Feature: Is 28 Days Later a Zombie Movie?

Poster for 28 Days Later

Right, lets start this off straight off the bat: 28 Days Later is a zombie movie. You’ll get no detailed review here, we’ve all seen this movie. (Great film, but the sequel is better). What you’ll get is a breakdown of why this is a zombie movie.

But they’re caused by RAGE, not by being bitten!” “They run fast and chase people, they don’t just shuffle!” or even “They’re not even DEAD, so it can’t be a zombie movie!” All true, but so what?

Zombies have been created by many means over the years, such as:

This tells us that there is no single ’cause’ for zombies; they can come around in more ways than you can imagine (if we’ve missed any causes off the list do let us know).

If zombies can be caused by anything, how about how the zombies ACT? Do they do anything specific that classify them as zombies?

  • Eating people? – Nope, this didn’t start happening until Night of the Living Dead. There were hundreds of zombie movies before this.
  • Slowly shuffling around? – Nope, there have been fast zombies back in the 1980’s with Return of the Living Dead
  • They speak only in moans? – Nope, films such as I, Zombie or Wasting Away show you can still have a zombie movie where the creatures chat away quite easily.
  • Being Dead? – Nope, sometimes you can just become a zombie when you reach a certain age – such as in Stacy, or through Hypnosis as was the case of many pre-Romero era movies (King of the Zombies).

Right, so it’s not how the creatures are caused nor how they act that makes a zombie movie. So what about the setting?

There are many more, all with totally different settings. So, is there a single overriding similarity between all of these films? Well here it is, here’s the single constant of zombie movies:

They all deal with beings acting against their natural instincts at the detriment of those not affected.

That’s it. That’s all there is. The films generally aren’t actually about the zombies, they’re just a MacGuffin used to get a bunch of humans together with one common goal to see how they cope with each other and with an unrehersed situation.  Sometimes this is done to make a serious social / political point, sometimes for laughs, sometimes for scares and sometimes even for pure sleazy titillation. However the ghouls themselves are the same whether they’re chasing after you with rage in their eyes or shuffling around slowly in the background for you to simply walk right past. Does it really matter where they came from, what they do or how fast they move?

Gore Score C
Norks Score F
Originality Score A
Overall Score B

(We would have rated it higher than this overall, but only scored 28 weeks later a B and that’s a better film that this original)

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29 responses to “Feature: Is 28 Days Later a Zombie Movie?

  1. Argh:
    Thank you, and thank you for stepping forward. Too many people with a knee-jerk response have damned movies like this because… um– let me pull text from their responses– ooo- ooo– “running, not really dead, just poisoned by society in some way”– COME ON!!!! Isn’t that what zombies are ALL ABOUT???

    Screw you guys who think you’ve got a more homogeneous description of zombies. Zombies DO NOT EXIST. Except in our fantasies and creepy late night stories. Get an F*ing life. Oh– and read all the shit I can throw at you about zombies at: http://zombie-night.blogspot.com …………… BLOG OF THE LIVING DEAD.

    Yeah– it’s all there.

    • Well, if there were awards given out for the most number of comments against a post then we’d have a winner!

      No worries. It was good to read your article on what makes a zombie movie, I’m glad I’m not the only one who felt the need to set things straight!

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  3. Infected vocabulary: Pontypool
    The Devil: REC/REC 2
    Aliens experimentation: Plaga Zombie
    Evil movie prop: Demons
    Witchcraft: Night of the Living Dorks
    Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome: SARS Wars: Bangkok Zombie Crisis
    Pesticides: Let Sleeping Corpses Lie
    Physically assaulting a banshee: Damned by Dawn

    • Yup, decent list of yet more causes of zombism. However, I don’t know if I’d count Demons as a zombie movie (although it’s been a while since I saw that). And Damned by Dawn is a Banshee film, no zombies in sight there, I’d say.
      Demons, Zombies and Banshees – all closely related in the ‘ghoul’ spectrum, but I’d say they were different. For instance; Evil Dead=Demons. Exorcist=Demons. But hey, that’s just my opinion really.

      Actually, I think I will give Demons a rewatch. It’s been too long since I saw that one.

      • I was skeptical of Demons before I watched it, but let’s review: humans become mindless, killing machines; a bite or scratch can infect others; movie ends with the infections reaching apocalyptic proportions. Even though the “demons” grow fangs and claws, their behavior is certainly zombirific. Also, Patrick’s description certainly fits the mood of the movie: “Regardless of how the people get affected, the movies follow such a similar pattern that they still fit into the genre.”
        Damned by Dawn is more of a confused mess. The banshee is definitely not a zombie, the flying skeleton things are debatable, but the husband/boyfriend character comes back from the dead and is the movie’s one true, bona fide zombie.

      • although… with that said, the zombies in REC might be demons.

        I like the article, the only part I don’t quite agree with, is the single constant. If feels way too generic. A whole lot of horror (maybe even most horror) seems like it could apply.

      • Actually, looking at the constant again, i.e. (“acting against their natural instincts…”), might be a little too vague.

        For instance, what are the “natural instincts” of the dead? Maybe the dead’s natural instincts are to eat us if they are forced to return?

        Another point: The Nazis in Dead Snow might be acting out their natural instincts as cold blooded killers. (Or maybe once could say that the historic Nazis were acting against their natural instincts by bringing about the holocaust).

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  5. Hello Everybody,

    Initially, I had a big problem with the Infection thing not being true zombie material. Then I quit taking shit too seriously and realized that regardless of how the people get affected, the movies follow such a similar pattern that they still fit into the genre. Like many things, it’s a matter of perspective.

    Technically, you could argue that Jason Voorhees is a zombie. The Friday the 13th movies are slasher movies, though. Most horror fans would agree on that. Even though that sinister bastard comes back from the dead and kills folks, that’s secondary to the fact that he chops up college kids. Total Slasherama.

    In the most excellent 28 Days/28 Weeks movies, the style is pure zombie. They get infected, freak out, and attack or kill other folks. If they survive long enough, they freak out, etc., etc.. That follows the same pattern that the undead zombie flicks follow. Total Zombie-rama (that doesn’t sound anywhere near as cool as Slasherama but for the sake of continuity, I’ll go with it).

    I love a good zombie movie. 28 Days & 28 Weeks are awesome. That scene in 28 weeks when they kiss, he gets infected and beats his wife to death. That’s some horrifying shit.

    I reckon if some folks don’t consider them zombies, it doesn’t impact our ability to have a different opinion. In the end, it’s all cool.

    Excellent post, Jon. Respect. Very thought provoking.

    Thanks to Jon for hosting this groovy blog. Thanks to everybody else for sharing their thoughts.

    Patrick

    • “Regardless of how the people get affected, the movies follow such a similar pattern that they still fit into the genre.” – Couldn’t have said it better myself. This is exactly the point I was trying to make, but you do it in one sentance rather than the long drawn out rant I went with!

      Yeah, I’ve had discussions that Jason Voorhees could be a zombie (from pt 6 onwards anyway when he gets brought back to life via a bolt of lightning) but it’s certainly more of a slasher series than a zombie one. Still an awesome set of films though, the Friday 13th lot (well, except pts 5, 7 and 10, they were awful).

      I also agree about that seen in 28 weeks later when he becomes the zombie – that’s such a spectacular scene, best zombie-transformation scene I think I’ve ever seen. That’s going to take some beating!

      Thanks for the kind comments too.

  6. Patrick Ray:

    You hit it on the dead dude. I have the same argument with my GF when I eat an awesome meal with tofu instead of real meat … oops, I guess that doesn’t help our cause. That’s what I kept thinking… though We are voyeurs right… and happy ones at that. It is this strange relationship with ourselves and everything that we interact with. If, at the end of the munching, the object is entirely gone, then it is all in me. I would hope this will integrate with my living flesh to get a paying job and eat already killed meat. Don’t really want it squirming while I’m biting down. I have a pretty good constitution, but something still wriggling while I swallow is about all I can muster… So, to be fair– I’d like it dead.

  7. I am glad you have come out and said this: “They all deal with beings acting against their natural instincts at the detriment of those not affected.” All the arguing people do online about what is and isn’t a zombie is dumb, but you’ve clarified it.

    • I was aiming to find a single similarity between all zombie movies and that seemed to be the best I could come up with. However I’m sure there are movies out there that break this rule too – I was thinking of The Blind Dead the other day. I’m not sure if that fits into my hypothesis.
      Oh well, they’re all good movies, I guess it’s not really worth arguing about whether ‘X’ counts as a Zombie movie or not. Whether a film passes a genre-definition test or not isn’t going to make me love or hate a film any more than I would by not trying to pigeon-hole it.

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  9. While i agree that the cause of the zombies varies, i still wouldn’t class the 28 days later infected as zombies. And you know what im going to say, they run, they’re not dead etc. But even danny boyle, the man who directed it even said they were not zombies, just inspired by them in aspects. To a sense i would call it a zombie film as it is set in that style, but are they zombies? No. They’re just diseased living individuals. Like die hard zombie fan simon pegg said ‘death isn’t an energy drink’.

    • Fair points, yes, but my aim of this article was to point out that there is no one true definition of a Zombie. There are films going back to the beginning of the Genre (White Zombie 1932) when they were just classed as Ghouls, they weren’t dead, didn’t eat anyone and didn’t infect anyone either, yet those were all Zombie movies.

      The genre moves on over time, different interpretations of what zombies are and are not will come and go, but what remains are the movies themselves all featuring one trope; people and the ‘zombies’.

      Regardless of what caused them to be like that, they’re zombie films and these creatures / infected / humans / ghouls etc are the foe.

      • Yh i can agree there, im just a die hard romero fan. The style of the zombies changes slightly but the formula remains the same. I’l still take the classic shufflers over the runners any day, but i don’t mind them. With romero his zombies actually evolve, gaining certain degrees of intelligence ( bub from day of the dead and the zombies in land of the dead) in things like the walking dead, they just continue to rot. I wonder where zombies will go next?

  10. You have to be dead to be a zombie. These people are rapid beings due to a highly contagious virus. I still love this movie and have the double feature.

  11. I disagree. It is NOT a zombie movie, considering that the pure definition of zombie is the reanimated dead.

    Any articulated depictions of zombies and how it spreads or starts or how they behave does not define them: as in the ability to run, spread infection through bite/scratch/saliva/blood/gene (typically lab experiment etc.) Those are just specific abilities that each writer either includes or excludes.
    (Example: in “High School of the Dead” the zombies were blind and reacted mostly to sound. In “The Walking Dead” scent was a major factor, but every sense was used.)

    Webster: Zombie –
    a : the supernatural power that according to voodoo belief may enter into and reanimate a dead body
    b : a will-less and speechless human in the West Indies capable only of automatic movement who is held to have died and been supernaturally reanimated

    Other definitions are as comparative descriptions to a zombie. As in someone who didn’t sleep last night is walking around like a zombie (simile).

    • Does this mean that movies Pre-Romero are not Zombie movies then? The definition now is different to the definition back then, but they were still Zombie movies. Plague of the Zombies / I Walked with a Zombie / White Zombie. These all even had Zombie in the title, but didn’t feature reanimated dead.

  12. And the first one was better!

    (dont even get me started on all of the hollywood inaccuracy bullshit that was the depiction of the army. The apache would not have missed the car with its 30mm chaingun. it would have fired a hellfire missile and blown the car to smithereens and then proceed to light it up with 30mm. movie over, and the infection would not have spread to mainland europe.

    • I like that the big issue you have with a movie about zombies / infected destroying the whole population of the world is that the depiction of the army is the unrealistic part 😉

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  14. First I want to say that I’m glad that someone agrees that ’28 Weeks’ is better than ’28 Days,’ I don’t even like ’28 Days Later’ all that much, but I love ’28 Weeks Later’. Second, are any of those virused people going to live through this and return to normal? No. They’re as good as dead and are zombies by the new definition. Some can even argue that if it wasn’t created by VooDoo or Witchcraft – it isn’t a Zombie. But Zombie culture has to broaden its meaning in order for the living dead to survive 🙂 (a little fun with word choices there,lol) All these movies are meant to ebtertain, not be written as law on the subject. See my post: http://parlorofhorror.wordpress.com/2012/10/10/the-history-of-zombies-in-film/

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