28 Days Later shows the zombie apocalypse is all about survival. You need to have food, shelter, and weapons. You also need painkillers, sedatives/sleeping pills, food you don’t have to cook, and gasoline, among other things.
You’re going to be surviving off of a lot of processed food and sugar because those are easy calories. What you won’t be prepared for are the headaches that come with only living off those foods. Are you going to be able to fight off zombies when you have a debilitating migraine?
These are some of the questions that 28 Days Later explores and tries to answer.
No Utilities At All
Most people realize that in an apocalyptic situation, utilities aren’t going to work. However, audiences tend to overlook what that means in everyday life. This means no water at all — you have to collect your own. You’ll most likely use what you have for cooking and drinking, so you won’t be showering or bathing for a while. The apocalypse is going to be a smelly, dirty time.
An issue that Frank (Brendan Gleeson) and Hannah (Megan Burns) run into is the lack of rain. Despite how rainy England is, Frank and Hannah experienced a dry spell where they couldn’t collect any fresh water at all. During these times, they have to live off of other liquids, like soda and coffee. Malnutrition is going to be an ever-present part of life.
When the small group of Frank, Hannah, Jim (Cillian Murphy), and Selena (Naomie Harris) go to the grocery store, Selena tells Jim to not get anything that needs to be cooked. While being able to cook may seem easy with a fire or other means, the group doesn’t necessarily have that luxury. They can’t be drawing attention to themselves and they need to be able to eat on the go.
When Jim and Selena are making their way up the stairs to Frank and Hannah’s apartment, Jim finds himself lagging behind. Selena, annoyed, asks what’s wrong to which Jim replies that he has a headache. Selena is not surprised since all Jim has had to eat is sugar and soda. She offers him an aspirin and then they sprint up the stairs when some zombies chase after them.
When in survival mode, you eat whatever food you can whenever you can. However, a consequence of that that 28 Days Later portrays is that you will suffer from malnutrition. You’re going to get headaches, stomachaches, and other maladies because you aren’t getting all the nutrition you need.
After a trip to the grocery store, Selena eats a piece of fruit and exclaims that she can “taste the vitamin C.” This brings up the point that even if the zombies don’t get you, scurvy could. Without ready access to a variety of food, survivors of a zombie apocalypse could fall to disease themselves.
Frank and Hannah bring an asset to the group: a car. In a normal world, it would be nothing special. But, in a world where there’s practically nothing, it becomes everything. Having a means of transportation that closes you off from the outside world and allows you to travel quicker to your destination is better than gold.
Of course, the group needs gasoline to fuel this transportation. At one point in 28 Days Later, the group stops by an abandoned tanker truck to siphon gas. Normally a crime, this is just another part of survival in a world with very few healthy people left.
Something 28 Days Later really emphasizes is that unless you have a well-guarded fortress, you can’t stay put for very long in this type of situation; you need fuel to keep moving. Our main characters stop briefly to eat and sleep in a quaint little meadow, but the area is far too open for them to stay long. They have to keep moving, and fuel is essential to this constant movement.
Unfortunately for our main characters, sex is a common human need. 28 Days Later shows this with the group of soldiers that our main characters link up with. These dozen or so men have been alone and haven’t seen women in a while. In a cruel but almost necessary move, Henry (Christopher Eccleston), the leader of the soldiers, promises his men that Selena and Hannah are theirs to do with what they like.
The desire for romantic relations is secondary to more basic needs like having enough food to eat or being in a formidable shelter. However, the group of soldiers have all their needs met due to their arsenal of weapons, food, and their readily defendable position. They have the luxury of letting their minds wander to ideas of sex.
This becomes a problem for our main characters; Jim has to help Selena and Hannah escape from the soldiers. They are in a less comfortable position than the soldiers and can’t be thinking of anything but survival at that point. Even if they weren’t thinking of just survival though, they couldn’t stay around a group of lonely soldiers who would do anything for companionship.
When Jim voices opposition to the soldiers’ plans for Selena and Hannah, he is thrown in a jail cell with another soldier who had the same reservations. This other soldier brings up his theory that the zombie virus never breached the British Isle and that it was being contained in that isle as a sort of quarantine.
Something people forget about humanity is that we all have different beliefs, despite what we may be shown to the contrary. Even faced with a deadly virus in 28 Days Later, people had differing beliefs and theories about the virus, where it was coming from, and where it was centered.
Though we don’t get any clarification on the conspiracy theory brought up, it’s an interesting point to explore. Even if people see what’s going on around them, there will still be dozens of ideas and theories about what is really going on. That’s just human nature.
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