Horror Bingo 2022: 28 Days Later

Happy Halloween! Looks like Horror Bingo is definitely going into November this year. Pray for Pontypool, everyone! I know that would be a miracle, but it would also assure me a sweet, sweet victory. (Against Mekaela, anyway.)

But to today’s film! 28 Days Later is an old favorite. I saw it for the first time when I was, IDK, 17 or so, and it might have been the very first zombie film that I fell in love with.

London Horror GIF by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment - Find & Share on GIPHY

Obviously, there have been any number of excellent zombie films since then (Shaun of the Dead, One Cut of the Dead, Train to Busan, etc.), but this one still holds a special place in my horror-loving heart.

Year: 2002
Director: Danny Boyle
First Watch or Rewatch: Rewatch
Streaming Service: HBO Max
Spoilers: Yep
Grade: Chocolate

It’s been 20 years since this movie came out—excuse me while I collapse into a soggy puddle of bone dust and tears—and there’s still an awful lot to love about it. The creepy fast zombies, the grocery store homage scene, the end is “extremely fucking nigh” graffiti, our introduction to deserted London, this excellent apocalyptic music, etc. (TBH, I’ve gotten used to the 17 minute, 58 second version of this song, but this one here is still good stuff.) The cast, in particular, is absolutely fantastic. This was my introduction to Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Brendan Gleeson, and Christopher Eccleston, and they’re all so damn good here. (Well. It’s possible I’d seen Eccleston and Gleeson before—Gone in 60 Seconds and Mission Impossible II, respectively, but this is certainly the first thing I recognized either of them in.)

My criticisms are few and far between. My eyebrow does always shoot up a little when Jim wakes from his coma buck ass naked, but that’s not so much a problem with the movie—actually, I quite like that it’s mostly dude nudity in this film—as it is a concern for Jim, like, exactly what was happening here before the zombies attacked? I do wish Selena got to kill at least one of the assholes soldiers, though. And I straight up don’t like the scene where Jim kills the zombie kid in the gas station, mostly because it seems wildly out of character for him to enter the gas station at all. It’s supposed to be a moment of surly rebellion, I guess, because Selena keeps telling him what to do, but A) annoyed or not, Jim seems smarter than this, and B) at no other time in this film does Jim come across as particularly threatened, infantilized, or emasculated by listening to Selena. He doesn’t always agree with her, sure, but then he just says so. I simply do not believe that Jim, notably against shit ideas, would risk the zombie virus and grisly death for a chance at petulant rebellion and a goddamn cheeseburger.

I’ve seen people criticize the film’s third act, too, but honestly, I don’t agree. Other than being disappointed that Selena doesn’t get to kill anyone, I absolutely love the glorious revenge showdown. The cinematography. This haunting ass music. Watching our mild everyman hero go absolutely feral with rage. (Okay, no true everyman has Cillian Murphy’s gorgeous blue eyes and bone structure, but whatever, right?) Sure, Jim setting Zombie Soldier free on the house is a risky goddamn plan, but I mean . . . dude’s a bicycle courier with a gun against a unit of trained soldiers. Strategically, the man needed a wild card, and also, it’s fucking awesome. I really love the moment, too, where Christopher Eccleston holds Baby Soldier as he dies—it’s so good that you almost feel sorry for these fuckers, until you remember they’re murderers and attempted rapists, and then you’re like, nah—as well as when Hannah hides behind the mirror (I have no upper arm strength, so I’d be dead), and when Hannah serves Eccleston up to be eaten by zombies. Excellent work, Hannah.

I also really love the ending of this film, partially because it’s beautifully shot and partially because I think it’s actually much stronger, thematically speaking, than the bleaker alternative endings. Since Jim, Selena, and Hannah have each other, it doesn’t really matter if that plane saw them or not; they’re healthy, they’re taking care of each other, they’re wearing warm cardigans, etc. I love plenty of horror movies with grim last moments (SawThe Thing, Night of the Living Dead, etc.), but sometimes optimism serves the story better, and a solid conclusion is always better than a cheap jump scare.

Finally—because I have way too many thoughts about this movie—some random notes:

A. The idea of a psychological virus isn’t explored in too much detail in 28 Days Later, but it is pretty interesting, regardless.

B. I’ve seen this movie a billion times, and the goddamn note Jim’s parents leave behind still apparently makes me tear up, those absolute fuckers.

C. I love Selena’s small breakdown after Frank’s death, how she doesn’t want Hannah to “have to fucking cope.” I also think it’s hilarious that Jim’s solution to Selena’s grief is to kiss her, like, sure, dude. Your magic lips will fix everything. Fucking boys.

D. Some of my absolute favorite line deliveries in this movie: Jim (This is a really shit idea. You know why? Because it’s really obviously a shit idea), Mark (Okay, Jim. I’ve got some bad news), and Hannah (They’re dead . . . and you’re going to be next.)

Next Up: Sweetheart

3 thoughts on “Horror Bingo 2022: 28 Days Later

  1. I guess you could say, maybe, that the hospital staff were trying to give comatose Jim a bath when shit went down and everyone had to run for their lives? Or they were trying to change his hospital gown? Those are the only innocent explanations I can think of for a comatose patient being totally nude, and I’m not really sure how plausible they are.

    I kind of like that the token good soldier is distinctly not Baby Soldier, who is set up as, IDK, kind of an innocent woobie-ish figure? Not just that, IIRC he’s distinctly shown to be enthusiastically on board with the rapey shit.

    “The idea of a psychological virus isn’t explored in too much detail in 28 Days Later, but it is pretty interesting, regardless.”
    There is She Dies Tomorrow – in which a baseless, unshakeable certainity that you’re about to die is transmitted from person to person like a virus. It was… IDK, I liked the concept and it was effective at conveying a mood, but it was like I spent the whole movie waiting for the story to happen. I’d say it seemed like one of those movies that should’ve been a short film instead, except then they wouldn’t really be able to follow the various members of the ensemble cast after being infected.

    The Signal (the 2007 movie, not the 2014 Lawrence Fishburne one) had an interesting portrayal of apocalyptic mass insanity. The afflicted are still somewhat rational, able to hold a conversation and be reasoned with. They’re not *necessarily* violent – though there is a lot of violence – and lot of the movie is from their perspective, and we see how their actions make sense to them. But as the title suggests, it’s an electronic signal driving people crazy, not a virus.

    • The bath is the only explanation I have, too, and while nurses definitely do bathe their patients, certainly long term patients . . . I don’t know, it feels sketch.

      That’s a good point about the Baby Soldier. He is set up as The Innocent and he’s arguably *kind* of nice (chooses to quickly shoot the Good Soldier rather than skewer him—as he himself later gets skewered, of course), but you’re right, he seems to have absolutely zero qualms about raping people, so like, fuck that guy. It’s sorta interesting to have the Woobie Dude also be a fucking monster.

      I actually almost put She Dies Tomorrow on my Horror Bingo nominee list because the concept really interests me, but the more I read about it, the more I worried I wouldn’t like—and it for pretty much exactly the reason you said. The Signal, however, I have not heard of, and it sounds pretty neat.

      • Yeah, the concept for She Dies Tomorrow is fucking great. I just wish they’d lived up to it.

        I like The Signal a lot, and I’m sort of surprised it never became a cult classic. It’s an uber low-budget semi-anthology horror flick – after a brief intro, it’s set up into three segments, with each focusing on a different character/group of characters, and being done by a different director and taking a different tone. But it’s all telling a singular story, and not in the usual V/H/S way where there’s a framing device loosely connecting each director’s segment or something – it’s more like it’ll switch POVs as the plot advances, so if you tried to watch the third segment without seeing the first two, you wouldn’t understand any of what’s going on. Side note, it has AJ Bowen from You’re Next, playing another asshole romantic partner.

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