Observations on 28 Days Later and ZoMbIeS....

First of all, 28 Days Later is off the proverbial hook. I wasn't sure what to expect from Danny Boyle's take on the zombie genre, whether there would be a zombie-kickline musical scene, or some visually fantastic hallucination scene or whether the characters doesn't let genre or expectations get in the way of telling a really good story.

I'm no expert on zombie films, by far, but from what I've seen most of them don't actually take themselves very seriously, which is a good thing, because even the most die-hard zombie film buff will admit that zombies are a pretty ridiculous concept when it comes down to it. 28 Days Later is a serious zombie film, it really means it, and there is barely a trace of tongue-in-cheekiness about this film. It is all very stark, very realistic, very human and thus very horrible, too. It is a pretty big risk to do a serious zombie movie, since an attempt at failed seriousness is far worse than successfully poking fun at yourself, but it reaches its high ambitions.

A large part of the film is shot in very grainy digital footage, which, although it looks like a thrice-dubbed VHS porn movie in terms of picture quality, also looks a lot like hastily captured news footage, which makes the film seem more realistic. It also does a great job of masking all the special effects, thus making them seem more realistic as well. In fact, when the credits rolled, and the CGI animators were credited, I couldn't recall ever seeing any CGi at all in the film. It certainly runs with the "less is more" philosophy, and does it well, but when it gives you more, it just makes the more look all the more more, you know?

28 Days Later tells a very compelling and meaningful story, which just happens to take place in a post-apocalyptic zombie-infested England. The only complaint I have is that the protagonist got naked too much (including starting out naked in a hospital bed when awakening to the new world from a coma, which was proabbly meant to symbolize birth or somesuch, but honestly, why the hell would he be naked?), as opposed to the female lead. Also, while we see the whole of Manchester burn, an explosion goes off that we see and hear at the same time, though it is in the distance. I think it would have been more effective to maintain the news footage feel and have the explosion heard after it was seen. These are extremely minor complaints in what is a really great and intensely moving film. 28 Days Later is a thrilling drama with great, believable characters and a gripping, absorbing plot that just happens to take place in a post-apocalyptic, zombie-infested England.

Zombie thoughts:

Zombies are a very handy literary tool that really aren't always used to their full potential. For all the goriness they spew when blwon apart, they essentially take the moral dilemma out of stabbing, shooting, or otherwise destroying hordes and hordes of people. After all, zombies don't have feelings, right? When Carmageddon was released in the UK, the act of callously running down hordes of human pedestrians was replaced with callously running down hordes of zombies (who are different from regular people in that they bleed green), which apparently made it a-okay for the 15+ corwd by UK standards. One can gleefully slaughter zombies without moral qualms since zombies themselves are free of morals, they exist only to eeeaaat braaaaaiinnsss or otherwise kill people. Plus, they're already dead, right?

However, they still look like people, and were people at one point, thus we have the obligatory scene in every zombie movie where the protagonist must kill their best friend/family member/significant other after they become zombified. This is a pretty cheap way of getting a sad scene into one's horror flick, especially if we dont' actually carea bout the zombified party (28DL does it very well, however). An important question one should always ask ay potential boy/girlfriend is, "If I became zombified, and you knew there was no cure, and I was stumbling towards you with glassy eyes and outstretched arms, moaning, 'brrraainnssssss...', would you decapitate me with a shovel, or drop to your knees and cry like a wimpy little baby?" (Clearly, the correct answer is "decapitate with shovel".)

There is a trend awayzombification as forces of evil manifesting in the walking dead and towards it being a symptom of some (usually man-made) disease. I imagine this is because people are more likely to find a horrible disease which tansforms regular people into shambling mindless killing machines more plausible than a spell which causes the dead to walk. Also it most likely reflects our current fear of incurable disease, such as AIDS, cancer or SARS, since I've yet to see any zombie tale in which someone has their zombification cured ("They're just around the corner! Quick, give me the echinacea tablets!"). What zombification in general represents could be any of a number of things, which is better addressed here (link via 8bitjoystick. They are though, pretty easily molded into being a personification of whatever human trait one most wants to disparage, be it conformity, addiction, misanthropy, or whatever.

Regardless, the basic effect of zombification remains the same throughout the zombie genre. All traces of humanity vanish from the victim as they are reduced to an irrevocably primitive, violent beast. It's typically contagious, and it reflects an aspect of ourselves that we really don't like, which is, more often than not, just how thin the facade of civilization that man has created over its baser instincts truly is. Oftentimes in these films and games the true evil lies with humans. The zombies are merely environmental hazards, and are somewhat excused from the role of villiany since their cruel nature is excused by their lack of any intelligence. True evil always surfaces in those who remain human, thus providing a nice distinction between immorality and amorality, which is an issue I've so far only seen tackled by horror movies. Also, zombie films and games (are there any real zombie books?) have characters who retain their humanity despite the cruelty and carnage around them, thus showing that you can still be a good person, even if you need to blast some zombie heads off with a shotgun along the way, since, as I mentioned before, it's okay to kill zombies.

Sometimes, it's even fun to kill zombies.


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