The 28 Days Later episode of Revisited was Written by Ric Solomon, Narrated by Kier Gomes, Edited by Juan Jimenez, Produced by Tyler Nichols and John Fallon, and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.
Ah, 2002…what a year for movies! Pierce Brosnan made his last appearance as James Bond in Die Another Day, Eminem became a breakout movie star in 8 Mile, Harry Potter and his friends were solving Hogwarts mysteries in The Chamber of Secrets and two genre defining films were about to be launched upon the world. The first being Sam Raimi’s epic superhero film Spider-Man. It was both a huge critical and box office success that would set the standard on how these types of movies would be made going forward. The second, and even more important was 28 Days Later (watch it HERE). Danny Boyle’s post-apocalyptic film in which people are infected by rage was the pioneer for zombie films and caused a resurgence in this genre. This eerily realistic portrayal of a worldwide catastrophe is one of my favorite films and something I’ve returned to a lot lately. Let’s look inside this horrific masterpiece on this episode of Revisited.
In June 2003, I remember going to the theater excited to watch this horror film. It was something new, original and incredibly scary. While watching, I kept thinking something was wrong with the projector, because the picture quality was horrendous, even back in the early days of digital. After leaving the theater, I realized I had just seen something very special.
The film takes place in Great Britain and begins in a lab where monkeys are being tested with a virus known as Rage. A group of eco-terrorists break into this lab and unleash the monkeys. If any drop of the monkey’s blood gets into your mouth or eyes you immediately become infected. This virus causes zombie like symptoms that make you want to drink blood from any human you come in contact with.
The movie then jumps to 28 days after the monkeys escape. The virus spreads rapidly and becomes an epidemic, resulting in a societal collapse. We cut to our main protagonist Jim played by Cillian Murphy. He’s a bicycle messenger who gets hit by a car and wakes up in the hospital…alone. Everyone has evacuated the hospital. We watch as Jim eventually leaves and walks around an abandoned London. Thinking he has lost his mind he comes across a church where he encounters his first round of “infected”. As he is chased outside, Jim is rescued by survivors Selena and Mark played by Naomie Harris and Noah Huntley. They brief Jim on what has happened and how society collapsed and where they were. Jim requests to go find his parents and Selena and Mark tag along. Once there he finds out his parents have committed suicide and takes in that he might be one of the last remaining uninfected people on the planet.
During their travels, Mark becomes infected. With no hesitation, Selena kills Mark before he turns. She explains to Jim that once you become infected you have mere minutes before it takes hold and unfortunately have to make a painstaking sacrifice. Jim and Selena eventually come across two more survivors, Frank and his daughter Hannah, played by Brendan Gleeson and Megan Burns. They let the two into their home, and listen to a military broadcast offering protection at a blockade in Manchester. Frank, realizing supplies are dwindling, asks Jim and Selena to accompany him and his daughter. They immediately accept and head out in Frank’s cab. Along the way they stop at a shop to get groceries as well as deal with a flat tire situation and narrowly escape a horde of infected.
Once at the blockade the group find it to be deserted. Frank comes across a hanging dead infected human. A crow picks at it, and the blood drips into Frank’s eye causing him to become infected and is shot dead by the hidden soldiers. The soldiers then take Jim, Selena and Hannah to their fortified mansion, where we meet the movie’s main antagonist, Major Henry West. He shows Jim around the compound and introduces him to an infected soldier they have chained up. The soldiers keep him chained up outside for observation. Henry reveals to Jim that the broadcast was intended to lure female survivors into sexual slavery to repopulate the post-apocalyptic world. Jim doesn’t like this one bit and the soldiers take him out into the forest to kill him. Jim outsmarts the soldiers and escapes.
Jim returns to the mansion to save Selena and Hannah. He unleashes the infected soldier on Henry and his men. Jim, Selena and Hannah eventually escape to Frank’s cab, only to find Henry hiding in the backseat who shoots Jim. Hannah backs up the cab to the mansion where the infected soldier pulls Henry out and rips him apart. The three survivors drive off. We cut to another 28 days later and Jim awakens from recovery. It’s revealed they are living in the countryside and the infected are dying of starvation. A fighter jet flies over the cottage that the trio are staying at. As the film ends, they run outside with a huge cloth banner that says “Hello” and watch optimistically as the jet spots them.
There are so many horrifying scenes in this movie and a few have truly stuck with me. The biggest and most well known is when Jim walks around abandoned sections of London including Westminster Bridge, Piccadilly Circus, Horse Guards Parade and Oxford Street. Danny Boyle and crew filmed this movie in 2001 and were able to close off sections of these streets for minutes at a time. It typically took place on Sundays and would have typically around 45 minutes after dawn to get these shots. Another abandoned scene was filmed on the M1 Motorway. They were able to film Frank’s cab driving, devoid of traffic, for very limited time periods. A mobile police roadblock was able to slow traffic sufficiently, to leave a long section of the highway empty so these scenes could be filmed. Using 10 different cameras, the crew managed capture a total of one minute of useable footage. Danny Boyle has stated that much of the filming for this film took place before the September 11th attacks. He has gone on record saying its highly likely that they wouldn’t have been able to close off Whitehall to film after the terrorist attacks that happened in New York and Washington. Although, if you watch the DVD special features, you will see that filming was still taking place around October of that year.
The scariest scene to me, is when the group gets stuck in the tunnel. Frank tries to jump his cab over a blockade of cars to proceed to the M1 Motorway. After his car lands, he gets a flat tire, the group get out to change it. They see rats run under them and in the distance you witness a horrifying site. There are tons of shadows of infected running up to them. The whole scene becomes a recipe for disaster. Your heart is racing as you watch Jim change the tire. The sounds of the infected as they get ever so close to our heroes, is enough to make your skin crawl. Once they change the tire, the infected are literally on top of the car. The brake lights flash red and you see these infected humans run up to the car.
As I’ve mentioned before, the film looks horrible. Danny Boyle decided he wanted to film on Digital Video using Canon XL1 cameras. Aesthetically, he felt that the harshness of the DV imagery suited the post-apocalyptic urban landscape and the grittiness of the film in general. He goes on record saying “the general idea was to try and shoot as though we were survivors too.” The movie, at it’s best looks like it was shot in 240p.
28 Days Later released on DVD in October 2003, just in time for Halloween. At that time, I was so excited to rewatch it in the comfort of my own home. On the special features, it shows there were three alternate endings to the film. One of the endings was included in the U.S. theatrical release, after the credits have ended. This was also before the internet would let you know how many post credits scenes there were. If you didn’t hear about the alternate ending in the paper, or see it on tv promotional ad, then you would have been completely blindsided. In this ending, Selena and Hannah trying to revive Jim in a hospital. Jim unfortunately dies and you see the girls walk away. I’m very happy that Danny and the team decided to go a different route and not make this the definitive ending. The special features are jam packed with other great bonus content as well including the DVD commentary. I highly recommend listening to what Danny Boyle and screenwriter Alex Garland’s have to say about the making of this movie. It provides great insight and a deeper understanding of how the team truly brought together a masterpiece.
We can’t forget about the soundtrack to this! If you’ve ever seen a Danny Boyle film, you know that he is a master of picking great songs to keep his audience engaged. 28 Days Later is no exception. John Murphy composed the score and it features electric guitar and atmospheric electronic sounds as well. Just listen to the song, “In the House in a Heartbeat”. Nothing stands out more than the song playing when Jim is walking around the abandoned streets of London. The song is called “East Hastings” by Godspeed You! Black Emperor. You feel a sense of dread, despair, and loneliness, as if you are Jim…all alone. It’s truly fantastic and my favorite from the soundtrack. The only scene that evokes any joy from this heart racing film, Is when the group is in the grocery store grabbing some food. That also plays the only happy song in the whole film, “A.M. 180” by Grandaddy. It’s a poppy electronic blast of happiness that makes you wish the film’s tone wouldn’t detract from this scene. And finally, as the credits roll, we are treated to a haunting but pleasant song “Season Song” by Blue States. It gives an undecided stance as the movie ends making the audience question whether everything turned out all right for our survivors.
I stated in the beginning that this movie came out in 2002. In 2002 it was released in the United Kingdom. Because of its universal praise, it landed a wide release in the United States on June 27, 2003.
In 2007, a sequel was made entitled 28 Weeks Later, which takes place 6 months after the first movie. It’s a worthy sequel that dives further into this world of this film series and of course asks more questions, but that’s a story for another time. There’s even a graphic novel series based on franchise that further expands the story. Unfortunately, Danny Boyle didn’t come back to direct the sequel. Instead, he executive produced it and went on to have an incredible career including winning Best Picture and Best Director for Slumdog Millionaire as well as direct other countless films including Trainspotting, Sunshine, Steve Jobs and even a sequel to Trainspotting! Sorry to keep mentioning sequels, but Danny recently stated he would come back and direct a third movie, possibly titled 28 Years Later. Here’s hoping that gets off the ground soon!
28 Days Later was a pioneer of it’s time. Without it, you wouldn’t have movies such as Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake, I Am Legend and World War Z. You also wouldn’t have groundbreaking shows like The Walking Dead or The Last of Us.
I’m going to rate this movie a 10. This movie truly changed the game and is one of my favorite horror movies ever made. It’s one I will continue to revisit as often as possible. This comes highly recommend for any zombie or horror fan. Check it out as soon as you can!
Two previous episodes of Revisited can be seen below. To see more of our shows, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals channel – and subscribe while you’re at it!
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/28-days-later-revisited/