Five films and series that illustrate our pandemic situation |

With the Covid-19 pandemic spreading to more countries and people these days, it may seem like the world is a scary place to be in. Already the death toll is twice the rate of SARS, and people are still getting infected. No wonder people are running out and hoarding toilet paper, but even though they’re kiasu that way, it doesn’t stop some people from coughing or sneezing without even bothering to cover their mouths.

If this scenario sounds familiar, it’s because of the many zombie movies you’ve watched. Zombies are, after all, a metaphor for diseases: they spread easily, and the infected will infect you too.

Related: Zombie movies are basically social commentaries

So, here are some movies (and series) that will probably have some similarities to real life in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic:

Kingdom (Korean)

In this Korean Joseon-era horror drama series – inspired by true events of a mysterious plague during the Joseon Dynasty – a zombie outbreak has taken over much of the country, and in order to stem the spread, the capital has erected huge walls to quarantine people from the south – infected or not – to prevent them from accessing the capital.

This reminds us of the current situation in Wuhan, where the entire city is effectively sealed off for quarantine. However, what’s more eerie is the fact that the largest cluster of coronavirus cases in South Korea is now attributed to the southeast portion of the country – in the cities of Daegu and Cheongdo – just as depicted in Kingdom.

28 Days Later

Since zombies infect via biting, this movie portrays a world gripped by paranoia from being in close contact with people, with opening scenes capturing eerily empty streets in London – a reminder of the ghost town scenarios we see from Wuhan, where citizens are staying locked up in their rooms.

The sequel, 28 Weeks Later is largely set after all the zombies are dead of hunger, the US Army moves in to quarantine returnees. A lone survivor who shows no symptoms infects her husband, who turns into a zombie. Some people infected with Covid-19 don’t show symptoms, and the film is a reminder that we should all be vigilant.

Train to Busan (Korean)

A zombie outbreak on a train demonstrates how fear can mobilise passengers into callous behavior, and illustrates how mob mentality works. Fear and panic over the DORSCON Orange level has caused Singaporeans to hoard supermarket essentials like rice and toilet paper; in Hong Kong, toilet paper is such a commodity that it attracted armed gang attacks.


A realistic portrayal of how the world would respond to the outbreak of a deadly virus: it illustrates how the disease spreads fast through international travel, why we need to locate the virus to create a vaccine, and how governments can create large quarantine sites and hospitals in such a short time. Eerily, Contagion identifies the disease as coming from a bat in China!

Pandemic (Japanese)

A doctor misdiagnoses a patient’s disease as a common cold, but after the patient’s sudden death, he realises that it’s a new strain of virus that’s infecting – and killing – the population. The carrier was a bird flu-infected patient who escaped quarantine somewhere in SEA and landed in Japan. This has similarities to the coronavirus situation, because it was mainly spread by the people who left Wuhan before the city went on lockdown.

Unlike many pandemic movies that focus on action and gore, this one focuses on the drama in the hospital, highlighting the struggles of both the patients and doctors.

There are plenty of good (and bad) pandemic-themed films and dramas out there, and during this time of uncertainty, it’s always interesting to find similarities between fact and fiction – after all, art imitates life.