28 Days Later

28 Days Later ★★★★★

HORRORx52 (2019)

44. Rewatch #5

28 Days Later is mostly known for popularizing the quick zombie and for featuring a cast of relatively unknown people, some that would move on to greater fame (Cillian Murphy and Naomi Harris most notably). But I must say that 28 Days Later is more than just a trendstarter and a springboard for fame. It is also a haunting showcase of hopeless death and inspiring life, two opposites blended together in a most spectacular manner.

I had forgotten just how haunting those long continuous shots of deserted London streets actually were. When we see those streets it becomes abundantly clear what kind of post-apocalyptic nothingness that 28 Days Later is about to serve. Pinboards are littered with endless messages, a haunting showcase of people who tried to hang onto normality and security in the face of societal rot. The churches are littered with dead and diseased bodies, a former symbol of order and sanctuary is now a mass grave. It is as the anonymous graffiti artist says, "Repent, the end is extremely fucking nigh".

But despite the apparent hopelessness of this situation, humanity is still not dead. Even in these trying times the jovial father figure still finds time to school a younger male about what a proper bottle of whiskey is and he still finds time to grow pale at the sight of his teenage daughter's reckless driving. Indeed I found myself impressed with how well the balance between cynical dread and beaming hope was struck. A particularly striking sequence finds our human protagonists in the countryside when they suddenly run across a flock of horses. It is not only a beautiful and harmonious moment but it is also a reminder that life prevails no matter what. It is frightening in a sense however, that perhaps the fall of man will be but a mere side note in the history of earth. In this one moment of fragile beauty we are shown the strength and weakness of existence. Those are the moments that make sure that 28 Days Later is more than a dreadful piece of flashy nihilism (unlike some other films that may or may not COME AT NIGHT) but a stupendous piece of art, a film even.

Even the later parts of the film that digs into the concept of man as the real monster, by now one of the most overused and clichéd storytelling tropes in all of fiction, manages to maintain a lingering sense of humanity. The military brutes are villainous indeed and their actions are loathsome but rather than feeling like a plot point that is demanded by the post apocalyptic subgenre it feels like a desperate attempt to cling to security and a natural reaction to the disastrous events that unfolded. The military here has been reduced to what can only be described as a cult, guided by the hope and the promises of something greater. They are horrifying, but it may be the situation that created these horrible brutes that is truly horrifying.

In short, this film manages to be a terrifying glimpse into the desolate state of a post-apocalyptic world but it also manages to be a magnificent showcase of life and its tireless endurance. But that endurance is not total, we are still reminded that humanity is frail and suspicable to death. Those horses thriving in the countryside seem to show us something far greater than mere beauty. They may remain, but what if we don't?

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