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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Revisiting 28 Days Later

In anticipation of the new release 28 Months Later, Amanda at Pandagon takes a critical look at its 2005 horror-thriller prequel, 28 Days Later. Noting the movie's obvious symbolism of the viral nature of violence as represented by the man-made Rage, Amanda expands on its other underlying message of patriarchal misogyny that is represented by the movie's supposed saviors, a band of soldiers who actually turn out to be a greater menace than the rampaging zombies.

A sleeper when first released, 28 Days quickly became a critical and popular success with its reworking of the zombie mythology in modern-day London, despite not having (or maybe because of not having) a major American star at the helm. Unlike the zombies - well, actually ghouls - from Romero's Dead series, who are reanimated through radiation, the zombies in 28 Days are the victims of a bioengineered virus that is released into the populace through the stupid actions of a few zealous animal activists attempting to save some infected chimpanzees. The unwitting activists don't know that within seconds, the virus can turn sane human beings into mindless, raging creatures bent on killing and passing on the virus (thus the name Rage). Of course, the activists are the first victims and quickly spread the disease to those around them. Within 28 days, all of London and most of the world, actually, are ghost towns full of dead bodies and hungry zombies.

The hero, Jim, awakes in a hospital room to the devastation, having been in a coma when the infection first hit. He wanders out of the hospital, alone and confused and is almost killed by a band of zombies, saved in the nick of time by a couple of survivors that include a young woman named Selena. Selena is a no-prisoner-taking, machete-wielding sister who kills in the blink of an eye, which her former companion unfortunately finds out when he becomes infected. Eventually Jim and Selena happen upon another survivor and his teenage daughter, and all four set out to find out how many humans are left. Unfortunately for them, they think they have found salvation when they catch a taped broadcast on their radio purporting to be from an outpost of military survivors claiming to have the cure for the virus. They set off cross country to find the outpost and the "cure."

This is where the movie breaks with the traditional monster myth as the audience, and eventually the protagonists, soon come to realize that although the zombies pose an obvious danger, there is a more immediate threat when man de-evolves into a lawless breed intent upon their own satisfaction at the expense of other's right to freedom and life. In this case, the soldiers decide they want to keep the women as forced concubines, and when Jim protests and tries to help the women escape the makeshift barricade, all hell breaks out.

For those of you who haven't seen the movie, I'm not going to divulge the story further than this, only to say that ironically in the end, it is one lone zombie who is the salvation for the survivors.

Amanda does a better job of breaking down the symbolism: "The virus that's infecting the population and turning them into zombies, however, is a manifestation of the boiling rage that spreads across the planet through routine violence, though, and as the military is ground zero in training people to be dehumanizing killing machines, it turns out the survivors are not as safe inside a military barricade as they'd like to think. This is when Boyle [the director] does something I actually didn't expect and positions male dominance and violence towards women - inspired very literally by womb envy - as the ground zero point in creating senseless violence that will spin out of control. The soliders(sic) in the barricade are understandably excited to have young women in their midst, since a bunch of dudes can hardly rebuild civilization all by their lonesome. But rather than be happy and gracious towards the women, they instead reveal to Jim that they're going to hold them captive and subject them to gang rape. The movie firmly rules against the idea that men are inherently thuggish and controlling towards women, since Jim and another male character don't even have a moment's thought towards harming any women just because they can get away with it. Instead, the macho culture of the military is held to account, having made these men so stupid and violent that they don't even pause to consider that their plans of violence towards the women will only have the effect of poisoning their miniature society from the get-go."

That last sentence is exactly what ran through my mind when I first watched the movie. I kept thinking, don't these assholes know they're endangering themselves by hurting those who could have their backs in a battle? I may be naive, but it just seemed stupid in the face of danger to alienate allies. I thought that in a real situation of danger, where it would be us-vs-them, soldiers would behave accordingly, pondering the risks of turning on fellow allies and creating enemies within the camp. But then came news reports on female soldiers suffering PTSD from having been raped by fellow soldiers in Iraq. I realized then just how naive I had been.

To really get insightful perspectives on the movie, read the comments to Amanda's post. There are also some perceptive comparisons to George Romero's Dead series as well as the apocalyptic Children of Men.


Sharon Cullars Coffee Talk at 5/12/2007 04:25:00 PM Permanent Link     | | Home


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