The news that Danny Boyle, Alex Garland and Cillian Murphy will be reuniting for a sequel to the popular zombie horror film 28 Days Later is particularly intriguing. What makes it even more interesting is that all three individuals are already established in their careers and do not necessarily need a boost. When filmmakers and actors decide to return to a successful project after a long hiatus, it can often feel like a nostalgic “greatest hits” tour. It’s like getting the band back together for one last hurrah before retirement. Perhaps they’re just looking for an excuse to splurge on a second beach house in Malibu for their post-glory days.
Boyle’s recent work may not have reached the same level of acclaim as his previous projects, such as the Academy Award-winning Slumdog Millionaire and cult favorite Trainspotting, but he remains highly regarded as a filmmaker in Britain. Garland, known for his work in genre films like Ex-Machina and Annihilation, has gained a reputation as a master in his field. Murphy, who is producing and potentially acting in the film, is fresh off the success of his critically acclaimed film Oppenheimer and doesn’t necessarily need to be involved in a zombie film. It seems that the trio must have something compelling to say if they are revisiting this project after so many years since the success of the original film.
The upcoming movie, 28 Years Later, will be the initial installment of two follow-up films to the 2002 story. It revolves around Jim, a bicycle messenger, who wakes up from a coma to find that most of Britain’s population has been infected with the deadly Rage virus, turning them into zombies. So, what is the main concept behind the need for a new chapter?
The issue with zombie stories that span decades is that zombies, particularly the fast zombies infected with the Rage virus in the 28 Days series, do not have a long lifespan. As seen at the end of 28 Days Later, the infected tend to die off once they run out of healthy humans to feed on. It is logical to assume that a virus as contagious as Rage would wipe out most of humanity before they had a chance to fight back or become isolated in specific areas. However, in 28 Weeks Later (released in 2007), it is revealed that the virus has spread to mainland Europe.
The upcoming movie must resist the urge to expand the storyline and show us glimpses of how humanity is faring in other regions. The original film’s strength was its mysteriousness, as we were kept in the dark about events in Idaho or Melbourne. This limited focus allowed the filmmakers to highlight the humanity of the small group of characters we encountered, almost like a kitchen sink drama where the kitchen inhabitants are pushed into the larger world due to hunger, fear, and the collapse of civilization.
Garland’s talent in showcasing the various responses of different individuals to a collapsing society is what gave the original film its gritty and realistic charm. Jim, Selina, Frank, and Hannah are the type of people one would want by their side during a zombie apocalypse, each reacting in their own unique way to survive. On the other hand, Major West and his group of aggressive military soldiers are the exact opposite and not someone you would want to be stuck with.
The combination of tough yet compassionate realism in 28 Days Later is what made it a timeless masterpiece. In the upcoming sequel, Boyle and his team will have to work hard to preserve this quality. We do not want to see Jim or any of his crew turned into legendary figures, portrayed as seasoned soldiers with countless zombie kills under their belts, sporting bandanas and brandishing AK-47s. The original film succeeded by avoiding typical Hollywood action movie tropes, although the idea of Selina effortlessly taking out zombies with powerful weapons does have a certain appeal.
Please provide us with a sequel to “28 Years Later” that maintains the same claustrophobic, linear storytelling and avoidance of fantasy elements as the first film. We want to see another well-crafted portrayal of the zombie apocalypse, not a story about government agents fighting across the globe. This follow-up should keep us in suspense for as long as possible, as it is in the unknown that fear truly thrives.