Thursday, December 31, 2009

Viral Zombies: 28 Reasons to Fear Men

Zombie Thursdays is a weekly feature with guest blogger, Miranda. You can read more about her here.

I tried thinking about what to write this week and honestly had some difficulties. I tried to think of something that would be an appropriate New Year’s theme, but what kind of New Year’s Resolutions could a zombie have?

1. Eat more brains.

2. Eat more brains.

3. Eat more brains?

. . .Not very entertaining.


As I struggled to think about what to write, fortunately the FX network was reading my mind. Or helping my mind to fill with thoughts of zombies! FX showed two wonderful films back to back- 28 Weeks Later and 28 Days Later. For those of you who are familiar with these films, yes, ‘Days’ does come before ‘Weeks.’ For some reason though, they aired the “sequel” first, followed by the original ‘Days.’ For those not familiar with these films... confused yet? I’m a bit confused and I own them both!

Now here is the point where I should probably throw in a ****SPOILERS!!**** warning. Normally, I avoid writing any sort of spoilers in reviews and such. And if I were writing a simple review of the film(s), there would not be any. For those who have seen the film, the next part will be boring. If you don’t care about being spoiled and haven’t seen the movies, I am going to quickly tell you the plot and move on to what I think is the most interesting aspect of the film. So, you have been warned...

28 Days Later came out in 2002 and was directed by Danny Boyle, the same man who brought us Trainspotting  and  A Life Less Ordinary (I won’t mention Slumdog Millionaire in that list due to some residual bitterness, but you may recognize that film as his due to more recent buzz surrounding it). Some of you may argue that Days doesn’t qualify as a *real* zombie film. We’ll get into that debate later in future weeks...but for now let’s just assume I’ve already won that fight and convinced you that, yes, the extremely fast and mobile infected of 28 Days Later fit into the zombie category.

The basic plot is easy-- scientists force some monkeys to watch nothing but violent news and video clips. This act in turn creates a sort of neuro-virus that is only referred to as “Rage.”  The Rage Virus infects a host and instantly turns them into a rabid being intent on nothing else but killing, maiming, and beating the crap out of someone. Some British PETA-type people decide it would be a great idea to let these chimps out of their cages, despite warnings and clear evidence that these are NOT normal chimpanzees. They get out of their cages, attack everyone in the room... and we jump to 28 days later in the film.

A man, Jim, wakes up from a coma in the hospital. It is completely empty. In fact, Jim discovers that most of London is abandoned. I say most, because, yes... it is kind of overrun with infected zombies. Along the way Jim meets some people who are not infected and together they fight to survive. Of course, not everyone does, but that’s okay. Jim remains safe, as does his new lady friend and together they join up with a father/daughter team who have managed to stay alive in their apartment complex. They all hear an AM frequency that states someone has “the answer and cure to infection.” They must travel to a military blockade to find these people that they hope are actually there. As the travel in and out of London they get into some shenanigans with the zombies, some drugs, and a grocery store.

They finally make it to the blockade that looks abandoned as well. At the very last moment the father of the father/daughter duo becomes infected, and out of no where... SOLDIERS! The shoot him about fifty times and take Jim, his lady friend, and the daughter to a huge mansion estate.

And here is where it actually gets interesting.


It turns out... there is no cure for the infection.  But the soldiers do have an answer to infection... repopulation. It turns out their leader started the broadcast and promised it would bring women who they could have sex with and start the world over.

I won’t go into the details of the ending, although it does have a pretty cool climax. But what I find so intriguing about this movie is the action from when they first meet the soldiers.  The beginning of the movie, while cool, is pretty typical zombie, in my opinion. The second half really makes you think-- what would the world be like after a devastating infection? What lengths would you go to to survive?

The small group of soldiers who have managed to survive have a pretty nice set up, as far as post-apocalyptic worlds go. They have food, good shelter, and lots of guns. Plus a broadcast that can bring other survivors to them. If there’s one thing you want to do during a zombie infection, it would be to join forces with others. But the isolation and terror of the situation has turned these soldiers into... monsters? They see two girls, one who is fairly young, and can think of nothing but sleeping with them. The fact that they are going to rape them does not seem to bother the men at all. What would drive a person to that degree of desperation? We don’t get to see the men before the outbreak. Perhaps they were always pigs?

Here we have a zombie film where the zombies may not be the most frightening things in the film. I think that is why this film was so commercially and critically successful. It takes a normal zombie set up and makes you think you know what is coming.-- people survive, they keep getting into fights with zombies. They run, they get chased, etc.  But this movie really flips all that around and in the end, it isn’t the zombies that are the largest threat! The humans are-- kind of an evil deus ex machina.

Every time I see this movie, more so than any other zombie film, I really try to put myself in the spot of the survivors. It is difficult to even imagine that world and the measures to which some would resort.

In the end, I think this is a movie that really makes you think. If you watch the bonus features you can see a storyboarded completely “radical” alternate ending where the soldiers play no part in the second half of the film. I’m glad they decided not to go with the alternate ending because if they had, this film would still have been good, but would have lost the more psychologically disturbing aspect the final cut gives. The follow up film 28 Weeks Later loses some of the originals creativity, although it would be difficult to deliver the same kind of shock value as the soldiers gave us in the first. Weeks ends up being a more traditional “run from the zombies chasing you” film, although the very ending is pretty cool...

For those who have seen these films, what do you think? What are your opinions on the soldiers, what they seem to be reduced to, and what their plans are for world repopulation?

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