This review contains spoilers.
Danny Boyle’s 2002 film is the only horror that has stuck with me and this is for a reason. It is a film that rewrites the damsel in distress narrative and critiques contemporary patriarchal violence. It is a movie where a group of army soldiers become a bigger threat than the zombies themselves.
28 Days Later follows protagonist Jim (Cillian Murphy) after he wakes up from a coma in the midst of a pandemic that turns people into fast, deadly and manic zombies. Jim meets the supporting character Selena (Naomi Harris) whilst discovering this fact.
After experiencing this apocalypse for a month, Selena has become solely focused on survival. Her former comrade, Mark, becomes wounded in a zombie attack and she swiftly kills him with her machete. What is first seen as a cold act becomes an act of compassion which saves her friend from becoming infected. She tells Jim that if he were infected too she would also kill him without hesitation.
Selena is a supporting character who, in my opinion, is more of the ultimate hero than the protagonist himself. Her logic and strength protects the other characters and she is not merely a love interest. Selena’s portrayal was inspiring for me to watch as a young teenager because so many other horrors with a male lead are an exhibition of only masculine strength. She represents how female characters don’t have to be given stereotypical masculine traits to be presented as strong in their own right.
In this film, the zombies are almost a part of a sub-plot in comparison to the true story about human relationships. In the second half of the movie, the companions seek refuge in an army base which broadcasts that they have found a cure for the virus. As a viewer, you breath a sigh of relief that the group have seemingly found safety. However, the real evil of the story is inside the base.
The men inside the army base are depicted as saviours until they are unmasked to be chauvinists when they attempt to force Selena and Hannah into sexual servitude. This is a turning point of the film where the group aim to escape from the soldiers back into a world full of zombies that they originally tried to avoid.
These two women are surrounded and physically overpowered by a group of morally skewed, armed men, who are a bigger threat than the infected. This is a critique of how patriarchal ideologies create a harmful expectation of gender roles, and how this realistic situation is scarier than fantasy zombies themselves when mirrored against each other.