An Impressively Original Take On The Zombie Trope
When it comes to zombie films, Danny Boyle’s surprisingly original 28 Days Later is one that’s a really impressive example of how to reinvent an over-used trope and spin it into something new and exciting. Split into two distinct halves, the film juxtaposes two different styles of horror – suspenseful, adrenaline fueled action and a more methodically paced, psychologically charged horror. While there are some who will surely lament this change in pace and style midway through the film, there’s no denying 28 Days Later is a film that reignites the zombie craze, bringing a fresh perspective to an otherwise formulaic genre.
The film begins with a period of silence; a way to establish the desolate wasteland London has now become in the wake of a zombie apocalypse. Jim (Cillian Murphy) awakens from a coma and begins walking through an eerily empty London. After a brief period of time, it becomes apparent he isn’t alone as the dead rise up and the fight for survival begins. Toward the midway point of the film, the horror changes to a much more personalised commentary on the world involving an army base, Major Henry West (Christopher Eccleston) and one twisted and frightening revelation bringing a whole new wave of horror over the film.
Props to writer Alex Garland and director Danny Boyle here who together manage to bring a fresh, original perspective to the zombie trope. The ingenious idea to allow crazed zombies to run brings a whole new level of danger to the undead unseen in many other films. While the second half of the run-time does change the antagonistic viewpoint to give a more familiar and human touch, 28 Days Later never loses sight of its world building and bleak perspective of the future, helping the world feel realistically fleshed out.
All of this would be for nothing with bland, archetypal characters and thankfully, 28 Days Later features a talented cast full of fully realized characters. Jim’s journey from useless to hardened survivor in this new harsh landscape is contrasted beautifully by fellow survivor Selena (Naomie Harris) who slowly breaks down her hard exterior to care for others. Of course the various character arcs given to the other supporting actors, including Hannah (Megan Burns) and Frank (Brendan Gleeson) whom they meet while outrunning the dead, are equally as appealing and give the film a much more human touch.
While 28 Days Later is not without its problems, and the sudden change in pace and tone won’t be to everyone’s taste, this is an important horror, one that revitalizes the zombie genre and makes it fresh and exciting for a whole new generation. From the stacked cast of talented actors to the thought-provoking themes raised during the film’s second half, 28 Days Later is one of those polarising films, a picture that’s as definitive as it is innovative, paving the way for a whole new wave of horror to follow.