In 2002, Danny Boyle directed 28 Days Later, an attempt to modernise the zombie/apocalypse genre. Zombies had only ever really been confined to America, they were pretty slow and mostly in part to shooting costs, were confined to shopping malls, a house in a field or generally a large building of some sort. So when Boyle, famous for Shallow Grave and Trainspotting, released 28 Days Later, a digitally recorded infection/pandemic story set in London, where the ‘infected’ can run. They can run fast.
The film opens with documentary style news footage of violence and riots, we see that these images are being shown to chimps in a medical research facility. Shortly afterwards, some animal activists manage to break in to release the chimps, only to be attacked by the monkeys, who we learn to be infected with rage. Fast forward to 28 days later, we find Jim in a hospital. In a first for zombie movies, we see an entire city deserted; without CGI. Jim wanders around a totally empty London. Jim soon finds out that the reason London is deserted is everyone has been infected with rage. Completely uncontrollable, viciously violent and undiscriminating.
The difference between 28 Days Later Zombocalypse films before, is that the genre has been reinterpreted and actually the word ‘zombie’ is never mentioned. 28 Days Later came out at a time of SARS in the East. Pandemics were a real fear, what would we do if everyone was infected with a vicious disease with no cure? 28 Days Later came in and amongst a revival of George A Romero’s timeless classic ‘Dead’ series. It was totally set apart in terms of it’s production. Filmed in part on digital camera, 28 Days Later explored the politics behind zombocalypses. Rarely in zombie films do survivors make it to the safe haven, normally broadcast on radios or tv channels and if they do, the film will end and all is presumed well. Jim and the other survivors fate fell in the hands of rogue army boys headed by Christopher Eccleston. And they had a disturbing solution to the problem of rage. Repopulating by using Hannah, a young teenage survivor and Selena, another survivor, regardless of their feelings.
28 Days Later was revolutionary because it treated the zombies/infected as reasonably intelligent. Previous zombies have been stopped by doors, high fences, windows, stairs, these zombies can run, jump, climb stairs, observe, recognise and notice change in their environment making them deadlier and arguably more frightening than their ancestors.
28 Days Later was a notably impressive addition to the zombie revival spell in cinema in the 00’s and in a slight show of uncharacteristic patriotism, I believe it to be an unmatched and yet to be surpassed British horror film. Some remakes and other versions of the zombie have been and gone, but 28 Days Later will hopefully remain one of the classic must-see films for any self respecting horror fan.