October on the big screen may well be seen as the traditional month of horror but this year has seen something of a departure as the traditional fright fest has been overtaken by something more grand and apocalyptic with the return of the disaster genre.

The month started badly for mankind as Lars von Trier informed us that worlds would literally collide in the high minded Melancholia whilst Ewan McGregor and Eva Green lost their sensory perceptions to a strange epidemic in the likeable Perfect Sense.

So is the end nigh yet again?

Acclaimed director Steven Soderbergh unleashes a tale of seriously epic proportions in his latest feature as a group of international scientists attempt to deal with an outbreak of a deadly flu like virus that threatens the existence of humanity.

Not content with transforming himself into a harbinger of doom, the director has also assembled a stellar cast that matches the star quality found in the disaster classics of yesteryear such as The Towering Inferno (1974) and Earthquake (1974).

Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law, Kate Winslet and veteran Elliot Gould along with a cast of thousands will all no doubt be hoping to avoid extinction.

So what of the trailer?

The footage seems nicely tense and paranoid with the all expected escalation of events perhaps witnessing the director also examine a sub theme on the breakdown of established structures in society.

A rather lengthy teaser also indicates that the movie will stay true to the disaster formula with a story told on a large scale and from the viewpoint of different characters and locations whilst there may also be the whiff of a zombie movie with characters avoiding human contact and streets becoming ghost towns.

The prospect of human extinction is not a new concept to cinema culture and the theme has been investigated many times on celluloid.

Notable excursions into a pending viral apocalypse have included Richard Harris and Sophia Loren stranded on an infected train in The Cassandra Crossing (1976) whilst Dustin Hoffman and Morgan Freeman frantically searched for a cure to a killer bug in Outbreak (1995).

More recently Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) contained a nasty biological epilogue for mankind.

It will be interesting to see how a talented director like Soderbergh presents a new spin on a much worked theme but the bigger question may be whether his epic proves to be contagious at the box office.

Contagion opens nationwide on 21st October 2011.

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