Life is imitating art as the coronavirus spreads, and people apparently can’t get enough of a book and film that depict world-shattering pandemics.
The 1981 Dean Koontz novel The Eyes of Darkness and the 2011 film Contagion are suddenly hot items. The book is the No. 3 most-sold book on the Amazon charts for the week of March 1. Meanwhile Contagion is the second-most watched movie in the Warner Bros. catalog, topped only by the “Harry Potter” film series.
Koontz’s book is 40 years old, while Contagion ranked 270th in views as of the end of 2019, when the COVID-19 virus wasn’t widely known.
The Koontz book is eerily prescient, describing a virus known as “Wuhan-400,” named after the Chinese city it originated in. That parallels what’s believed to have happened with COVID-19. But the name apparently is coincidence – Koontz originally called the virus “Gorki-400,” named for the Russian city which Koontz originally wrote was the origin point of the bioweapon. But when the Soviet Union fell in 1991, later editions changed the city to make China the villain of the story.
Contagion stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, and Jude Law, who join to battle a mysterious disease contracted by a woman in Hong Kong and brought back to the US. The outcome sees 26 million people killed worldwide.
Film writer Scott Burns told Fortune that the hysteria generated by the virus is the reason for the renewed interest. “The similarities between our contagion and the coronavirus are immaterial, accidental, and really not that important. What is more important and accurate is the societal response and the spread of fear and the knock-on effects of that. That is proving to be accurate,” he said.
Paltrow also played a part in reviving interest, posting on social media wearing a mask similar to what she wore in the film. “I’ve already been in this movie. Stay safe. Don’t shake hands. Wash hands frequently,” she wrote on Instagram.
Contagion is showing on Cinemax and can be watched on several subscription-only streaming services.