Zombies as horror have existed for a very long time. They were standardized in 1968 by George Romero and John Russo with Night of the Living Dead. The two men split to found separate franchises: Romero continued his "zombies as social message" with Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead. And John Russo? Well, he played a very basic role in the birthplace of the talking, running, tar-skin having, brain-eating punk rock zombies of the Return of the Living Dead franchise.
And even though zombie movies have been steadily released in some form or other since 1968, by the mid-'90s and early 2000s they had ceased to be mainstream.
However, with 9/11 creating a worldwide panic, zombies were poised to once again ask the questions they ask best: what is humanity without its civilization? What are we down to our basest instincts? And is there anything we won't do when we're backed into a corner?
It was an era where you would assume the shambling Romero-style dead would be bursting forth from a fertile earth ready for a new generation of zombies. And yet, while there was a lot to say about the state of the world, what we got was decidedly not slow-moving.
Danny Boyle and Alex Garland took every classic zombie trope, Romero's and Russo's included, and made them new with their 2002 film, 28 Days Later. It was a marriage of the movements. Centrism if centrism didn't suck. An answer to the question: how much can you really think about the existential dread of your world ending when there are frothing, screaming cannibals sprinting at you any time you walk out the door?
On today's episode of Every Day Horror presents the 13 Days of Halloween podcast, I spoke with film critic Bob Chipman and music critic Todd Nathanson about 28 Days Later, what makes Cillian Murphy an unlikely hero, the incredible performances of Naomie Harris and Christopher Ecceleston, and why it is that the military is almost always evil in zombie movies.
Tomorrow, both Chipman and Nathanson return to talk about this movie's sequel, 28 Weeks Later. You may have heard that movie has less to say. Let's just say that, if you've heard such a thing, you were misinformed.