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Film: 28 Days Later

In the 2002 horror film 28 Days Later, a literal hate plague begins taking over Britain after animal rights activists set loose an infected chimp in a lab at Cambridge University. While scientists designed the Rage virus as a way of neutralizing violent impulses, it ended up having the opposite effect: once freed, the chimp starts to excarnify its would-be rescuers. Cue the cut-away.

Twenty-eight days later, Jim (Cillian Murphy) awakens from a coma; he finds himself naked in a totally deserted hospital (which sits in the middle of an eerily abandoned London) with a scarred-over head wound, an impressive growth of facial hair, and no idea of what's happened in the past month. Jim wanders around the city, plastic bag of Pepsi cans in hand, before he meets some non-shambling, angry-as-hell Rage-infected pseudo-zombies. After escaping their wrath, Jim teams up with a group of fellow survivors to kick some ass in search of an escape — and a cure, promised by radio broadcasts from a distant barricade.

Survivor Selena (Naomie Harris), a realist, considers survival the only option and thinks of Jim's naiveté as a hindrance. Frank (Brendan Gleeson) and Hannah, father and daughter, see things less bleakly — and both suffer for it.

The small group continues forth out of London in search of the promised cure, but when they arrive at the source of the radio broadcasts, their promised land turns into another nightmare…

28 Days Later avoids using the word "zombie", and it also avoids a number of common zombie tropes: once the Rage virus takes over, those infected with it become fast-moving, mindlessly violent killers (without a hunger for brains). The Rage infection itself devastates society and causes an apocalypse due to the ease of transmission and the overall panic. Despite precautions to avoid the appearance of a zombie movie, the film ended up getting pigeonholed as a zombie movie anyway. It did fairly well at the box office, received several comic prequels (which explore the period of time between the initial outbreak and the film), and managed to spawn a sequel (28 Weeks Later).

Not to be confused with 28 Days, where Sandra Bullock plays an alcoholic in a detox centre.

28 Days Later provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Abandoned Hospital Awakening: Jim wakes up in an Abandoned Hospital the eponymous twenty-eight days after the Zombie Apocalypse begins. He winds up in an abandoned hospital again after being shot during the climax.
  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Subverted as it's shown to take numerous violent hacks for Selena to chop off her first partner's arm with a machete before finally killing him.
  • Action Survivor: Jim and the other survivors.
  • Adrenaline Makeover: Even if this trope is related with female characters, it goes for Jim. He started as The Load, ended up as Bad Ass.
    • Arguably applies to Hannah as well. Her father initially joins forces with Jim and Selena so that they can take care of her if something happens to him. But she ends up saving them at the end when she kills Major West.
  • Affably Evil: Major West. From the start there's something ominously odd about how imperturbable the character seems to be.
  • Animal Wrongs Group: The cause of Britain going to zombie hell? Activists releasing infected apes.
  • Anti-Villain: Major West is perhaps the most visible example of a villain in the entire movie. And the movie itself heavily implies that he's just gone completely insane. Of course, with the total exception of Sergeant Farrell, the rest of the soldiers are really just complete scumbags, with Mitchell being the most outright villainous.
  • Apocalypse Anarchy: Apparently, suicide was more common than not, as was an increase in church attendance. And then there's the military...
  • Apocalypse How: Class 0. It's implied that any survivors have been lied to about the extent of the infection, which turns out to be confined to Britain despite alleged radio broadcasts that said that it had reached Paris and New York.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Corporal Mitchell and most of the soldiers.
    • The animal rights activists who got the whole zombie-apocalypse going in the first place may count as well, considering that they weren't above roughing up a mild mannered mad scientist who was only a Punch Clock Villain at best.
  • Badass Longcoat: As long as Selena is in Crazy Survivalist mode, she wears one. Made of leather, no less!
  • Battle in the Rain: Jim's Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: After being subject to a few too many rounds of cruelty and knowing Selena and Hannah are going to get raped by West's men, Jim proves why the cute ones are the ones to watch out for. The same applies to Hannah, who backs the cab containing West straight into the entryway of the house knowing his infected soldiers will get him.
  • Bookends: The abandoned hospitals.
  • Break the Cutie: This happens to Jim when he finds out the truth about the military men's motives, and it keeps going downhill from there, right up until he inevitably snaps.
  • Convenient Coma: Averted. Jim went into a coma somewhere around the outbreak. When he wakes up, he is very weak, malnourished and dehydrated. Most likely a week or two more and he would simply expire. His parents were almost sure he was dead, so they committed suicide.
  • Chekhov's Skill: A few:
    • Selena is a chemist or pharmacist. It helps to sleep, it helps to get stoned and more or less saved Jim in the end.
    • Hannah's ability to drive and doing it recklessly. Doesn't sound that important or strange, but she's about 14.
  • Contamination Situation: One of the main characters’ friends is infected, and she must kill him.
  • Crazy Survivalist: Although Selena isn't exactly crazy (yet), she's incredibly ruthless and will leave anyone behind if they can't catch up, distrusts others, and openly mocks any plans for salvation. "Staying alive is as good as it gets." She warms up once she's spent some time with the others, though.
    • Naomi Harris explained that she and Danny Boyle came up with a backstory that Selena had to kill her whole family in one afternoon, including her younger siblings, to explain her harsh outlook on life.
  • Creepy Crows: A crow pecking at the corpse of a Rage victim has unfortunate consequences for Frank.
  • Daylight Horror:
    • The infected attack just as much in the day as they do at night - makes sense, them being normal humans and having relatively poor night vision.
    • Jim wakes up alone in a desolate hospital in the middle of the day.
    • Jim fighting the soldiers at the road blocade.
  • Death by Pragmatism: Subverted with Selena as she gradually relaxes her survivalism.
  • The Dog Bites Back: After losing her dad in a staged situation and almost getting raped, Hannah drives a cab containing West right into hands of Mailer, giving him a painful, agonizing death.
  • Door Closes Ending: The original ending.
  • Downer Ending: Danny Boyle has stated that the "true ending" -as opposed to of the Focus Group Ending of the final cut- has Jim dying in the abandoned hospital after being shot by the soldiers. You can imagine why this was reduced to a mere Alternate Ending.
  • Driven to Suicide: Jim's parents.
  • Driver of a Black Cab: Frank avoids this stereotype, but a deleted scene shows Selena and Jim taking turns driving his black cab and doing their best London cabbie impersonation, much to his annoyance. The DVD Commentary mentions that you can't drive a black cab without experiencing an irresistible urge to do this.
  • Dyeing for Your Art: The actors playing soldiers attended a three-day boot camp to ensure that they'd carry themselves properly.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending / Focus Group Ending: The ending as released. Jim survives, all the main characters survive the mansion assault at the end, the infected begin to die off from starvation, and a passing jet sees their distress message laid out in the grass and radios in a rescue.
    • The ending is so upbeat, that Roger Ebert was actually hoping the jet at the end would open fire on them at the end to match the film's tone.
  • Extreme Melee Revenge: After the soldiers imprison and almost rape a woman and teenage girl, Jim beats the crap out of every soldier in the complex (aided by an unwitting zombie) and gouges out Mitchell's eyes with his thumbs.
  • Eye Scream: Jim himself does this to Corporal Mitchell.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • Jim spends about third of the film shirtless or outright naked. Let's just say that he was in a coma and didn't eat for about a month. In third act the disservice is even stronger - Jim is not only shirtless, but also covered in blood and going around killing everyone.
    • When you get to see Selena in her underwear it's because the soldiers stripped her and are planning to rape her as well as Hannah.
    • Numerous infected are naked.
  • A Father to His Men: Major West.
  • Foreshadowing: "Mitchell, I swear to god this is going to end badly for you..."
  • Gallows Humour: When Jim walks around the deserted London, we see a bit of graffiti;
  • Genre Savvy: Jim lampshades how driving into a darkened tunnel in a post-apocalyptic city inhabited mainly by psychotically insane carriers of a blood-transmitted rage disease is a really bad idea. This doesn't stop the others from doing it, however.
    This is a really shit idea. And you know why? Because it's really obviously a shit idea.
  • Ghost City: The first two-thirds of the film take place in a mostly-abandoned London.
  • Hazardous Water: Just one drop of infected blood is enough to turn anyone.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Intentional or not, Sergeant Farrell does buy Jim enough time to escape while Jones and Mitchell bicker over how they'll kill the sergeant.
  • Hidden Depths: Sergeant Farrell, who muses on Earth's 'return to normalcy' once humanity is gone, and later shows himself to be a fan of The Simpsons. When Major West asks him what he used to do/be before he joined the army, Farrell just stares at him and doesn't answer.
  • High-Pressure Blood: The film incarnates the trope as Mailer. Is he vomiting? Is he bleeding from the mouth? He's literally gushing blood onto people. And he never runs out. Unluckily for them, The Virus spreads on contact with the eyes or mouth. It looks like they are trying to hold their breath while someone aims a firehose at their face.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Major West has come to this conclusion.
    Major West: This is what I've seen in the four weeks since infection. People killing people. Which is much what I saw in the four weeks before infection, and the four weeks before that, and before that, and as far back as I care to remember. People killing people... Which to my mind, puts us in a state of normality right now.
  • I Warned You: Jim was absolutely right that driving into a tunnel is obviously a shit idea.
  • Important Haircut: When Jim shaves without water or soap and crops his hair, he stops being The Load.
  • Infant Immortality: Oh how averted. Both the church and roadside bar are probably the most Squick places in the whole film thanks to the aversion of this trope.
    Kid: I hate you!
  • Karmic Death: Corporal Mitchell. And also, Major West at the end.
  • The Last Man Heard A Knock: The audience and Jim begin the movie unsure if anyone is alive except Jim. Inevitably, he runs into other survivors.
  • Lethal Chef: Jones, resident tin opener.
    Major West: Jones, did you notice while cooking that these eggs are off?
    Jones: I thought the salt might cover the taste, sir.
  • Let Me Get This Straight:
  • Late to the Tragedy: Jim after waking up in the hospital from his coma.
  • Looping Lines: According to the DVD Commentary, there were a lot of scenes where dialogue was added or altered in post. Some scenes were even shot with the intention of making the inevitable ADR easier (ie, the speaking character offscreen or in shadows).
  • Madden Into Misanthropy: Major West and the soldiers.
  • Meaningful Echo: Perhaps a bit of a stretch, but Jim's story begins with him alone, frightened, and confused, desperately wandering abandoned London, screaming "HELLO!" over and over and receiving no answer. It ends with him and his loved ones in a secure countryside home, creating a "HELLO" message together that is most assuredly answered.
    • Another example is Selena's promise to kill anyone who endangers her "in a heartbeat", just like she did with Mark.
    Jim: That was longer than a heartbeat.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Of the two female characters in the movie none dies, while Jim is the sole male survivor of 28 Days Later. The fact that in the 'real ending' Jim dies and the girls still survive only rubs more salt in the wound.
    • Well, Jim's mother commits suicide to avoid infection, but she's a very minor character, to say the least.
    • However, there aren't that many women who are even in the movie. All the soldiers are men but then again any women who survived and joined the soldiers were probably tortured by Major West's men
      • The latter scenario is improbable; Major West and his men didn't want sex toys or victims, but wives to procreate with - they aren't interested in their consent, but they wouldn't treat them as disposable, either.
    • Subverted, however, when you consider the first infected human was a woman.
  • Mercy Kill: Sergeant Farrell gets shot by Jones before Mitchell can bayonet him. Funny enough, Jim later kills Jones by bayonetting him.
  • Mildly Military: The soldiers are doing their duty, but when they have free time, they tend to be almost childish in their behaviour. Not to mention their grand answer to infection is to set a trap for healthy women and rape them.
    • And how long did it take for pretty much all of them (sans Farrell) to resort to this? A month.
  • Missing Mom: It's never explained what happend to Hannah's mother and it's actually left quite ambiguous.
  • Money Is Not Power: Mark talks about the early days, when people were trying to escape the country.
    Mark: I remember my dad had all this cash. He thought maybe we could buy our way onto a plane, even though cash was completely useless. Ten thousand other people had the same idea.
  • Moral Guardians: One political blogger appears to believe that the film is an example of sinister left-wing propaganda.
  • Moral Myopia: West's "You killed all of my boys.". Several of whom were preparing to rape Selena and Hannah, a 14-year-old girl, which was disturbing even by West's standards.
  • Naked on Arrival: The first time we see Jim, he's naked.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Nice job breaking out those lab monkeys, hippies in the intro!
    • Also to Jim, for lighting a candle and thus alerting the zombies where he and the others were hiding.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Jim wakes up and finds out that he's alone in a desolated area. His reaction is just a terrified "Hello!" shouted repeatedly. Then we learn that it's just his nightmare.
  • Noble Demon: One interpretation of Major West. Most likely that's how he excuses his own actions.
  • Noble Shoplifter: After gamboling through a deserted greengrocer's, the heroes leave behind a credit card.
  • No FEMA Response: While society has pretty much entirely collapsed in Great Britain, the outbreak hasn't spread outside of the British Isles due to the very short period between infection and full on Rage. Granted, it has only been less than a month, and other governments may have still been trying to figure out how to help, assuming that their first aid missions weren't overrun or driven out by the spreading outbreak.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: One of the freakiest moments in the film is actually towards the beginning, when Jim wanders through a desolate and silent London.
    • The quiet but gradually climaxing song that plays in that scene? It is there because after about five minutes of abject silence, the car alarm almost killed the test audiences. Yes, they had to tone down the Nothing Is Scarier because of how well it worked.
  • Not a Zombie: Jim's first encounter with a zombie is a former priest. He is naturally reluctant to kill the zombie.
    • Not to mention that this priest swings his arms as if to warn Jim to stay away. He seems to be the only zombie in the film capable of some degree of such self-control.
  • Not So Different: Jim's brutality during the climax was designed to draw parallels between the Rage virus and Jim's own intense rage towards the soldiers. It shows.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Played with in Major West, who uses it to sucker in the women as sex toys for his men to keep up morale.
    • Technically, West is trying to ensure a future, which will help keep up morale. Yes, the soldiers will get sex toys out of it, but West seems to think his intentions are noble.
    • Doubles as Exact Words: the radio message in the film says the militia has "the answer to infection." But he never says that the "answer" is raping healthy women.
  • Oh Crap:
    • Frank's scene with the crow dripping blood into his eye, and immediately after. Heartwrenching as he realizes he has literally moments to tell his daughter how much he loves her, and has to push her away before the infection takes hold, for her own safety.
    • The dawning realization the characters have when Major West explains what exactly he meant by 'curing the infection'.
  • Only One Name: Most of the survivors, as well as the soldiers.
  • Only Sane Man: Among the soldiers, Sgt. Farrell. He's the only one of the soldiers who refuses to take part in West's plan to 'repopulate' the world, and is also the only one who's figured out that the rest of the world quarantining Britain (which is, after all, a relatively small island) is a lot more likely than these people being the last human beings on Earth.
    • He's also the only one among the soldiers to begin to realize (or care) that Major West has gone completely batshit insane.
  • Pet the Dog: Major West comforts one of his dying men.
    • Said dying man refusing to let Mitchell bayonet Farrell, opting to shoot him first.
  • Precision F-Strike: It's a really fucking obviously shit idea!
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The Rage virus turns the infected's eyes red. If the sequel is any indication, it's because they're bleeding. Which is just as freaky.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Jim himself at the film's climax.
  • Scenery Gorn: The directors in their commentary were amazed at how they achieved a sense of ruin by blocking traffic for a few seconds. The film also has some really beautifully framed and executed shots that they shot with DV cameras to give it a really gritty feel.
  • Scenery Porn: On the flipside, there are some downright beautiful shots of the British landscape as Jim, Hannah, Selena, and Frank make their way north to Manchester.
  • Shirtless Scene: Stupid Sexy Murphy.
  • Shout-Out: (Literally) The manner in which Jim calls out for any survivors whilst leaving the hospital perfectly mirrors the way that Anthony Delio does with a microphone in Romero's Day of the Dead.
    • Also, Jim waking up in the hospital to find London abandoned mirrors the beginning of The Day of the Triffids.
    • One of the soldiers talks about his favorite joke from The Simpsons, which was then mentioned in the commentary for that episode (Treehouse of Horror III) by Al Jean. Though Jean calls the movie "28 Days" and thinks it was about vampires.
  • Slept Through the Apocalypse: Jim.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: This is more than complicated. Selena is on the cynical end, to the point where she kills her companion without a single second of hestitation just to be sure he will die before infection takes hold. Frank is on the idealism and optimism side (at least when compared with any other character) and Jim is in the middle and going back and forth from one side to another. Frank is eventually killed by the soldiers he was trying to find, while Selena's cynicism is wearing out, as she is getting closer with Jim. Then there is major West, who is as cynical as Selena. In the original ending Jim died just after embracing the idealism side, so the cynicism actually won, but test audiences found it way too depressing. Which leads to Selena embracing the optimistic side of the scale and the upbeat ending.
    • And even if you consider Frank as a person on idealism side, without comparison with more cynical character he's a Knight In Sour Armour(!).
  • Sole Surviving Scientist: There is a tie-in comic covering events between both films with a scientist who played a role in the creation of the Rage Virus. He admits this to a girl that he had escaped a holding facility with, and plans to atone by becoming one of these, being that he's one of the few people alive (maybe the only one) who knows anything about the virus and has the best chance of curing it. Unfortunately, she had lost her parent earlier during the initial outbreak, and lost her brother during the escape. Apparently learning that the guy she'd been helping was the root cause of those things is too much for her, so first she kisses him, then grabs his gun and shoots hims. Then lets herself be killed by the soldiers pursuing them. So much for that.
  • Stylistic Suck: The film was shot with cheap and disposable cameras to achieve its realistic look. Even in post-production, Boyle himself went out of his way to make the footage look even worse.
  • Synthetic Plague: The Rage Virus, which was originally meant to soothe temperamental persons. This is similar to the plot of the film Serenity, which it may have inspired.
  • Team Dad: Frank. To the point where Jim actually calls him dad half-asleep.
  • Technically Living Zombie: The Infected are a poster-child for this trope, and in many ways 28 Days Later started the wave of interest in this new "zombie" (really, Crazies). Anything that will kill a human can kill them, i.e. riddling their chest with bullets that are *not* expertly aimed. They've got a strong "mind-over-matter" adrenaline rush, though, so don't wait for them to get right on top of you. They're not smart enough to use weapons, and aren't explicitly trying to "eat" people (though they do animalistically bite people to attack). The real danger is that they'll easily infect you from close contact, what with all of their mucous membranes disintegrating into a bloody mess and puking up torrents of blood with little or no provocation.
  • The End Is Extremely Fucking Nigh: A bit of graffiti written on the wall, when Jim walks through London.
  • Title Confusion: in 2000, there was a Sandra Bullock film called 28 Days, in which she played a woman who was court-ordered to go through a rehab program. 28 Days Later was released two years later in 2002, leading a few (before they saw any trailers or promotional materials), to initially wonder if a sequel to 28 Days had been made.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Jim post-snapping.
    • All the survivors. Frank was just a simple taxi driver, and in his first appearance, is wearing badass riot gear and beats several infected to death.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Let's start with the scientists who decided to use chimpanzees, which are incredibly strong and can get pretty damn aggressive already, as guinea pigs for the Rage virus. Then the animal rights activists who release said infected chimpanzees after being warned that they're contagious. Additionally said scientists use a facility that doesn't even incorporate the most basic of quarantine procedures.(And apparently, decent security systems.)
    • To be fair, the Rage virus was originally conceived as a means to find a way of suppressing the violent urges within criminals. Chimpanzees, with the least difference in DNA compared to humans, would make the best guinea pigs.
    • It was explained in prequel comics. The whole experiment was sort of a shady business, with murder of a human subject and some unspecified contractor (military most likely) involved. And the security and quarantine procedures were in place. They were simply bypassed by the activists thanks to the help of the scientist who just wanted to stop the whole experiment.
  • Viral Transformation: Unlike more traditional zombie movies, the "zombies" in these films are living humans that have been infected with the Rage virus.
  • Wham Line: "I promised them women..."
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened to the poor goldfish, last seen in Frank and Hannah's flat? Presumably something bad.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Jim surprise-attacks Mitchell, brutally killing the soldier by gouging his eyes out and beating him to death. Even Selena, believed him to be one of the infected at that point.
    • More a Kick the Son of a Bitch moment, as Mitchell was probably the soldier who deserved his fate most. And that's saying a lot.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Jim maintains that, while Selena would abandon Frank and Hannah if they became a liability, (although she changes her tune later on) he would not, even if it ended up getting him killed. Sergeant Farrell is the only one of the soldiers to refuse to have anything to do with West's plan, and is executed for his troubles, but not before distracting Jones and Mitchell long enough for Jim to escape a similar fate.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Only for Britain.
  • Zombie Infectee: The Rage Virus is too fast acting for this to last long, but the man traveling with Selena is one, begging for his life despite being infected. The father averts this, knowing he's been infected and trying to get his daughter to stay away.
  • Zombie On Fire: Some of the infected in the city keep right on chasing their prey at full speed even after being set ablaze by Molotov cocktails.

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alternative title(s): Twenty Eight Days Later; Ptitleteza1ple
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