Four Irrefutable Reasons Why 28 Weeks Later Zombies Are the Most Terrifying

The Walking Dead wrapped up its second season just a few weeks ago, and I’ve had zombies on the brain ever since. I guess that’s natural with all the other zombie crap that’s become part of American pop culture (still not sure how I feel about zombie X-Men), though some internet denizens claim the genre is starting to overstay its welcome. I, for one, am cool with it sticking around for a while longer.

To me, the best zombie sagas exist with zombies as a backdrop. Some viewers were up in arms after TWD episodes that were sparse on the walkers, but I found those parts of the narrative refreshing; the conflicts between zombie survivors are always more interesting than the zombies themselves. After all, a recurring theme in many post-apocalyptic sagas is the whole “human nature is the real threat” thing, and anyone familiar with The Road or Children of Men knows what I’m talking about.

But there’s something to be said about zombies from 28 Days Later (i.e., “the infected”), who exist just outside the Brooks-Romero canon. They’ve just always scared the shit out of me, and I’ll never be assuaged of this opinion. Here’s why.

4)  They exist because of us

The fear of the unknown is a powerful thing. Plenty of horror flicks take advantage of this fact by offering only the most cursory of backstories to their otherworldly antagonists. In 28 Days Later, however, there is no ambiguity about the origin of the infected: they’re caused by the rage virus, and the rage virus was created by Cambridge University scientists. (Not evil scientists, either; these guys were trying to use their research on neurochemicals to benefit mankind, not reduce us to growling, bloodthirsty Steve Austins.) So yeah, in this case the zombie apocalypse was totally preventable.

It’s the realism factor that gets to me here. Have you been keeping up with all the advances in medical research lately? Me neither, but scientists discover new shit about the human brain all the time; cancer’s not going to cure itself, after all.  And researchers dick around with viruses on the regular, so it’s not super farfetched to imagine one bad day wreaking havoc on the general public. Plus, if history books are to be trusted, we haven’t always been awesome at dealing with viral plagues.

If this was your doctor back in the day, you were pretty much screwed.

3)  The disease is transmitted specifically through bodily fluids

A less-savory attribute of the 28WL zombie is its penchant for unpredictably projectile-vomiting blood all over the place. (Most zombies don’t vomit anything.) And while this skill—if harnessed correctly—might be useful to the interior decorator of Tom Six’s lower basements, it’s less great for . . . well, anyone else. See, as a survivor in this particular movieverse, you essentially have to treat each drop of liquid as a potential hazard (within infected areas, at least); inheriting the rage virus is as simple as slugging from the wrong canteen or leaning up against a bloody car after picking a scab. One drop is quite literally all it takes. So even glancing upward is a hazard. Great.

[Side Note: Blood splatter is all the rage during this version of the apocalypse (pun very much intended). Once people figure out the virus can be transmitted through blood, why the hell don’t they wear more shit to cover their eyes/nose/mouth/ears? This has been a pet peeve of mine during virtually every zombie-ish movie I’ve ever seen.]

“That contagious, rage-driven flesh-eater is spewing blood vomit all over the place. Quick, toss that clumsy face mask aside and let’s attack it with melee weapons while screaming!”

2)  They’re driven by mindless rage, not hunger

Some zombies eat brains, some zombies are partial to human flesh, and some zombies will go after anything with a pulse. But don’t let the teeth-gnashing fool you; 28WL zombies aren’t chomping through your trachea because they’re hungry. They’re doing it because they’re angry. Like, insanely, senselessly, ridiculously angry. Now, given the option between bloodthirsty assailants, which would you pick: a) creatures who are vaguely mad with hunger, or b) creatures who are ferociously pissed off at you for no apparent reason?

Hint: the answer is a).

1)  They’re fast. Oh God, they’re so fast

And that brings us to the number one reason 28WL zombies terrify me: their speed. In Max Brooks’ widely adopted canon, individual zombies aren’t that daunting of a threat. Depending on various factors (e.g., bodily decay, rigor mortis, brain decomposition), those ghouls have the endurance thing going for them, but can only manage a perpetual stagger at best. A violent “tortoise and the hare” metaphor could work here, probably.

More like “rigor tortoise.” Heyo!

But then there are “the infected.”

I once read that polar bears are the most dangerous member of their species because as a general rule, if one of them spots you you’re already dead; their relentlessness is matched only by their ferocity. If one of the infected spots you, the same Yeah-You’re-F**ked rule applies, because now they’re unequivocally headed in your direction at breakneck speed. Yep, the rage virus continuously siphons adrenaline into the host’s system, turning them into angry Olympians whenever they get that “2:30 in the afternoon feeling.”

“This stuff’s pretty good, but when I really need a boost, I just kill the shit out of unarmed civilians.

If you need a reminder of how goddamn terrifying it would be to flee from the infected, look no further than this scene from 28 Weeks Later:


If I were Don, the first stop on that boat ride would have been the nearest Gap. In a world where one of these demon-eyed bastards could start chasing you at any second, involuntarily shitting one’s pants seems like a more constant threat than the zombies.

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  1. i always felt there was a plothole in the whole rage virus thing (this may have been explained). But if it is that they are just Super angry people perpetually throwing out adreneline it would seem there would be two problems to them being a huge threat.

    1. Wouldn’t it be that with the constant push of the adreneline and the running and the murder, that they would starve at a rediculous rate, or at the very least dehydrate (do they have the mind to stop and drink some water after murder sprees?).

    2. Why is it that the rage never attacked a fellow rage zombie. If it is just unbrideled rage, it would seem to follow that it would be aimless. I would assume many of them would have torn each other apart as well.

    Anyway, i do love these movies, please feel free to refute these with any movie info i may be missing.

  2. @Ness
    Damn, two very good points. Cheers to both of those.

    For part 1, maybe blood replenishes the adrenaline.

    For part two, I’m sure some sort of argument about it being a virus and wanting to be spread would explain the non-targeting of fellow virus-stricken beings.

  3. It’s been very fun watching Robert Carlyle, who played Don in 28WL, playing such different roles on Once Upon A Time.

    I really need to watch 28DL and 28WL again soon. I missed Devil’s Playground, have to check it out.

    I just played through Resident Evil Director’s Cut over the weekend and the zombies are the least scary thing in it.

  4. @MattChi

    The Adreneline can only push a body harder forcing it to lose the finite resources of food and water, quicker. I know after the first movie they wait them out to starve, but i can’t imagine it would take that long.

    As far as them not targeting each other it doesn’t make sense if they are driven by rage. Sure they may all first target a non-infected if the virus has some self proliferating protocol, but i can’t understand the rage subsiding when there aren’t any non-infected around.

    Anyway i loved the first movie, the score with the music by Godspeed you black emperor was epic. I just could never rap my head around that stuff

  5. To me, the best zombie sagas exist with zombies as a backdrop. Some viewers were up in arms after TWD episodes that were sparse on the walkers, but I found those parts of the narrative refreshing; the conflicts between zombie survivors are always more interesting than the zombies themselves.


  6. “The conflicts between zombie survivors are always more interesting than the zombies themselves.”

    If you are talking about a Romero film, yes, but the problem with TWD tv show is that the characters are almost across the board insufferable and poorly developed so spending time with them feels like punishment.

    That said, allow me to refute the “irrefutable” just because I can. Reasons 3 and 4 are true in many zombie films and is not in any way reserved for or originated by 28DL. Reason 2 is an argument against your premise. Hunger never subsides. No matter how much you consume, you will always want more. Left alone, rage inevitably diminishes and goes away, just like it did in the film, but hunger only gets stronger the more you ignore it and can’t ever be permanently satisfied. Reason 1 is true in a visceral sense, but what makes old school zombies scary is the inevitability of it all. Yeah, they are slow, but they NEVER EVER EVER STOP. They will keep coming and keep coming and keep coming no matter how many you kill and maim and long after you’re exhausted and your ammo is gone, they will continue to pursue you with single-minded determination until you are too tapped out to resist. That’s a kind of psychological terror that goes deeper than “hey, that one runs fast so it could kill me soon!”

    Nonetheless, 28 Days/Weeks Later are awesome films and arguably the definitive zombie films of this generation -although flame wars over whether or not they count as true zombie films are likely still raging as we speak. But let’s not knock the roots of the genre. Romero is still the goddamn king and always will be.

  7. great post TJ. couldn’t agree with you more trashcanman about TWD characters. I watched the entire first season (which was great) and then downloaded the second season and after watching 1 or 2 episodes, I had to stop. The acting, by EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM, is atrocious. God especially Lori and Shane. But even Rick is unbearable sometimes. Daryl is the only one that I can stand. It just really is a bummer because the plot is so good and well written, but God the acting makes it almost unwatchable. Hopefully now tha the group is smaller and Rick grew a pair, people will step it up. Anyways, 28DL is the one zombie movie that actually stuck with me after I saw it. The prototypical zombie we’ve all grown accustomed to was shattered and was transformed into this rage-aholic (loved the polar bear analogy btw) that as soon as eye contact is made, it’s pretty much a done deal. So, I would tend to agree with you TJ that if I had to deal with any zombies from any movie/TV show, the LAST one I would pick is these.

  8. zombie movies are fun because the whole premise of the zombie is not logical. all living things eat because they have a metabolism. zombies are dead. no metabolism, so why do they eat? why don’t they eat one another? once a victim has been killed, their flesh is now dead and should be unpalatable to a zombie. why don’t they stop eating? nothing tells them they should stop, so they should continue to eat till they explode. the nervous system is dead. therefore no optic nerves, no ollfactory nerves, no tactile nerves, etc….. they cant see, hear, touch, smell, so how do they know what to do and where to go? if a zombie is n a very hot climate, they would either decompose very fast and explode or mummify. if n cold weather, freeze and stay frozen due to no metabolism to warm them.

    all this being said, i do like 28 days. they are alive!

  9. Along with that Major Harris is what is keeping dead zombies moving. Our muscles need energy to work. Once you die, the energy in your muscles runs out and your muscles lock up, rigor mortis. Zombies don’t have a functioning digestive system to get energy so they logically should not be moving at all. The rage virus is just more plausible. Also about the feeding, the zombies don’t have a functional digestive system but they are eating tons of flesh, flesh is heavy and stomachs aren’t that big, they would keep eating till their stomach ruptures or they can’t move.

  10. “but the problem with TWD tv show is that the characters are almost across the board insufferable and poorly developed so spending time with them feels like punishment.”

    Clearly you haven’t read the comics.

  11. @ how can we help,

    he may not have read the comics (i haven’t either. I mean to but got others on my list), but as he was talking about the tv show “but the problem with TWD tv show” it doesn’t matter if the comics were read or not.

    The tv show shouldn’t assume “every viewer MUST have read the comics and know the rich backstory and interactions between these characters”

  12. @loki – I couldn’t agree more. and when the author himself has said NUMEROUS times (in addition to it being self-evident) that the tv show is not going to follow the comics then I’m not even sure why people keep saying shit like that.

  13. I know this is a played out argument, but zombies are the dead returned to life…Or “undead”…

    Since zombies are clinically dead, it would be silly for anyone looking for a cure as there is currently no cure for death…

    The infected in 28DL were never dead in the first place so labeling them as zombies would be a misnomer. That being the case, shooting the infected in the head would not be the same as shooting zombies in the head…In this case you would be committing murder as opposed to shooting a walking corpse in the head.

    All that being said, I did enjoy the film (Especially since it was a bunch of hippy activists who’s own narrow mindedness and hubris unleashed the virus out into the public).

    Also, near the end of the first film the military camp was running experiments to see how long it took for an infected to die from dehydration/starvation.

    The “Rage” virus was just the name given to it which describes the symptoms of the virus. I don’t think the movie ever really delves into the intricacies of the virus (which, unless you’re a bio major, would probably bore the crap out of most people).

  14. Okay, here goes. Those people banging on about how it’s illogical that zombies are always hungry and how they shouldn’t be able to see, hear, etc., have obviously failed to grasp the basic fact of the zombie condition, ie, that they are reanimate and that therefore their digestive systems and their senses are reanimated as well.
    This is the main difference between the dead and the undead: the fact that they aren’t dead any more.
    Also, a zombie that can chase you down is always going to be more annoying than one who shuffles along like one of Michael Jackson’s backing dancers.
    This is why the latest incarnation of the Daleks is more vexing to the Doctor than in the past, when they could be defeated by a strategically placed flight of stairs. (Incidentally, does anyone else share the suspicion that the modern obsession with making all buildings wheelchair-friendly was in fact a cover for the inevitable Dalek invasion?)
    Anyway, the best zombie movies ever were indeed 28DL and 28WL but the best movie zombie of all has to be Ed from Shaun of the Dead. Who wouldn’t want to keep a zombie in the shed to play computer games with? It’s the dream.

  15. I would much rather fight the 28DL “zombies” than say the modern traditional zombies. The 28DL zombies experience fatigue, starve rather quickly, are technically curable, and do not need to be shot in the head to kill. Basically any regular human weakness is also a weakness for the rage infected . They are fast but they are no faster then a regular human meaning if you have above average stamina and speed you can outrun them. Traditional zombies are reanimated dead people and therefore can not be cured they also take years to decompose and starve. They do not experience fatigue so while you may out run them short term they will likely show up days or weeks later at your camp and kill you. Regular zombies also have far superior senses as they can hear and smell human miles away while the 28DL zombies seem to only have the senses of a normal human. 28DL is like is roid rage was an easily contagious condition, while traditional zombies are dead people coming back to life that can spreads their infection just as easily, where their infection kills you than reanimates you into a slow super human that only intends to kill and eat you stopping at nothing to do so., while being able to sense you miles away and experience zero fatigue.

    1. But with traditional zombie you can think while fighting,with 28 days later infected you just don’t have the time.
      Beside,with traditional zombie you have time before succumbing the infection.With 28 DL infected you have from 10 to 30 second

  16. Another reason to why they are terrifying: They come out of nowhere, like those two infected who suddenly broke into Jim’s house without anyone making any loud noise and when a horde of infected found the British soldiers’ base.

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