Tuesday, 18 January 2011

#2 28 Days Later: Measure of a Zombie

This blog will contain spoilers for the movie 28 Days Later. Also, Romeo and Juliet die at the end.
Is 28 Days Later a zombie movie? This has been a subject of much debate among people who care about this sort of thing. So I’ve decided that now I’ve got a blog, I can end this argument once and for all, because nothing puts an end to a controversy like somebody writing a blog.
Well, let’s start by going right to the source- Danny Boyle, who directed the movie. He’s gone on record to say: “I keep saying, ‘It's not a zombie movie, everyone. It's not a zombie movie!'… They're infected. They're not zombies."
Other masters of the genre agree. Simon Pegg, writer and start of Shaun of the Dead and that zombie-themed episode of Spaced has chimed in describing 28 Days Later asan excellent film misconstrued by the media as a zombie flick” but which actually features “rabid propagators of a virus known as "rage".”
A lot of zombie purists will agree. The argument is that the Infected sprint about like Olympic Athletes desperate to get to the loo and they aren’t dead. If we go by the definition of zombie listed in our zombie drinking game rules, your throat will go dry.
I’m Right- Everyone Else is Wrong
The reason I’m calling on such high authorities as the director of the film, and famed zombie nut Simon Pegg, is that I want to make it absolutely clear what calibre of people I am more right than.
28 Days Later is a zombie movie, and the infected are zombies. Deal with it.
Don’t get me wrong, like many geeks one of the few things that brings me more pleasure than sci-fi and fantasy, is getting really anal about sci-fi and fantasy. If you ever want to see what I look like when I’m really irritated, describe the Daleks as “The robots that fight Doctor Who” (The Daleks are the mutated aliens in armoured travel machines who fight the Doctor). Distinctions like that are important because they change the story. It matters whether the baddies are creatures who used to be like us, or machines made by someone like us.
But in 28 Days Later, while the infected are clearly different from George Romero’s creations, the story DNA is right there. Let’s start with the drinking game shall we?
Our merry band of survivors spend the last third of the film with some soldiers who are under siege in an old country home(One shot) where it turns out, that the people they have gone to for rescue are more dangerous than the... ahem, “infected” (One shot) because it turns out mankind is the real monster (One shot). On their way to find rescue, our hero, Jim, has to kill a kiddy... ahem, “infected” (Two shots).
In fact, it’s worth pointing out that the scene with the kiddy infected is almost beat-for-beat identical to a scene in Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. The survivors stop to refuel; one of them stupidly wanders off on his own into the building, and is forced to kill a murderous child (or two). (To be fair to Danny Boyle, he has admitted thatThere are certain things in that we did that I didn't even realize were complete steals from Romero.”)
Still, the novel I Am Legend will lead you to drink quite a few shots under the drinking game rules as well, possibly more, since the monsters Robert Neville is fighting off are technically dead, but they are explicitly vampires. One of the texts Alex Garland and Danny Boyle openly admit to nicking from for this movie was Day of the Triffids, which will also see you downing a few shots, but even I’m not going to make the case for walking plants as zombies.
"Fools! Don't you realise? If we combined out powers, this wretched planet could be ours!"
So I’m going to have a make a better case if I’m going to crush all Internet debate on this subject forever (and I will settle for nothing less).
Spread the Love
Under the movie’s own terms, there are certain things that don’t really make sense for people who are just supposed to be really, really angry and bleeding a lot. If I was that pissed off I’d probably by laying into anything that moved, but several times during the film, the Infected don’t seem to have the much interest in attacking one another. When an enraged horde of Infected chase the survivors’ taxi until it’s out of reach, the hyper-violent, super-testosteroned nut boxes don’t immediately start kicking the shit out of each other. Instead, they give up running, and just watch the taxi slide out of view.

They were bitten by a chimpanzee infected with the half-arsed virus
When the infected soldiers are charging round the mansion at the end, looking to spread the love, two of them meet and instead of biting each other’s faces off, they stand around, sniffing the air and looking for someone less gore-splattered to attack.
This doesn’t make sense under the movie’s premise that these people are all just really pissed off, but it does make sense in the framework of the zombie movie, where the zombies’ behaviour is all geared towards making other people into zombies.
I would argue that this, more than anything else, is the most useful definition of a zombie: Something that used to be human, that as had all traces of intelligence and humanity permanently wiped away, and is now driven to spread this condition to others.
Simon Pegg’s argument for the Romero zombie as the only “real” zombie is that zombies “personify our deepest fear: death”. Except they also personify consumerism, or in Shaun of the Dead, couch potato culture, or the mob mentality. Over the years vampires have come to represent our fear of sex, the corrupt aristocracy, drug addiction, and being creepy glitter-saturated stalkers with promise-keeper rings. But regardless of whether they turn into bats or have a fetish for leather, whether they’re soulless demons or the victims of some sort of bloodsucking-based STD, we all know a vampire when we see one.
Zombies can be just as flexible, and it’s worth remembering that the original definition of a zombie has nothing to do with Romero’s creeping hordes. Traditionally, a proper zombie is an individual raised from the dead by Vodou witch doctors using a special type of cucumber, and is interested less in eating human flesh than serving his master.
Meanwhile, in Night of the Living Dead, you won’t once hear the word “Zombie”. In fact, that’s it. I’m adding it to the list.
Does anyone actually call the psychopathic, bloodthirsty hordes “zombies”? If no, take two shots.

No comments:

Post a Comment