Most folks would attribute the whole "wake-up from the hospital after a coma” origin story to the now-famous Walking Dead TV series which was adapted from comics. Fact is, 28 Days Later premiered in 2002, and The Walking Dead's first prints came out almost a whole year later in 2003. Aside from showing us a world where all social and government systems have been decimated, 28 Day's version of the ‘infected' were more than just shambling flesh-eating corpses. The re-animated dead possessed both speed and strength that could be considered as feral and predatory, turning them into even greater threats.
What is 28 Days Later?
This movie is one of the most famous British zombie flicks ever made. Alongside Night of the Living Dead and Resident Evil, many attribute the continued presence of the zombie genre in media to this movie. It introduced a new concept of the undead as well as a more frightening look at what human survivors can be truly capable of when all society is gone.
The story revolves around Jim, who wakes up from a coma in an abandoned hospital and finds that London has been overrun crazy infected humans. He is later rescued by other survivors and together, they introduce the audience to the dangers of the infected. This film's zombie are highly dangerous, and their infection is pretty much instant -within a few seconds of being exposed to a bite or even a small drop of infected blood, a person will instantly turn rabid and feral.
Later, the group follows a military broadcast and finds Major Henry West, who runs a small group of surviving military personnel. Instead of safety, however, the group discovers that West's plans for the apocalypse are just as cruel as turning into the infected.
Science Fiction Gets the Spotlight
While this is not the first zombie story to feature a sci-fi twist, 28 Days Later certainly makes a big deal of it. There's no mystery to the very origin of the virus: the movie literally opens up with how the first infected came to be (in this case, some new kind of rabies from chimpanzees). The spread of the disease occurs after some well-meaning, yet highly naïve, activists decide to free some animals from a laboratory -not realizing that the chimps kept there were under a medical study. And like any good zombie story, the infection quickly spreads after that one single event.
The development of the rage virus would later be expounded upon in the graphic novel, "28 Days Later: the Aftermath”. The comic (released much later than the film in 2007) explains the series of events that not only originated the virus, but ultimately triggered the events of what would be the start of the film.
But more than being one of the first to establish many zombie tropes, 28 Days Later is, in itself, a very great film. Many of the actors in the movie (including Cillian Murphy and Christopher Eccleston) were still relatively unknown when this film was made -allowing the audience to project themselves more into the story. Despite this, the performances they delivered were outstanding, Murphy's portrayal of the unlikely hero Jim feels very sincere while Eccleston's interpretation of Major West as a cold yet charismatic military leader is spot on.
The movie relies heavily on lighting and long pauses to create tension -and it works. This build up runs a strong contrast to the maniacal speed that the infected bring, creating a very solid balance for the movie that will easily put you on the edge of your seat. The final acts that lead to the films' climax, when the survivors have to deal with West's troops, shows us all that while the infected are a threat, humans can always be worse. It is the unpredictability of the human antagonists that play up the biggest suspense in the movie.
Not as New as It Looks
One of the best things we love about 28 Days Later is that it manages to stand the test of time. So yes, this movie aged well -despite being more than over a decade old. In terms of pacing, dynamic camera angles, and even in the dialogue, the movie manages to fit in pretty well with modern day hits. Of course, the movie was not shot for HD so those hoping to watch this on 1080p Blu-Ray will be a little disappointed. But aside from that, watching this movie in its complete DVD release (which includes several alternative cuts for the ending), is a great experience.