesn't come from any kind of disorder or being driven to such point by situation. No, he's simply a massive tool. It not only gets his group in danger in the opening, but leads to his and Bobby's ultimate undoing.
  • Lighter and Softer: Arguably to most apocalypse stories, as most deaths of major characters are off-screen or ambiguous and there’s no Gorn.
  • Mercy Kill: The doctor who poisons a group of infected children, rather than letting them suffer for days in agony before dying from an incurable disease. Since he is also infected, he kills himself as well.
  • Minimalist Cast: There's only about twenty characters who appear, about a quarter of them without any dialogue, and more than half of them with less than five minutes of screen time. For the most part, it's just the four main characters and random extra.
  • Mirroring Factions: The main characters and the armed survivors in the HAZMAT gear occupying the golf course. Both groups cling to the idea that survival is possible if you obey a rigid set of rules, and both fall to pieces when they realize it's impossible to completely insulate yourself against the virus, no matter what precautions you take. Both groups also suffer from severe Moral Myopia, where they are allowed to do whatever, while everyone can collapse and die, preferably in safe distance from them.
  • Moral Event Horizon: In-Universe, Danny thinks Brian crossed this when he reveals that their parents weren't dead yet when they abandoned their home and set out on the road. Brian had just told Danny they were to get him to leave. Brian eventually reveals he himself considers he crossed the Horizon much earlier, during his work digging graves for the virus victims back when society hadn't completely collapsed yet. Some of the bodies weren't dead yet, but Brian buried them anyway, because he saw his supervisor pretending not to notice, so he pretended everything was fine too.
  • Moral Myopia: As part of the ongoing deconstruction, the story examines what happens when you have a group willing to go into deep end with heartless pragmatism - first going after strangers, then each other. And it's not restricted to the main characters, but every group. Turns out by the end of the day, you're just a ruthless killer.
  • No Bikes in the Apocalypse: The four main characters are perfectly willing to shoot innocent people for their gas, even though the world is almost entirely intact. The idea of finding bikes or just about any sort of alternative transportation never comes up.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Bobby’s concern for Jodie gets her infected. Tom threatening his men not to keep the girls from leaving becomes this in retrospect, as due to Bobby’s infection. They wouldn’t have anyway, but his actions cause his men to mutiny and hold a gun on him, with it being unclear if they stand down after the group leaves.
  • Noodle Incident: The Baltimore vaccine, a previous failed Hope Spot.
  • Papa Wolf: Frank is a fairly non-violent version of this, but he still sticks out for his daughter, even when it's clear it's helpless.
  • Pet the Dog: It's undercut by the general harshness of the scene, but Brian not abandoning Bobby until they’re near a town where she can find a bed, and giving her rations and an advice on what to do is as close to this as he comes in one of his harder moments.
  • The Plague: An highly contagious and even more lethal viral disease that's going for so long, society completely collapsed before the plot even starts. No known cure or vaccine exists.
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • The group as a whole is pretty dysfunctional, in large part due to their very poor level of communication and general immaturity. They are routinely this close from getting themselves killed, but never seem to talk about it.
    • More specifically, Bobby keeps her exposure secret. This endangers the entire group for no real reason, as she's dead anyway in case of being infected, but risks their lives for her own comfort of not being quarantined. This ultimately gets Brian infected, too.
  • Psycho Party Member: Brian. From the very first second he's on screen, he's the one who sticks to the rules the group has set to avoid infection the most, and he has no problem threatening to hurt or kill anybody who gets in the way of the group surviving. He also left behind his own parents to die alone and lied to his brother that they were already dead because, as there was nothing that could be done and staying would just risk them getting infected.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Despite his flaws, Tom is this to the country club group, being willing to let the main characters go.
  • The Remnant: Hinted that the golf course group is this, when one of them tells Tom that this isn't the army anymore.
  • The Scapegoat: The group witnesses a bunch of rednecks shooting a fleeing Asian man. The next day the dead man's corpse is tied to a windmill with the sign "chinks brought it".
  • Sex Slave: When the group is ambushed by the men in HAZMAT suits, they order everyone to leave ... except the girls.
    • Although one of them protests and would have been forced to leave had the other survivalists not discovered that Bobby was infected.
  • Safe Zone Hope Spot:
    • It did exist at one point, and was part of a worldwide attempt at engineering a cure. Unfortunately, the best they managed was a serum that extended the lifespan of an infected for three more days, and eventually, everyone except one infected doctor and a handful of sick children are the only ones left...
    • The golf resort is also this: completely isolated, empty, comfortable, with a kitchen full of food... and then it turns out that it was not only taken already by a more heavily-armed group of Crazy Survivalists. One of the members of this group got infected somehow regardless of their own strict anti-infection protocols (while he was keeping guard of the resort, too) and died on the resort's pool, turning only-God-knows-how-much of the resort into a "poisoned well".
    • Turtle Beach zigzags this, seeming to be safe for the characters, but not as happy as most successful safe-zones, while by itself being an old, abandoned resort with nothing in it.
  • Shoot the Dog: Quite a few examples, including Brian leaving the father and daughter behind, Brian leaving Bobby behind, Brian shooting two older women when they refuse to give them gas, Daniel stealing the car keys, and Daniel eventually shooting Brian.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Suicide by Cop: Brian forces Danny to shoot him.
  • Too Dumb to Live: While arguably all of them are constantly breaking containment at multiple points and make endlessly ill-thought-out choices, the way Bobby was infected still sticks out. She rushes to help an infected girl who was choking on her own blood without even putting mask on or even simply getting out of the car to gain moving space. To makes matters worse, she hides it and instead of being quarantined or just abandoned there, she infects Brian.
  • Uncertain Doom: Just about everyone last seen character, who was infected but still alive. There is also Tom, after his men mutiny.
  • Unluckily Lucky: Bobby’s infection probably saved the brothers from being shot by Tom's men and Kate from being kept as a sex slave.
  • What Happened to Mommy?: Both painfully subverted with Bobby as they just decided to leave her behind, and played straight with Brian, as his brother shot him in the desert.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Brian, above all the others, is determined to survive no matter what he has to do ... even break his own rules.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Brian to Bobby upon discovering she’s infected. Brian himself gets quite a few from other characters for both being a jerkass in general, and ruthless pragmatist in specific situations.
  • Youth Is Wasted on the Dumb: Although all of the main cast agree to the rules, they're still too immature to survive on pragmatism alone. Many situations could have been avoided if they had been mature enough to handle the moral quandaries they come across or act like an actual team. For example, if the group stopped enabling Brian's dangerous attitude early on before it got out of control.
  • Zombie Infectee: Infectee in the traditional, medical sense, but the trope still applies.