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The Independent Culture
Slice it any way you want, it's a first. Well, you name another flick apart from heap big voodoo virus thriller Outbreak (with Dustin Hoffman, right) that flaunts a computer-generated close-up of infectious saliva and snot droplets shooting out of a shivering victim's orifices, flying through a packed cinema and crash landing in various punters mouths. I thought not.

Outbreak could be subtitled, to paraphrase Pauline Kael, "I Caught it at the Movies" and although the makers would deny it, it's Hollywood's biggest Aids extravaganza since the cheesy Philadelphia. That's partly accidental: any movie about a virus is about Aids by default. But it's mostly deliberate: this foreign, monkey-borne plague enters America through San Franciso, home of the homo and the Aids capital of the US.

And then there's hero Dustin Hoffman's best friend, played by Kevin Spacey, who's also Hoffman's ex-wife's best friend. Now, we all know what sort of man remains best friends with a split heterosexual couple, and he ain't John Wayne. So you wait for Spacey to die, because a faggot's gonna do what a faggot's gonna do in a movie that is/isn't about Aids: the lesions develop, he cries blood tears, he says that he's scared. But when he croaks, no one mentions it, not even best buddy Hoffman.

Yet what finally makes Outbreak an Aids movie is the fact that it never mentions Aids, despite the borrowing of the Green Monkey theory, despite the blind, unreasoning panic the plague spreads even more effectively than its deadly self. It thinks that by not saying the word, no one will notice, but its silence will echo in even the emptiest head.