Program Notes: 28 Days Later (2002)

There are purists who will tell you that Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later (2002) isn’t actually a zombie movie.

Zombies, they say, are dead people resurrected to feast on the living.

The ghouls in 28 Days Later, they quite accurately point out, aren’t resurrected dead people. Rather, they are average folk infected with a “rage virus” developed by the military as a biological weapon.

Well, you say to-MA-to, I say to-MAH-to.

If it moves like a zombie, bites like a zombie and smells like a zombie...IT’S A ZOMBIE!!!

Shot on handheld video (thus imparting a degree of gritty realism to a fantastic premise), Boyle’s variation on the classic zombie flick is a dead-serious survival epic. Bicycle messenger Jim (Cillian Murphy) awakens from a coma in a deserted hospital and wanders the empty streets of London (there's something deeply spooky seeing familiar landmarks utterly depopulated).

Film Screening:
28 Days Later (2004)
Saturday, Oct. 15 at 1:30 p.m.
Central Library

He outruns some bloodthirsty freaks and forges a partnership with Selena (Naomie Harris), who fills him (and us) in on what's transpired. Twenty-eight days earlier a virus was unleashed. Spread by blood and saliva, this "rage plague" infects within seconds, turning humans into mindless, raving lunatics who want only to kill.

Our two lead characters join up with a chatty cabbie (Brendan Gleeson) and his adolescent daughter (Megan Burns) and, hearing on a radio broadcast that the military has established a camp near Manchester, they hit the road, encountering much mayhem along the way.

They find the remote army outpost, all right, but it turns out that sex-starved men with guns aren't much of an improvement on slobbering zomboids.

Boyle (who a couple of years back won a best director Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire) here works some nifty variations on the standard zombie format. These are fast zombies (see Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead), but since they’re not resurrected dead people bur rather infected living people they can be dispatched in many ways. No need for a perfect shot to the head.

Unfortunately, these zombies are spitters. In addition to biting, they spray infected blood, hoping to get it in a living person’s eyes, nose or ear.

So which is worse...zombies or your fellow man?

Let’s call it a tossup.

Check out Bob's general introduction to Zombiemania!

About the Author

Robert W. Butler is a lifelong Kansas City area resident, a graduate of Shawnee Mission East High School and the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas. For several decades he was the movie editor of the Kansas City Star; he now writes a movie-themed blog at He's married to the former Ellen Vaughan; they are the proud parents of LA-based comedian, writer, director and TV personality Blair Butler. He used to be a dog person but now lives with two cats, thus demonstrating the flexibility of the human condition.