28 Days Later is not your average zombie horror film. For one it’s British made, and so instead of characters who are seemingly invincible and ready for anything, first we have Mark (Noah Huntley), who describes the destruction of civilisation as ‘bad news’ and the consistently excellent Selena, (Naomie Harris) who doesn’t hesitate to kill him when he becomes infected. No dramatic music, no long close up scenes showing the pain in their faces, just hacks his arm off with a kitchen knife and then gives the rest of him a good hacking too. Then we have Jim (Cillian Murphy), who gives the most realistic reaction of any protagonist in a horror film to finding that everyone you knew is either dead or trying to kill you; and that’s what makes this actually watchable as a film in its own right, because the characters are real people, not just part of the body count, and you care if they live or die.
The addition of Frank (Brendan Gleeson) and Hannah (Megan Burns) provides the softer, more human element to a film which risks becoming dark and poignant, without at the same time being entertaining, without them. The scene in the supermarket should be everyone’s favourite, complete with the music it truly taps into the childhood fantasy of being let loose in a supermarket. The driving scenes also add to the atmosphere of unlimited possibilities and that being in a world without other people in it might be kind of fun, but more than that, they explain why the characters keep pushing onwards on their journey at all; no better than when Selena says:
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“All the death. All the shit. It doesn’t really mean anything to Frank and Hannah because… Well, she’s got a Dad and he’s got his daughter. So, I was wrong when I said that staying alive is as good as it gets.”
Danny Boyle’s trademark is all over this one, and it’s welcome, because the second half of the film makes more of an impact on you than all the zombie chase scenes in the first put together. Far more terrifying than people consumed by the ‘Rage’ virus and destroying everything in their path is Britain’s repopulation falling to a group of soldiers who are ready to abuse the first women they see, even if one is a teenage girl. That’s what makes 28 Days Later stand out, beside the feeling of complete despair only punctured by brief moments of humour, because it makes more than a casual point about human nature and how we would handle ourselves if our only peers were mindless, ultra-violent zombies.
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But yet it has a happy ending, a peaceful scene illustrating the more positive aspects of a life without mundane commitments and societal standards, just the hope of something better. Oh, and you don’t need to see 28 Weeks Later, it’s nowhere near as good and 28 Days Later can more than hold its own in the zombie genre.
Claire is a Politics student currently living in Brussels, she writes a lifestyle and travel blog at linesfrombelgium and is available for guest posting on an array of subjects.