You know plants have the ability to target specific threats. Tobacco plants when
attacked by heliothis caterpillars will send out a chemical attracting wasps to kill just
In Central Park (New York) people for some unknown reason begin committing mass suicide. First they become disoriented and motionless, before resorting to the most convenient means of killing themselves. Initially believed to be a bioterrorist attack, the epidemic quickly spreads across the north east United States.
Elliot Moore, a high school science teacher in Philadelphia, receives news of the epidemic at school and decides to leave the city by train with his estranged wife, Alma Moore, to Harrisburg. They are accompanied by his friend and a fellow math teacher Julian and his eight-year-old daughter Jess. Just after they leave Philadelphia is affected by the event and people start to kill themselves around the parks. Then the train mysteriously loses radio contact with civilization. Suddenly unable to contact his wife via cellphone, at a restaurant, Julian decides to leave his daughter with Elliot and Alma in order to travel to Princeton, New Jersey, to find her. It is by now clear that the epidemic is transmitted by air. Traveling in a Jeep, Julian and his fellow passengers fall victim to the epidemic soon after arriving in an already-hard-hit Princeton: the infected air filters through a small slit in the convertible's cloth roof, compelling the driver first to bring it to a halt and then plunge it into a nearby tree. Only Julian appears to survive the crash, but, when he exits the car, apparently unharmed, he proceeds to slit his wrists with a shard of glass.
Elliot, Alma and the now-fatherless Jess manage to hitch a ride with a botanist and his wife. The botanist believes that trees and plants are responsible, attacking people as a defence mechanism by releasing toxins into the air. Although initially skeptical, given his idiosyncrasies and apparent obsession with plant life, Alma and Elliot become increasingly enamored of this view. After driving for some time through the country, they find themselves at a desolate crossroads surrounded by infected towns. Other cars soon join them. A US Army soldier suggests that they move away on foot from roads and populated centers, which he regards as obvious terrorist targets, to avoid being infected.
The survivours split into two groups and begin to travel across an open plain. The smaller group, in which Elliot, Alma and Jess find themselves, suddenly hear gunshots from the direction of the other group: they deduce correctly that the epidemic is upon them. An overwrought Elliot, striving to concentrate amidst the pandemonium, draws on his scientific creed to conclude that it is conveyed by an airborne neurotoxin exuded by grass and plants. He suspects that the larger the group of people the more likely it is to trigger the defence mechanism. With a menacing gale approaching, Elliot splits the group into smaller pockets, thus further isolating himself, Alma and Jess, although they are accompanied by two teenage boys, Josh and Jared.
After finding a truck abandoned in a field with the keys in the ignition, they make their way to a luxury home they believe to be abandoned and go in to look for food. Josh and Jared find fruit in the kitchen but realize it is fake. They have to flee when infected people start making their way onto the property. One man turns on an industrial riding mower and allows it to run over him, resulting in a bloody death.
Elliot, still looking for food, comes across an old house with survivours inside. He tries to communicate with them, but they are unwilling to open the doors, believing that he may infect them. When the teenagers try aggressively to force entry, they are shot them dead. Elliot, Alma and Jess, now completely on their own, continue to travel cross-country. They stumble upon the isolated house of one Mrs Jones, an elderly oddball who keeps no contact with the outside world and is, therefore, unaware of the happening. Although she permits the trio to supper with her and stay the night, she proves a harsh and paranoid host, constantly accusing them of conspiring to rob or murder her.
The following morning, while standing in her garden, impervious to Elliot's supplications, Mrs Jones becomes infected and commits suicide by smashing her head through the windows of the house. Terrified of sharing her fate, Elliot locks himself in the basement. He is separated from Alma and Jess, who are playing in the neighbouring spring house. They are able to communicate, however, through an old talking tube, with which Elliot warns them of the threat and has them shut the windows and doors. Conversing with his wife, Elliot expresses his love for her before deciding that, if he is to die, he would prefer to spend his remaining time with her. They all leave the safety of their buildings and embrace in the yard, surprised to find themselves unaffected by the neurotoxin. The outbreak seems to have abated as quickly as it began, just as a scientist predicted on a television show the previous day.
Three months later, Elliot and Alma have adjusted to their new life with Jess as their adopted daughter. On television, an expert interviewee, comparing the event to a red tide, warns that the epidemic may have only been a warning, like "the first spot of a rash". Elliot takes Jess to the bus stop for her first day of school while Alma stays at home, timing a pregnancy test, which turns out positive. When he returns, Alma embraces him with the news in front of their apartment. However is this the end....or just the beginning of the pandemic????
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