I could almost guarantee that this would be a controversial choice. “28 Days Later,” to me, is the quintessential zombie film. Now, will many fight me that Romero’s works are by far superior and belong on this list as well, if not before this film? Yes. I’m certain of it. I’m not disposing of Romero’s iconic and prolific work. His work will at some time appear on my blog–that is undoubtable. His omission now in favor of this work is more about personal taste and a much more culturally relevant choice. We’re in fact staring down what it could look like 28 days later.
This film, which was one of the first horror films to follow the terrorist attack of 2001, looks very critically at our fear of what comes after terror. What does it mean to be post-apocalyptic. You wouldn’t see a movie like this emerge at this moment–it would be far too real; however, the work it did in 2002 was a chance to wrestle with the extreme unknowns. It was our chance to ask the question what happens if there is nothing left or what happens when we must live in a world that is nothing like the world we came to know and love.
Here’s the thing: watching this movie now brings a totally different feeling. The premise focuses on the release of a virus and being unable to contain it. It is a more extreme version of the very world we are currently living within. Romero’s work comes across more phantasmagoric; Danny Boyle’s work on this film is both masterful (he also had a phenomenal team of writers and effects artists to guide us to this final product) and strikes a very strong tone of reality.
This British work is considered both a box office and critical success. Even Rotten Tomatoes has it nearing 90% positivity. But will always stand out most to me beyond the critical success is the fact that it is a spectacle, a political allegory and it was entirely speculative of the reality we currently live within. Would “Night of the Living Dead” traditionally take the top spot as the greatest zombie film of all time? Sure, probably. But I don’t think we wrestled with reality just yet, and I believe the surrealism that began in 2002 now became a lethal dose of reality. We could be looking at a changing of the guards.
If you’re looking for added punishment to the current reality of a pandemic, then obviously giving yourself some time to watch “28 Days Later” will certain elevate that fear since you’ll be watching it play out nearly two decades ago on film.