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From Under A Rock: 28 Days Later

October 24, 2015 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
A Bloody Good Time 28 Days Later
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From Under A Rock: 28 Days Later  


There’s a first time for everything in a person’s life: your first coma, your first time waking up to a nation-wide rage epidemic, your first time killing an infected person, and your first time digging around in the back of someone’s eye socket with your thumbs because they kind of had it coming.

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show (determined at the discretion of my writing partner, Aaron Hubbard and I in alternation). This column is a companion piece to my podcast of the same premise, which you can check out here.

Last week Aaron drove Michael crazy with American Psycho. This week Michael takes Aaron out from under the proverbial rock by dripping 28 Days Later into his eye and hoping it doesn’t drive him mad.

28 Days Later

Michael Ornelas: Well, Danny Boyle has his Steve Jobs movie in theaters now, and it’s October, where horror reigns supreme. So what a perfect opportunity to pick my favorite horror movie AND my favorite Danny Boyle film (and one of my all-time favorites as well), 28 Days Later. I always call it a zombie movie, but it’s technically not, as they’re just “infected” with a virus that is concentrated rage. I don’t remember when I first saw this movie, but it was probably 2005 or so, and ever since, I’ve been in love with it. I always love seeing stories that have its three acts feel very distinct from one another, and this has that, allowing for perfect pacing, excellent character development, and a large-scale climax that is more satisfying than it should be, given that the infected play such a small part in the third act.

Aaron Hubbard: I feel that up front I should say that I don’t generally enjoy zombie movies, except comedies like Zombieland or Shaun of the Dead. So I was a bit apprehensive about this pick when you first brought it up. But I’m a fan of almost everyone involved. And I was immediately struck by two things; I appreciated that the main priority of the film was the human drama of Cillian Murphy’s character and how he adapts to the world. Also, this movie is just gorgeous. Top-notch cinematography, and for a film that honestly was very low budget that’s an impressive accomplishment.

Michael: They took advantage of every resource they had available. This was also before every set was a green screen – when Jim wanders out of the hospital and into a desolate London…that was really London. They got the streets closed off and, with no dialogue and an underappreciated electric guitar-driven score, made both the lead character and the audience feel completely isolated. Suspense is what makes the first act of this movie work so perfectly. We know that the virus from the opening scene is responsible for all this emptiness, but Jim doesn’t. It’s this knowledge that sees him walking around an empty city so terrifying, because we know that at any moment, something could jump out and end his life. And it almost does happen that way when he checks the church. Much like Jim, all we want is for him to find another survivor and get some answers, and it makes the viewing experience very inclusive.

Aaron: That sense of isolation is done really well. And it was smart to have him not run into any infected right away. It isn’t until he ironically goes to a place that should be a sanctuary that he realizes he’s in danger. I appreciated that, and I feel that any successful zombie movie has probably taken a few notes from the atmosphere of this film. The other thing that I really appreciated is that this movie never lost sight of the fact that the infected people were people once. Even though they are threatening people’s lives there’s a sense of tragedy when they have to be killed. The violence isn’t gratuitous and I felt a lot of pity for the infected ones.

Michael: Especially Frank.

Michael: But I’ll get to him a little bit later. You mentioned the sense of tragedy, which is exactly why I consider this the best zombie/infected movie ever made. The emotional stakes are so high. We know that Jim’s new world is a horrible place when he reads a note left by his parents, who killed themselves to avoid the infected. The words “Don’t wake up.” at the bottom made me tear up. No parents want their child to die before them…but given the alternative of living in such a place where your life is constantly at risk, maybe that wouldn’t be so bad. It’s such a small moment in the film, but its gravity wasn’t lost on me. This movie had another thing I love: STRONG FEMALE CHARACTERS! Selena is a force to be reckoned with from the get-go, and her influence helps Hannah come into her own as well.

Aaron: Yeah, she was very strong. Unfortunately, it reminds me of one of my problems with the movie. And it’s not anything against the movie really, just personal preference. The way the women are treated in the third act is deeply unsettling for me. It’s totally accurate and I understood why it was there, but that sort of thing is one of those things that tends to take me out of a movie because it’s just too real. I will say it’s amusing to see Naomie Harris in a movie before she was a really big name; now she’s Miss Moneypenny. And Cillian Murphy didn’t have a bad career either. But at the time they were unknown, and that’s deliberate. It’s not supposed to be “look at all these famous people” type of movies. It’s supposed to feel like something that could happen to you or your neighbors.

Michael: It’d be great if it happened to my downstairs neighbors: they argue every single morning in whatever the Armenian native language is. I just want to get some sleep…

Aaron: Just don’t write any children’s books Michael. Bad things happen when you can’t sleep.

Michael: Yeah, yeah, yeah…You can’t get rid of the Babadook. Except you can: I sold mine on eBay for $15.

Let’s talk about the other supporting character, the movie’s resident “Papa Bear,” Frank. He was the warmest character in the movie, inviting Jim and Selena into his home for sanctuary, putting himself at risk to fend off the infected while they went inside. It made his death feel like a huge loss, and considering that Selena’s two original friends from the beginning weren’t around long enough to be developed, he’s the only main character to die. His 15 second window between getting blood in his eye and his turn to pure rage was heartbreaking as he coped with his mortality and said his goodbye to his daughter. Whenever I think about this movie, that’s the first scene that pops into my head.

Aaron: Really good acting too; that’s a lot of emotions to get out in a short amount of time. It definitely stood out. Honestly, I think the scene that’s gonna stick with me most is the first time I saw the infected they were keeping on a collar. That’s an idea I never would have considered and they played the scene really well. It felt justified since Chris Eccleston was studying them to see when they would starve, but it’s also really symbolic. These aren’t really mindless, soulless monsters; they are more like animals. It’s like watching a rabid dog. They were once sweet and kind but now they’re insane and it’s just so sad for me.

Michael: Kind of like Jim, no? I love the ending of this movie because it draws parallels between people and the infected. Sure, it humanizes the infected (there’s something sad about seeing them starve at the very end), but it also animalizes the humans. Not only are the military acting on their primal urges by treating the women as nothing more than outlets for sexual release, but Jim is consumed with rage and has the exact same mannerisms as the infected when he’s getting his revenge on the antagonists once he gets back to the house. I love everything about that and how it plays into Jim and Selena’s earlier conversation about how if someone she knew and loved was infected, she would get rid of them in a heartbeat. But they’re not so black and white. The humans and the infected are two sides of the same coin, and THAT is what makes this a truly special “zombie” movie.

Aaron: That’s pretty clever and I did not pick up on that. I see what you mean now though. The final act almost feels like a completely different movie, and if it weren’t for the infected showing up I’d almost believe it was. It becomes a story of revenge. Sometimes those can be problematic for me, but in this case the main character’s actions are totally justified. I’m glad that he found a reason to keep some of his humanity though.

Michael: And what is it with the military in literally every zombie, alien, or supervillain movie? Can’t there be a movie where they actually just do what’s best?

Aaron: Probably not. If the military did what was best in most movies, we wouldn’t have any plot. But I felt like this was more a case of desperate individuals (and one lunatic) making bad decisions. And I appreciate that. And I appreciate the hell out of this movie. I won’t give it a perfect grade, but it’s extremely fucking nigh to it.


Michael: I don’t think you can use “nigh” that way, but you get points for referencing the movie, I guess? Anyways, if you can’t tell, I adore this movie. It’s in my top 10 of all-time, and any movie on that list gets the highest marks from me. Everything just comes together perfectly – the acting, the story, the themes, the score…all of it works for me and my tastes. I have no other choice.


Aaron: Nigh just means near, Michael.

Michael: It has to do with time, not location. It’s like saying “upon us.” And an A is close to an A+ on a spectrum, which is a distance-based form of measurement.


Michael: Like, me going to work is nigh. I feel comfortable saying that. But I wouldn’t say “my cell phone is nigh” just because it’s less than an arm’s reach away from me.

Aaron: …But yeah, I can see myself liking it more with repeated viewings. I just had the opposite reaction when I rewatched The Usual Suspects and don’t want to give an A+ to everything now.

Michael: That’s fair.

How would you like having your eyes poked out? Let us know in the comments!

Next week:

Aaron: Well, after showing me one of the most successful and influential modern horror films, I think it’s appropriate that I counter with one of the most influential horror movies of a bygone era. Which happens to be an adaptation of one of my favorite books of all time; James Whale’s Frankenstein from 1931.


Michael: Never heard of it.


Michael: I kid. Well cool! I haven’t seen any of the old Universal classic monster movies, so I’m looking forward to it!

Which “classic” Universal horror films have you seen? What are your favorites?


On this week’s edition of the “From Under A Rock” podcast, Michael selects The Babadook, and the boys welcome James back to the show!

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And if you want to read Aaron’s thoughts on movies, professional wrestling and comic books, check out The Shelf is Half Full.

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
Michael has this movie in his top ten of all-time, and with good reason: this movie is much more than "Let's watch humans kill zombies!" It deals much more with the emotional impact an epidemic like Rage has on society and on individuals. The themes throughout the movie resonate with the real world, and the stakes are clearly high enough to bring unnerving tension to this haunting story. The directing, the cinematography, the performances, and everything in between is beautiful. That's why 28 Days Later gets a near-perfect score.