28 Days Later

Gen-X-Reviews-28-Days-Later-2003 It’s ironic that one of the best horror movies in years is really a story about human beings.

28 Days Later is the most memorable zombie film in decades, but this is because it’s less about the undead and primarily about humans trying to realize what it means to be alive. Survival is meaningless in a world that makes loving impossible, but can people learn to love in a world that is toxic down to its blood stream?

Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up in a hospital and the world is dead. He pulls cords out of his body, finds hospital clothes, and walks London streets as deserted as the face of the moon. Not knowing what to do, he pockets money that he finds blowing in the wind, and calls out “Hello.” He might as well be talking to himself. The world is over.

He winds through the deserted streets until he comes to a church. Inside he finds bodies stacked on top of one another, their pale limbs knotted together grotesquely. Something terrible has happened, but the worst is yet to come. As Jim scans the burial mound looking for living things, something not quite alive blinks back at him. It is eating someone.

Suddenly something else is in the corridor with Jim, hissing.

He runs and in the street below meets other survivors. Selena (Naomie Harris) and Mark (Noah Huntley) have seen the world die and adapted to what has been left behind. The live in a subway convenience store, safely locked behind bars, travel only in daylight, and never wander away from one another.

Selena tells Jim about the disease that has wrecked England. Rage is a virus that turns men into mindless creatures. Highly contagious, the Rage is carried in the blood and the infected want nothing so much as to spread the virus. They vomit blood, scratch and bite, spit and generally are pretty unpleasant creatures.

Selena and Mark have lived the last 28 days as rats, cooped up in the ruins of the store. In a world where physical contact of any sort is not just dangerous but deadly, the last human survivors want nothing to do with love. Love means a future beyond this moment, and no such promise can be made when the person next to you may turn into a creature you have to kill at any moment.

“Plans are pointless. Staying alive is as good as it gets,” Selena tells Jim.

But humans are no more alive than the infected masses if deprived of the opportunity to connect. Being human is more than merely persevering: It is carving a niche out for yourself in your enviroment, however hostile. It’s being fully awake, which means being alive to the romantic urges in your body in the same way as you’re conscious of the potential contaminants around you.

One of the reasons the virus has spread is because people have not been awake. They have looked at their fellow organisms as objects, used their intelligence to create biological weapons rather than art or poetry, and succumbed to their basest need for power and dominance. If you were awake you wouldn’t do these things to yourself and your world, would you?

Sleepwalkers have unleashed the virus, destroyed the world and turned one another into vile creatures. Now nothing is innocent. Your very blood is poisoned, corrupted by a virus that may, at any second, transform you into your worst enemy. And despite all this – or, maybe, because of it – the last remaining humans must live fully alive, with their eyes open, unafraid to love.

28 Days Later is a story of people trying to rebuild themselves in some better, less fallen form. The virus that transforms men into rabid beasts is the same sickness that makes us murder each other, hoard our wealth, and treat one another as meat objects. It is replicated in our genes, in the subtle contagion of our cultural habits, in the way we choose to live as sentient beings.

The thing is in our blood and the real horror is what we allow ourselves to become.


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