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Film / 28 Days Later

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In this 2002 post-apocalyptic horror film directed by Danny Boyle and written by Alex Garland, a literal hate plague begins taking over Great Britain after animal rights activists set loose an infected chimp in a lab at Cambridge University. While scientists had 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 turns a number of common zombie tropes on their head:

  • Once the Rage virus takes over, those infected with it become fast-moving, mindlessly violent killers (without a hunger for brains).
  • Infectees are "transformed" almost immediately, preventing them from hiding their condition.
  • 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 one anyway. It did fairly well at the box office, received several comic-book prequels (which explore the period of time between the initial outbreak and the film), and managed to spawn a sequel (28 Weeks Later). The creator has planned a third installment in the series called 28 Months Later, but it has been stuck in Development Hell ever since the release of Weeks.

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.
  • Alternate History: Various indicators for the time, including tax disc on Frank's car dated February 2002.
  • Anonymous Benefactor: Right at the start of the main story, once Jim wakes up, someone, maybe a doctor or a nurse, covered the blinds, locked his hospital room door, and shoved the key under the door, so that he could get out if he woke from his coma.
  • Ax-Crazy: Those infected by the Rage Virus go completely and homicidially bonkers, and as a result attack and kill everything that moves.
  • Action Survivor: Jim and the other survivors. He in particular survived early on through sheer dumb luck.
  • Adrenaline Makeover:
    • Even if this trope is related with female characters, it goes for Jim. He started as The Load, ended up as badass.
    • 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 chimps.
  • 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: Regional/Societal Disruption. Despite radio reports that the virus has reached Paris and New York, it turns out to be confined to Britain, as they realise on seeing an airplane flying over at high altitude, so either the reports were wrong or the virus was successfully contained. At least in this movie.
  • Arc Words: "Hello" is probably the most frequently uttered word throughout the movie, particularly by Jim. It's also the word that Selena made out of curtains to get the plane's attention.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • The rate at which the Infected vomit blood should kill them from dehydration and/or blood loss within a matter of hours. There's also the speed at which the virus infects its victims. A virus that induces intense rage is theoretically feasible, but infected victims are shown to take less than a minute to go from normal to mindlessly enraged. In reality, even an exceptionally aggressive virus would take several days to infect a victim to a point where their behavior would start to change.
    • The eggs being off to the point of being inedible and with the taste to match it, some four weeks after delivery to the store. Even without any extra care for the duration, they should be still fine. However, this might be deliberate, simply to point out what an awful cook Jones is. Same goes with the rotten apples and citruses in the supermarket, which at worst would get dried up and wrinkled (including the irradiated ones), rather than outright rotten into a pulp - that would take them another four-five weeks.
  • Artistic License – Geography:
    • The radio message says that the blockade is to the northeast of Manchester. When Jim breaks back into it, you see signs for Blackpool, Fleetwood, Lancaster and the Lake District. These signs are only seen on the M6, which runs west of Manchester.
    • In addition, the blockade is said to be on the M602 motorway, which is an urban motorway to the west of Greater Manchester in real life.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Corporal Mitchell and most of the soldiers start off as amiable to the surviving trio, but they're actually a group of violent psychopaths who murder one of their own for a disagreement, attempt to kill Jim for the same reason, and plan to rape Selena and Hannah. Jim goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge on them at the end, and despite how fearful they may have been in their final moments, they deserve it.
    • Major Henry West as well since he's the one who made the plan to have any female survivors as sex slaves, had Farrell murdered because he did not want to go along with the plan and shot Jim for killing his men even though it was self-defense.
    • 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 scientist who was only a Punch-Clock Villain at best. They also ignored his countless pleas, and didn't think it was odd that nearly all the chimps were in completely sealed cages.
  • Badass Adorable: Hannah certainly by the end. She's still a very cute teenage girl, but she takes it on herself to man the getaway car and get rid of West herself.
  • Badass Longcoat: As long as Selena is in Crazy Survivalist mode, she wears one. Made of leather, no less!
  • Badass Normal: Despite being an average every day guy, Jim ends up taking on and killing several crazed, but professional soldiers, albeit ironically with the help of the infected.
  • Bathe Her and Bring Her to Me: A variation. The soldiers dress Selena and Hannah up in fancy gowns before they intend to rape them.
  • Battle in the Rain: Jim's Roaring Rampage of Revenge in the final act takes place during a thunderstorm; any outside scene has him and the others drenched within seconds.
  • 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 that his infected soldiers will get him.
  • Bilingual Bonus: In the end of the film, the pilot of the plane is speaking Finnish on the radio. The very last words he says are, "Lähetätkö helikopterin?" which means "Will you send a helicopter?"
  • Bookends: The abandoned hospitals. At the beginning, Jim wakes up in one and leaves to see how the rest of the city has been evacuated due to the outbreak. At the end, he wakes up in one as he's recovering from his bullet wound, but he still has Selena and Hannah.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Played Straight when West's men defend their outpost from a sudden Zerg Rush of infectees.
  • Broken Bird: Selena has this attitude. According to Naomie Harris, she and Danny Boyle came up with a backstory to explain it: Selena apparently had to kill her entire family in one afternoon due to the infection — including a baby brother.
  • Broken Record: Jim's first seven spoken words are all, "Hello?" Understandable, seeing as the city seems devoid of human life.
  • Cerebus Call-Back: Inverted. At the end, Jim says to Selena "you looked alright in this, you know" as she's sewing the Help sign. She's using the dress the soldiers made her wear to get raped in.
  • Convenient Coma: Played with. 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. Subverted in the case of his parents. They were almost sure he was dead, so they committed suicide. However, whatever his injuries were that landed him in the coma in the first place, they don't impede him on his journey to becoming a badass.
  • 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.
  • Conveniently Empty Roads: In the famous post-apocalyptic sequence where Jim wanders through the deserted London after having Slept Through the Apocalypse due to a coma, the roads (including the capital city's major roads such as Westminster Bridge) aren't just devoid of people, the number of vehicles that are crashed or otherwise aren't neatly parked somewhere can be counted on one hand. This is in contrast to the sequel's shots of a deserted London.
  • 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 back story that Selena had to kill her whole family in one afternoon, including her younger siblings, to explain her harsh outlook on life.
  • Creepy Child:
    • The infected boy from the roadside bar. While being extremely dangerous, he's not even 10. After easily subduing him, Jim openly struggles with himself if he should kill the kid, especially when he speaks — the only infected to do so in the entire film.
    • Hannah, due to being given valium right before a zombie attack. She's this for the soldiers in universe — asking who will be the replacement if Henry is killed, right in the middle of the night. She sobers up a little before Jim finally gets into the mansion.
  • Creepy Crows: A distressed Frank sees a crow pecking at the corpse of someone at the station they were all meant to find refuge in. Angrily, Frank tries to wave it off...only for the movement to cause infected blood to drop into his eye and infect him.
  • Deadly Scratch: The Rage zombies are so aggressive and infectious that when Selena sees her companion Mark nursing a small wound after a fight, she kills him on the spot without hesitation.
    Selena: I didn't know he was infected, okay? He knew. I could see it in his face.
  • Death by Pragmatism: Subverted with Selena as she gradually relaxes her survivalism.
  • Deconstructed Trope:
    • Of some popular zombie tropes. The very things that make the rage virus so deadly also stop it short of ending the world; the violent, visible insanity of the infected renders it impossible to disguise a bite victim, and the fact that infectees succumb to rapid, shrieking madness within seconds of infection means it's impossible for the virus to spread over any distance a human can't travel on foot (across oceans, say).
    • Furthermore, the zombies never think to eat each other, and they starve to death en masse within a couple weeks.
    • Especially amusing given that this is pretty much the film that started and codified the Technically Living Zombie trope. The first movie to showcase this kind of apocalypse outright proves why it's impossible!
  • Destroy the Security Camera: The Animal Wrongs Group activists who infiltrate the research lab at the beginning of the movie are shown spraying the security cameras on their way in.
  • The Dog Bites Back: After losing her dad in a staged situation and almost getting raped, Hannah drives a cab containing West right into the hands of Mailer, giving him a painful, agonizing death.
  • Door-Closes Ending: The original ending ended with the door closing as Selena and Hannah left Jim's body behind, going into an uncertain future.
  • 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. Downplayed — it's much more of a Bittersweet Ending in that Selena and Hannah survive and are presumably rescued.
  • Driven to Suicide: Jim's parents, seeing the outbreak and thinking that their son had died, kill themselves. So, apparently, did many other people.
  • 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 cabby 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.
  • Earn Your Happy 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 End Is Nigh: A bit of graffiti written on the wall, when Jim walks through London. "The end is EXTREMELY FUCKING nigh."
  • Establishing Character Moment: Frank has absolutely fantastic one, in the very same scene explaining how he managed to survive for so long, what motivates him and what kind of person he really is. All within the span of about 90 seconds.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Jones is fully on board with the plan to rape the women and is fine with killing Farrell for refusing to participate. However, he balks when Mitchell wants to kill Farrell slowly with a bayonet, and shoots him to spare him that fate.
  • Evil Overlooker: The most common variety of the above poster adds a pair of zombie eyes to the background.
  • Extreme Mêlée 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, shoving his thumbs into his eye sockets.
  • Failed a Spot Check: The unnamed animal rights group intruders were so busy documenting "animal abuse" that they completely failed to register how agitated the chimpanzees were, so the woman apparently leading the group opens one of the cages against the advice of the researcher. So naturally, she gets attacked by the chimp she unleashed, which she then tells the rest of her group to beat to death.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • Jim spends about a 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 the 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, including a topless woman.
  • A Father to His Men: Major West is friendly and sociable with his troops, even comforting one of them as they die.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When Farrell hits Mitchell to protect Jim and Selena from him, West calls him out but instead of questioning him why he did it, he just stares at him and orders him very coldy to move the bodies off the lawn instead of asking him why he hit Mitchell hinting that West knows why Farrell did it because he did not like Mitchell raping one of the girls though he does tell them all to slow down clearly telling them to wait for the right time and the order he gave out to Farrell was a punishment for stopping Mitchell.
    • "Mitchell, I swear to god this is going to end badly for you..."
  • Furniture Blockade: Shopping trolleys have been dumped in the stairwells of the apartment block where Frank lives, not only to slow down the Infected but also because the noise of anyone trying to climb over them serves as an alarm.
  • Gallows Humour: When Jim walks around the deserted London, we see a bit of graffiti in a church;
  • Ghost City: The first two-thirds of the film take place in a mostly-abandoned London.
  • Happy Ending Override: Each sequel (so the movie and both comics continuity) have various degrees of it, most importantly the virus getting outside Britain. But aside from that, in two of those, Jim is put in prison for murder of British army personnel. You know, what he did in more than justified self-defense and to rescue his beloved ones, while the victims were AWOL at best, Dangerous Deserters at worst.
  • Hate Plague: One of the most literal examples ever, though it's called the "Rage Virus".
  • 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; Jones thinks to just shoot him while Mitchell wants to do it slow with a bayonet. Then they bicker when Jones shoots Farrell as a twisted form of mercy.
  • 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.
  • Hope Spot: For a minute, it seems that Private Jones may actually escape the mansion, only to be ambushed and killed by Jim with a bayonette.
  • 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.
  • Immune to 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.
  • Important Haircut: When Jim shaves without water or soap and crops his hair, he stops being The Load.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: 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. But at the same time, Hannah survives.
  • In-Camera Effects: All of the scenes of the infected were shot with the shutter speed of the Canon XL-1 camera set very high, resulting in an unsettling and "jumpy" look.
  • It Gets Easier:
    • Selena is a pharmacist and used to be a regular gal. But when you meet her for the first time, she casually murders infected as if nothing and then doesn't hesitate for a second when having to kill Mark before he succumbs to the virus. That's about ten days since she killed a human for the first time. Her backstory has her having to kill her own family in self-defense, and then just going from there.
    • At first, Jim barely even tries to defend himself and is in deep shock due to all the violence he's experiencing. Later on, he gets his first kill by reluctantly bashing a kid's head open with his bat, having no other choice and still struggling about it few days later. But by the final act, he runs around the blockade and manor and kills the soldier one-by-one in cold blood, without as much as a blink.
  • 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...:
    Jim: No, no. See, this is a really shit idea... And you know why? Because it's really obviously a shit idea. So we drive into a tunnel full of crashed cars and broken glass... It's really fucking obviously a shit idea!
  • Late to the Tragedy: Jim after waking up in the hospital from his coma.
  • Living Is More than Surviving: Invoked, discussed, mocked, reconstructed, subverted, double subverted... Let's just say the whole film is one huge ride of this trope. Entire Character Development of Selena is build around it. When Jim meets her for the first time, she's already a jaded survivalist utterly loathing the sole concept. By that time she lost everyone she ever cared for and had to personally kill more of them just to stay alive. She then has a series of misadventures along with Jim, Frank and Hannah, going back and forth from warming up and remaining on the edge. By the end of the story, she gleefully embraces there are still things to live for, even if the journey to that realisation was extremely painful.
    Selena: Staying alive is as good as it gets.
  • The Load: Jim is for the first act of the film a complete airhead. In his defense he's come out of a coma to find the whole world flipped upside down, but his bumbling still gets Mark killed and nearly Selena as well. He quickly starts getting more competent as the plot unfolds.
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: One of the things Frank looted somewhere around the city was a riot shield, along with other bits of riot gear. He makes a great use of the shield, easily stopping charging infected in a tight staircase.
  • Madden Into Misanthropy: Major West and the soldiers.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: Cillian Murphy's penis is on full display in his first scene.
  • 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: (with a sly smile on his face) That was longer than a heartbeat.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Subverted. 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. However Jim's mother commits suicide to avoid infection before the film starts, the first infected human was a woman, there are many corpses of women among the piles of dead and a few female infected.
  • Mercy Kill:
    • Sergeant Farrell gets shot by Jones before Mitchell can bayonet him. Funny enough, Jim later kills Jones by bayonetting him.
    • Invoked when Selena hands Hannah a handful of Valium pills before they are both to be raped. And subverted - Selena is making sure the girl will be simply too stoned to care.
  • Mildly Military: The soldiers are doing their duty, but when they have free time, they tend to be almost childish in their behavior. 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.
  • Mirror Character: Jim's brutality during the climax was designed to draw parallels between the infected and Jim's own intense rage towards the soldiers. It shows. So much that Selena and Hannah mistake him for an Infected.
  • Missing Mom: It's never explained what happened 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.
  • Mood Whiplash: The introduction scene for Frank and Hannah goes from frantic escape and brutal fight to an awkward toast with crème de menthe and father-daughter bickering. It's so extreme, even in-universe Jim and Selena are completely puzzled, since they just barely got away with their lives and are clearly in adrenaline-induced shock.
  • Mook Horror Show: Once Jim finally snaps, he proceeds to methodically hunt down each and every one of the soldiers at the mansion. The result plays very much like this trope — up to him doing Offscreen Teleportation.
  • 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.
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: Jim is toned but pretty damn scrawny, he's still capable of taking out Mitch in the finale and killing him via bashing his skull against the wall and gouging his eyes out.
  • Naïve Animal Lover: The events were kicked off by a bunch of animal-rights activists liberating a bunch of infected chimps from a lab.
  • Naked on Arrival: The first time we see Jim, he's naked.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Nice job breaking out those lab monkeys, activists 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 with a herd of horses fleeing (a telltale sign of the presence of Infected people). 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.
      • Well, him and Frank. Poor bastard.
  • Nothing Left to Do but Die: Major West explains to Jim this is what his soldiers were starting to think after no contact from HQ and no relief ever came to them - even if they were to somehow make it, there is just noting for them to do after the infected starve to death, nothing to achieve and no reason to continue living at all. So West "promised them women".
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: The term "zombie" is never used in the entire film.
  • No Zombie Cannibals: Unlike traditional zombies the infected still have basic human needs, but are too crazy to address them. Left alone all the infected die of hunger and dehydration within a few weeks.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Played with in Major West, who uses it to sucker in the women as sex slaves 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 slaves 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.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Though the filmmakers tried to avoid making a "zombie movie", many consider the Infected to simply be another archetype of "zombie". Unlike typical zombies up to that point, the Infected were aggressive, extremely fast, and while they did bite and tear people apart, they didn't actually eat them.
    • Despite trying not to be a zombie film, the Infected of 28 Days started the modern idea of "sprinting zombies". Dawn of the Dead (2004), as well as the video game Left 4 Dead, cited 28 Days as direct inspiration for their own mindless killing machines.
  • Parental Substitute: Selena (and Jim, in the theatrical release) become this for Hannah by the end of the movie, her father having died during the action.
  • 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.
  • Post–Wake-Up Realization: Jim has been in a coma since the zombie apocalypse started. He wakes up, leaves the mysteriously abandoned hospital...and slowly realises what has actually happened.
  • 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.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Of a sorts. The infected were inspired both by real life epidemics - foot-and-mouth disease and mad cow disease - and recent anthrax and bio-terrorism scares in London. The reasoning was that George Romero's zombies were inspired by the fear of nuclear attack, while a more modern cultural fear was disease outbreaks. They were also influenced by many hot social issues such as road rage, hospital rage, air rage etc. There was a lot of research done on the things that had happened in Rwanda and Sierra Leone.
  • 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.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: In-universe for Selena and Hannah from the soldiers' perspective. Not to the viewers though as the soldiers plan to rape them.
  • Shirtless Scene: Stupid Sexy Murphy.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: Selena does this in the alternative ending to get to the medical cabinet. Unlike the typical example, she doesn't target the lock directly, but instead uses the impact force of a bullet to simply tear a hole on the cabinet's door right next to it, rendering the otherwise intact lock useless.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The entire premise of the film (an escaped experimental virus causes mental degeneration, inducing dangerous, erratic behavior among those infected) appears to recall George Romero's The Crazies (1973).
    • (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 (1985).
    • Also, Jim waking up in the hospital to find London abandoned mirrors the beginning of The Day of the Triffids.
    • The crimson eyes sported by the "zombies" appear to take direct inspiration from those appearing on the eponymous living dead in The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue.
    • 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 hesitation 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 him. 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.
  • Swarm of Rats: While Jim, Selena, and Mark change a flat tire inside a darkened tunnel, one of these suddenly appears... and turns out to be fleeing ahead of a Swarm of Infected.
  • 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. This trope also comes back to hurt them as they are still living human beings who need to eat and sleep but the virus overrides such instincts. As a result, they die off within a few weeks due to a combination of starvation, dehydration and sleep deprivation, all made worse by the virus causing them to use much more energy than normal.
  • Time Title: The main story starts twenty-eight days after the prologue.
  • 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.
  • Token Good Teammate: Sergeant Farrell, again. The fact that only one of the soldiers isn't either a psychotic Manchild or insane is a fairly significant spoiler. He is the only one who goes out a heroic death since he decides to give his life away by distracting both Mitchell and Jones so that Jim can save the girls.
  • 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. (Or, apparently, decent security systems.)
  • Unbuilt Trope: Of the Technically Living Zombie. While they're faster than the usual "shambling corpses", they also have all the weaknesses of regular human beings: they can be killed with regular bullets at center mass, and Removing the Head or Destroying the Brain is not at all required. And because they're still alive, they still need to eat: the film makes clear that because the Rage virus suppresses the hunger and sleep functions, all the zombies will starve to death in a matter of weeks.
  • Unstoppable Rage: The Rage virus induces a perpetual one into its victims, which despite making them stronger and faster, it also suppresses hunger and other vital processes, meaning they starve to death eventually.
  • Viral Transformation: Unlike more traditional zombie movies, the "zombies" in these films are living humans that have been infected with the Rage virus.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The animal-rights activists in the prologue.
  • Wham Line: "I promised them women..."
  • Wham Shot: As Jim lies on his back in the rain, hiding from the soldiers in the forest, he sees the contrail of a plane flying overhead. This makes him realize that Sergeant Farrell was right: the virus didn't end the world and that England has been quarantined.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: What happened to the poor goldfish, last seen in Frank and Hannah's flat? Presumably something bad.
  • 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.
  • Worthless Yellow Rocks: Jim gathers a bagful of abandoned banknotes, but soon discards them when chased by the infected. Justified; what use would he have for them given Britain's current state?
  • 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 Puke Attack: Some "infected" constantly hemorrhage high-pressure blood out of their mouths.


Video Example(s):


28 Days Later...

After waking up from a coma, Jim leaves the hospital to find that London is completely empty...

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / GhostCity

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