KAYLEIGH MARIE EDWARDS reveals some interesting facts from Danny Boyle’s groundbreaking zombie horror, 28 Days Later (2002)…
28 Days after an animal rights activist group break into a laboratory and free some infected apes, Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up in a hospital to find that everything he knew is gone. Cue ‘rage’ zombies (terrifying, sprinting, homicidal humans), and an updated fight for survival in (according to many) what was becoming a tired genre.
Here are 10 Fun Facts you may not know about this groundbreaking British horror.
- ‘28 Days Later’ is universally accepted as the film that revolutionised the genre and gave the world a new strain of ‘zombie’. However, the one person who refused to call them zombies was Danny Boyle. It would seem that when he worked on the film, he was unaware of the impact and influence his monsters would have on the genre, and the world of horror. Similarly, the last person to revolutionise the zombie sub-genre was George A. Romero, who also never called his monsters zombies. In 1968, Romero gave the world the undead, flesh-eating version that we have come to accept as the zombie archetype, in his cult classic ‘Night of the Living Dead’. Before Romero came along, zombies were mostly living humans who were used as slaves, thanks to being manipulated by voodoo sorcery. Until Boyle came along, we mostly knew zombies as undead, slow, shufflers. It’s interesting to think that arguably the two biggest contributors to the zombie sub-genre seemed to have no idea of the horror gold they were creating.
- This film is the writer, Alex Garland’s, debut screenplay.
- The film was the inspiration behind a live action role-play game called 2.8 Hours Later, created by a company called Slingshot. The game toured several cities around the U.K, and involved participants trying to dodge and outrun the ‘infected’ as they made their way through checkpoints. The more popular the game became, the more it cost to run, and unfortunately, Slingshot was forced to put the game out of business.
- John Murphy’s ‘In the House, In a Heartbeat’ was the track used near the end of the film in which Jim fights the soldiers to reclaim his friends. It became popularly known as the ’28 Days theme’, and was also used at several points during the sequel, ’28 Weeks Later’ (Directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, 2007). The track was also used in Matthew Vaughn’s ‘Kickass’ (2010), several videogames and videogame trailers, on the BBC shows ‘Top Gear’ and ‘The Apprentice’, was covered/rearranged/remixed by several bands and musicians, and even appeared as the theme for a Strongbow cider advert. This is unusual for a film soundtrack. Typically, soundtracks are limited to the film they were written for (though use in sequels is fairly common – such as John Carpenter’s ‘Halloween’ score, for example). It seems that as well as Boyle, Murphy also created something in this film that the world wanted to see repeated.
- There are alternative endings. The cinematic release gave us the ending in which Jim, Selena, and Hannah have found refuge in a countryside cottage, and it is implied that they regularly see a helicopter overhead, leading us to believe that there is some sort of stability returning to humanity. One of the alternative endings shows Jim dying in a hospital after he rescues Selena and Hannah, and the second alternative ending includes this hospital scene, and follows on to show that only Selena and Hannah made it to the cottage. In this ending, instead of talking to Jim, Hannah is talking to a chicken.
- ‘28 Days Later’ is not the first ‘running zombie’ film, though it is commonly referred to and accepted as such. Dan O’Bannon’s 1985 delight, ‘Return of the Living Dead’, features running zombies, though there is bickering amongst zombie fans about whether they are ‘runners’ or ‘fast shufflers’. In actual fact, however, the first running zombie appeared in Romero’s ‘Night of the Living Dead’. Though the rest of the zombies are slow and shambling, there is a featured ‘runner’ that chases a car.
- Before ’28 Days Later’, Boyle and Garland had a previous film in common – ‘The Beach’ (2000). Boyle directed the film, which was adapted from Garland’s novel of the same name. When they decided to work on ‘28’ together, Garland cited the ‘Resident Evil’ game series, and the work of George A. Romero as inspiration to the story. However, when it came to publicizing the release of the film, Boyle did what he could to reduce comparisons and claimed that the main inspiration was ‘The Day of the Triffids’ (Directed by Steve Sekely, 1963).
- Near the beginning of the film, Jim passes an overturned double-decker bus as he strolls through an empty London. The bus was no prop – it was a real bus that the film crew turned onto its side, and had to remove as soon as the shot was complete. This whole process was completed within 20 minutes. Filming London empty is no easy task, since it is one of the busiest locations in Britain. Typically, the crew would have up to 45 minutes after sunrise to complete shots before London ‘woke up’ and there was too much disruption to continue filming.
- Robert Carlyle was originally offered the role of Major Henry West, which was played by Christopher Eccleston. Carlyle was unable to take the role because of other commitments, but he did co-star in the sequel ‘28 Weeks Later’ as Don.
- The Vampire Connection: I have a theory that every actor in the world can be connected to vampires, even if they haven’t appeared as a vampire, or featured in a vampire film. One can always trace an actor back to our toothy terrors, and here is how our main cast are connected not just to the running zombies in this film, but to our other favourite diabolical monster;
- Cillian Murphy (Jim) also appears in Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight’ (2008), along with Gary Oldman, who plays Dracula himself in ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ (Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, 1992).
- Naomie Harris (Selena) appears in ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest’ (Directed by Gore Verbinski, 2006), which stars Johnny Depp. In 1993, Depp starred in Lasse Hallstrom’s ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape’, which also featured Juliette Lewis. Lewis co-starred in Robert Rodriguez’s 1996 cult classic vampire/gangster movie ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’.
- Brendan Gleeson (Frank) appears in ‘Mission: Impossible 2’ (Directed by John Woo, 2000), which stars Tom Cruise, who played the infamous vampire Lestat in Neil Jordan’s ‘Interview with the Vampire’ (1996).
- Megan Burns (Hannah) had her first acting role in Stephen Frears’ ‘Liam’ (2000), which stars Ian Hart. Most of us know Hart for his portrayal of Professor Quirrell in ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ (Directed by Chris Columbus, 2001), which also features Verne Troyer, as Griphook the Goblin. Troyer is most famous for his role as Mini-Me in the ‘Austin Powers’ franchise, which featured Seth Green as Dr. Evil’s biological son, Scott. Green played the character of Oz in the hit TV show ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’.