Greetings! I’ve enjoyed the site for many years, but I believe this is my first request for help identifying an old trauma of mine.
It’s my hope that someone can help point me to a movie/show that deeply disturbed me as a young child in the early ’90s. I know it had to have been made prior to 1995 because of the house I was living in when I saw it, but I have no idea if it’s a movie or TV show. Someone in my family was watching something on TV on one of the broadcast stations in northern Virginia (I don’t remember if we had cable in that particular house at the time) circa 1992, and I saw a portion of it while going through the room a few times while doing other things. Pretty sure it was on a channel with commercials. The snippets I saw made a big impression.
In the movie (just gonna call it a movie for simplicity’s sake), there’s a sick young woman on the run. She’s just recently escaped from some kind of hospital where she was in quarantine for some kind of horribly contagious disease. She has been accidentally exposed and doesn’t realize she is spreading a terrible disease, but doesn’t trust the hospital staff or authority figures for reasons I don’t recall. Her state of mind is confused, and she is getting worse. The woman has shoulder length or short hair and is wearing a white hospital gown or house coat (pretty sure it opens in the back), and she keeps pausing in her flight from the authorities to vomit. Every time she gets sick, there’s an ominous music chord and stock footage of bacteria multiplying is shown. She looks sweaty and sick, and keeps desperately trying to stop people on the street to ask them for help (and getting sick on them). The music stings and bacteria clips keep happening, illustrating that she’s spreading the disease. Each time, the bacteria pile increases more and more until the single bacterium splits into hundreds and fills the entire screen with them. I think she collapsed before it cut to something else or a commercial break, and I never saw anything further or learned her fate in the end. The whole thing was absolutely horrifying to me. Even today, I think of these few scenes every time I see a clip of bacteria multiplying.
I think the movie may have also played from the point of view of the people trying to catch her and stop the spreading of the disease (maybe police or detectives?). The tone is more like a ’90s TV police procedural thriller where you’re following the characters as they track down a suspect. Like, they keep being one step behind and are trying to get to her in time before she succumbs and infects everyone. Production value may have been akin to something like an episode of In the Heat of the Night, and it may have said something about being based on a true story so it might have been a TV movie or a TV show of the era. I think an ambulance crash happens at some point, with her escaping from the back of the vehicle (possibly right before the scene of her escaping I described above). I also think the color grade of the movie leans a little more to the red shade of the spectrum when following the sick lady, to help show her deteriorating health.
Who is this lady? Did she make it? What was my family watching?! I must know, fellow trauma enthusiasts. Can anyone help identify this horror from my past? Please and thank you!
-Beth from Georgia