28 Days Later

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

In the 2002 horror film 28 Days Later, a literal Hate Plague begins taking over Britain after animal rights activists set loose an infected chimp in a lab at Cambridge University. While scientists designed the Rage virus as a way of neutralizing violent impulses, it ended up having the opposite effect: once freed, the chimp starts to excarnify its would-be rescuers. Cue the cut-away.

Twenty-eight days later, Jim (Cillian Murphy) awakens from a coma; he finds himself naked in a totally deserted hospital (which sits in the middle of an eerily abandoned London) with a scarred-over head wound, an impressive growth of facial hair, and no idea of what's happened in the past month. Jim wanders around the city, plastic bag of Pepsi cans in hand, before he meets some non-shambling, angry-as-hell Rage-infected pseudo-zombies. After escaping their wrath, Jim teams up with a group of fellow survivors to kick some ass in search of an escape -- and a cure, promised by radio broadcasts from a distant barricade.

Survivor Selena (Naomie Harris), a realist, considers survival the only option and thinks of Jim's naiveté as a hindrance. Frank (Brendan Gleeson) and Hannah, father and daughter, see things less bleakly -- and both suffer for it.

The small group continues forth out of London in search of the promised cure, but when they arrive at the source of the radio broadcasts, their promised land turns into another nightmare…

28 Days Later avoids using the word "zombie", and it also avoids a number of common zombie tropes: once the Rage virus takes over, those infected with it become fast-moving, mindlessly violent killers (without a hunger for brains). The Rage infection itself devastates society and causes an apocalypse due to the ease of transmission and the overall panic. Despite precautions to avoid the appearance of a zombie movie, the film ended up getting pigeonholed as a zombie movie anyway. It did fairly well at the box office, received several comic prequels (which explore the period of time between the initial outbreak and the film), and managed to spawn a sequel (28 Weeks Later).

Do not confuse this film with 28 Days, where an alcoholic Sandra Bullock dries out. That film also features no zombies (unless you count Sandra Bullock's film career).

Tropes used in 28 Days Later include:
  • Abandoned Hospital Awakening: Jim wakes up in an Abandoned Hospital the eponymous twenty-eight days after the Zombie Apocalypse begins. He winds up in an abandoned hospital again after being shot during the climax.
  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Subverted as it's shown to take numerous violent hacks for Selena to chop off her first partner's arm with a machete before finally killing him.
  • Action Survivor: Jim and the other survivors.
  • Animal Wrongs Group: The cause of Britain going to zombie hell? Activists releasing infected apes.
  • Apocalypse How: Class 0. It's implied that any survivors have been lied to about the extent of the infection, which turns out to be confined to Britain despite alleged radio broadcasts that said that it had reached Paris and New York.
  • Battle in the Rain: Jim's Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: After being subject to a few too many rounds of cruelty and knowing Selena and Hannah are going to get raped by West's men, Jim proves why the cute ones are the ones to watch out for. The same applies to Hannah, who backs the cab containing West straight into the entryway of the house knowing his infected soldiers will get him.
  • Book Ends: The abandoned hospitals.
  • Break the Cutie: This happens to Jim when he finds out the truth about the military men's motives, and it keeps going downhill from there, right up until he inevitably snaps.
  • Crazy Survivalist: Although Selena isn't exactly crazy (yet), she's incredibly ruthless and will leave anyone behind if they can't catch up, distrusts others, and openly mocks any plans for salvation. "Staying alive is as good as it gets." She warms up once she's spent some time with the others, though.
    • Naomi Harris explained that her and Danny Boyle came up with a backstory that Selena had to kill her whole family in one afternoon, including her younger siblings, to explain her harsh outlook on life.
  • Daylight Horror:
    • The infected attack just as much in the day as they do at night - makes sense, them being normal humans and having relatively poor night vision.
    • Jim wakes up alone in a desolate hospital in the middle of the day.
    • Jim fighting the marines at the end.
  • Death By Pragmatism: Subverted with Selena as she gradually relaxes her survivalism.
  • Driven to Suicide: Jim's parents.
  • Driver of a Black Cab: Frank avoids this stereotype, but a deleted scene shows Selena, Mark and Hannah taking turns driving his black cab and doing their best London cabbie impersonation, much to his annoyance. The DVD Commentary mentions that you can't drive a black cab without experiencing an irresistible urge to do this.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: The ending as released. Jim survives, all the main characters survive the mansion assault at the end, the infected begin to die off from starvation, and a passing jet sees their distress message laid out in the grass and radios in a rescue.
    • The ending is so upbeat, that Roger Ebert was actually hoping the jet at the end would open fire on them at the end to match the film's tone.
  • Extreme Melee Revenge: After the soldiers imprison and almost rape a woman and child, Jim beats the crap out of every soldier in the complex (aided by an unwitting zombie) and gouges out one's eyes with his thumbs.
  • Eye Scream: Jim does this to one of the soldiers.
  • A Father to His Men: Major West.
  • Genre Savvy: Jim lampshades how driving into a darkened tunnel in a post-apocalyptic city inhabited mainly by psychotically insane carriers of a blood-transmitted rage disease is a really bad idea. This doesn't stop the others from doing it, however.

"This is a really shit idea. And you know how I know? because it's a really obviously shit idea." Possibly the best line in the whole movie.

  • Ghost City: The first two-thirds of the film take place in a mostly-abandoned London.
  • Hazardous Water: Just one drop of infected blood is enough to turn anyone.
  • High-Pressure Blood: The film incarnates the trope as Mailer. Is he vomiting? Is he bleeding from the mouth? He's literally gushing blood onto people. And he never runs out. Unluckily for them, The Virus spreads on contact with the eyes or mouth. It looks like they are trying to hold their breath while someone aims a firehose at their face.
  • The Last Man Heard a Knock: The audience and Jim begin the movie unsure if anyone is alive except Jim. Inevitably, he runs into other survivors.
  • Late to the Party: Jim after waking up in the hospital from his coma.
  • Looping Lines: According to the DVD Commentary, there were a lot of scenes where dialogue was added or altered in post. Some scenes were even shot with the intention of making the inevitable ADR easier (i.e., the speaking character offscreen or in shadows).
  • Meaningful Echo: Perhaps a bit of a stretch, but Jim's story begins with him alone, frightened, and confused, desperately wandering abandoned London, screaming "HELLO!" over and over and receiving no answer. It ends with him and his loved ones in a secure countryside home, creating a "HELLO" message together that is most assuredly answered.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Of the two female characters in the movie none dies, while Jim is the sole male survivor of 28 Days Later. The fact that in the 'real ending' Jim dies and the girls still survive only rubs more salt in the wound.
    • Well, Jim's mother commits suicide to avoid infection, but she's a very minor character, to say the least.
    • However, there aren't that many women who are even in the movie. All the soldiers are men but then again any women who survived and joined the soldiers were probably tortured by Major West's men .
      • The latter scenario is improbable; Major West and his men didn't want sex toys or victims, but wives to procreate with - they aren't interested in their consent, but they wouldn't treat them as disposable, either.
    • Subverted, however, when you consider the first infected human was a woman.
  • Naked on Arrival: The first time we see Jim, he's naked.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Nice job breaking out those lab monkeys, hippies in the intro!
    • Also to Jim, for lighting a candle and thus alerting the zombies where he and the others were hiding.
  • Noble Shoplifter: After gamboling through a deserted greengrocer's, the heroes leave behind a credit card.
  • No FEMA Response: While society has pretty much entirely collapsed in Great Britain, the outbreak hasn't spread outside of the British Isles due to the very short period between infection and full on Rage. Granted, it has only been less than a month, and other governments may have still been trying to figure out how to help, assuming that their first aid missions weren't overrun or driven out by the spreading outbreak.
  • Not a Zombie: Jim's first encounter with a zombie is a former priest. He is naturally reluctant to kill the zombie.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: One of the freakiest moments in the film is actually towards the beginning, when Jim wanders through a desolate and silent London.
    • The quiet but gradually climaxing song that plays in that scene? It is there because after about five minutes of abject silence, the car alarm almost killed the test audiences. Yes, they had to tone down the Nothing Is Scarier because of how well it worked.
  • Not So Different: Jim's brutality during the climax was designed to draw parallels between the Rage virus and Jim's own intense rage towards the soldiers. It shows.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Played with in Major West, who uses it to sucker in the women as sex toys for his men to keep up morale.
    • Doubles as Exact Words: the radio message in the film says the militia has "the answer to infection." But he never says that the "answer" is raping healthy women.
  • Oh Crap:
    • Frank's scene with the crow dripping blood into his eye, and immediately after. Heartwrenching as he realizes he has literally moments to tell his daughter how much he loves her, and has to push her away before the infection takes hold, for her own safety.
    • The dawning realization the characters have when Major West explains what exactly he meant by 'curing the infection'.
  • Only One Name: Most of the survivors, as well as the soldiers.
  • Only Sane Man: Among the soldiers, Sgt. Farrell. He's the only one of the soldiers who refuses to take part in West's plan to 'repopulate' the world, and is also the only one who's figured out that the rest of the world quarantining Britain (which is, after all, a relatively small island) is a lot more likely than these people being the last human beings on Earth.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The Rage virus turns the infected's eyes red.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Jim.
  • Shirtless Scene: Stupid Sexy Murphy.
  • Shout-Out: (Literally) The manner in which Jim calls out for any survivors whilst leaving the hospital perfectly mirrors the way that Anthony Delio does with a microphone in Romero's Day of the Dead.
    • Also, Jim waking up in the hospital to find London abandoned mirrors the beginning of The Day of the Triffids.
    • One of the soldiers talks about his favorite joke from The Simpsons, which was then mentioned in the commentary for that episode (Treehouse of Horror III) by Al Jean. Though Jean also Did Not Do the Research; he calls the movie "28 Days" and thinks it was about vampires.
  • Slept Through the Apocalypse: Jim.
  • Synthetic Plague: The Rage Virus, which was originally meant to soothe temperamental persons.
  • Technically Living Zombie: The Infected are a poster-child for this trope, and in many ways 28 Days Later started the wave of interest in this new "zombie" (really, Crazies). Anything that will kill a human can kill them, i.e. riddling their chest with bullets that are *not* expertly aimed. They've got a strong "mind-over-matter" adrenaline rush, though, so don't wait for them to get right on top of you. They're not smart enough to use weapons, and aren't explicitly trying to "eat" people (though they do animalistically bite people to attack). The real danger is that they'll easily infect you from close contact, what with all of their mucous membranes disintegrating into a bloody mess and puking up torrents of blood with little or no provocation.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Let's start with the scientists who decided to use chimpanzees, which are incredibly strong and can get pretty damn aggressive already, as guinea pigs for the Rage virus. Then the animal rights activists who release said infected chimpanzees after being warned that they're contagious. Additionally said scientists use a facility that doesn't even incorporate the most basic of quarantine procedures.[1]
  • Took a Level in Badass: Jim post-snapping.
    • All the survivors. Frank was just a simple taxi driver, and in his first appearance, is wearing badass riot gear and beats several infected to death.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened to the poor goldfish, last seen in Frank and Hannah's flat? Presumably something bad.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Only for Britain.
  • Zombie Infectee: The Rage Virus is too fast acting for this to last long, but the man traveling with Selena is one, begging for his life despite being infected. The father averts this, knowing he's been infected and trying to get his daughter to stay away.
  1. (And apparently, decent security systems)