Thursday, August 10, 2017

Vamp or Not? 28 Days Later/28 Weeks Later

Why, oh why are you doing a ‘Vamp or Not?’ on 28 Days later? I wouldn’t blame you for asking that question straight off the bat. The 2002 Danny Boyle directed 28 Days Later was something of a watershed film that helped usher in the new wave of (especially fast) zombies – despite the film not having zombies in it. The franchise continued with 28 Weeks Later, in 2007, this time helmed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo.

So we have a virus that quickly infects (through bodily fluids – mostly blood fluids) and the resultant infected are just that; infected, violent, destructive and filled with rage. It perhaps had more in common with Romero’s the Crazies than zombies but was adopted into zombie fandom. So why look at it here? Honestly, because of Stacey Abbott’s Undead Apocalypse. Whilst she does refer to the infected as zombies there was the following passage: “They attack and bite into the bodies of uninfected, ripping through skin, sinew and muscle, and seemingly feed off their blood. While they do not necessarily eat the flesh like most zombies, they do engage in an almost vampiric exchange of bodily fluids that serves to spread the virus.” (pg 85)

infection through video
There are two aspects here that gave me pause to thought – the idea that the infected feed off blood and the vampiric exchange of bodily fluids. So before we begin let us take account of some of the conceits within the films (which I enjoy by the way). The first conceit is the speed of infection, literally taking seconds to change from rational human to slavering beast. This is definitely a virus but, beyond that it is a distillation of human rage and violence in viral form – the chimpanzees in which the virus was developed are forced to watch scenes of violence and it seems to be from this that the virus is developed.

body disposal
The next conceit is that a man, Jim (Cillian Murphy), can be in a coma for 28 days and not die (likely he would not have starved, as lack of fluids would have killed him way before). However the film relies on this (and the conceit has become a zombie trope – though films such as the Walking Deceased have lampooned the concept). That conceit might pass to the infected who do not seem overly interested in feeding or watering themselves. In fact this is the payoff for the film – that they will die of starvation eventually. Nowhere in the film did I spot anything to suggest they fed off blood and the infection was not an exchange of fluids but the passing of infected fluids to a non-infected person. You will notice I am looking at both films, however, as the second film added a new dimension into the equation.

all in the eyes
So, moving forward to the sequel, we meet Don (Robert Carlyle, Ravenous) and Alice (Catherine McCormack), during the infection. They and other survivors have found shelter in a farmhouse, but it comes under attack from the infected. Don escapes through an upstairs window, leaving Alice behind to her fate. Cut forward and The US army are helping the rebuilding of Britain. The Isle of Dogs has become district one, a place where survivors are being taken and Don’s kids, Tammy (Imogen Poots) and Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton) are repatriated from a refugee camp (they were on the continent with a school camp when the outbreak occurred). Andy has Heterochromia – his eyes are different colours, a trait inherited from his mum. They escape the safe zone to go to their old home and in the house they find Alice. She has been bitten, infected (it turns out) but not succumbed to rage. This immunity was due to the same genetics that caused her eye colouration but has made her a carrier and soon Don is infected and the cycle starts again.

What was interesting here was not the genetic aspect but the actions of Don. Whilst on the surface he seems to be a simple rage victim, attacking any non-infected he sees, he actually seems to be somewhat more intelligent and actively seems to be stalking his children. At points he seems to be following from a distance and whilst, when he comes face to face with Andy, he cannot help but attack his actions are 1) not typical of a rage infectee and 2) reminiscent of the vampire genii (for instance the wurdulak) that are drawn to their loved ones. However, this is not in and off itself enough to make this vamp. I started the investigation because of an inference that the infected drank blood – they use their mouths to attack but there is no inference of blood drinking that I could see. I also started it as the method of infection is described as a vampiric exchange of fluids – it is in fact just exposure to infected fluids (hardly vampiric in and of itself) and I would have seen a deliberate two way exchange that was necessary as a requisite to suggest the exchange was vampiric. Not Vamp.

The imdb page for 28 Days Later is here and the one for 28 Weeks Later is here.

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