Not only do I think 28 Days Later is a great horror film, but I think it’s one of the greatest horror films of all time. For me, it’s up there with The Shining at the top of the genre.
I know that’s a bold statement, but here’s what I loved about it.
The film starts with a prologue that’s an introduction to the virus through an enraged chimp. While this shows us exactly what’s to come in the film, it only shows enough to whet the palette and doesn’t take away from the gut punch at the end of the next scene.
Much like The Walking Dead, 28 Days Later opens with the main character, Jim, waking up in a broken world. A cycling accident puts him into a coma. When he wakes up, the world as he knew it has gone. This concept has been used many times before–as in The Day of the Triffids for example. When done well, it allows the reader or viewer to feel the main character’s confusion and fear. We find the world through them.
In 28 Days Later, we get a tense exploration of a very different London. Maybe this film resonated more with me because I know the city well enough to recognise all the locations. To see the decimation of such an active place chilled me to the bone.
I love the missing posters in the opening montage. In what can only be a minute or two of film, we get to see so much back-story. Every poster had been pinned up by an individual during a time when people were lost and still had hope. A wall of missing loved ones are now just memories as even the people who’d put them up have gone.
Jim then finds a church. The congregation are all dead, or so it seems. After a tense introduction, the action sparks to life when we see two of the infected feeding on the corpses in the pews. They see Jim. The tension of that moment–as Jim waits up on a mezzanine in the church, and we can hear the footfalls of the infected–winds the entire set up tighter still. When a priest bursts through the doors, Jim utters the word ‘Father’. It shows–if not an adherence to religion–that he at least has it in his life enough to address the man in this way. It adds more weight to the fact that he has to kill him. The skulling of the priest with a bag filled with drinks cans kicks the film to life.
What a perfect way to set the tone for what’s to come. I think I held my breath for the entire time when I first watched it.
What follows, for me, is a masterfully told story that uses zombies sparingly. The anticipation is crippling, and when the infected do appear, it’s fast and violent. This movie is a paranoid, claustrophobic, tense, and wonderfully well-acted piece of cinema. My only regret is never getting to see it on the big screen.
On top of all of this, the film has an amazing soundtrack. I often listen to it when I’m writing.
I would argue that 28 Weeks Later has a better opening than 28 Days Later, but the movie didn’t live up to it like 28 Days did.
There are often rumours about Danny Boyle and Alex Garland returning to make 28 Months Later. Despite seeing the same piece of news showing up every year or two, I get as excited each time. I would love to see another sequel.
For anyone who wants more 28 Days Later in their life, the comic by Boom is great. It tells the story between the end of 28 Days Later and the beginning of 28 Weeks Later.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and if you have a favourite zombie flick?
Michael Robertson is a writer of dark post-apocalyptic fiction, horror, and science fiction. He’s been writing for over fifteen years and has been published in several anthologies and magazines, as well as being published by HarperCollins.
His series of books entitled The Alpha Plague is a post-apocalyptic world inspired by 28 Days Later.
He has plans for several science fiction books and is currently writing the first draft of New Reality 3: Fear, which will finish off his New Reality series.
As a father of two young children, he writes when he can, which is mostly before they get up and after they’ve gone to bed.
He loves reading, writing, watching movies and spending time with his family.
To see more of Michael’s work, go to his website at: