Halloween Endurance Test: 28 Days Later (2002)

28 Days Later was sold to me as the king of the zombie movie resurgence.  Which is great ‘cuz if there’s any type of movie I don’t see enough of, it’s zombie movies.  Interestingly enough, though, is the DVD poses the question of whether the movie is a zombie at all.

Both the script writer and the director agree that the movie’s ‘disease’ is psychological in nature.  Hence, not supernatural in origin.  Making the movie’s creatures less ‘creatures’ and more ‘homicidal maniacs.’  Or just really angry people.  ‘Infected with the rage’ or something equally daft is how it’s described.

Back in the nineties, studios wouldn’t touch a horror property.  Fright flicks were strictly verboten.  Yet the horror movie remained a sure way to make a few quick bucks.  Guys like taking their dates to scary movies ‘cuz it practically assures some sort of physical contact between the two.  

So here we have an established money maker carrying a stigma of being so horrible that under no circumstances are they to be made.  What’s an innocent studio to do?  

Relabel all your horror properties ‘psychological thrillers.’  Which is why in the nineties you saw a lot of (human) killers in the cinema, and fewer monsters.  They were human after all, not beasts.  Just crazy humans is all.  For instance, Silence of the Lambs is still considered a ‘psychological thriller.’  Even though it clearly is a horror movie.  It contains horrific elements: murder, cannibalism.  Hell that one guard gets skinned!  Not a ‘horror’ movie though, just a ‘thriller.’

Jumping forward a few years, Silence of the Lambs is sold with the rest of our Halloween supplies at my store.  So apparently someone didn’t get the memo.

I remember reading about this labeling discrimination in Fangoria when I was growing up.  Some poor, lonely fan boy would decry the studios’ fear of the term ‘horror’ itself.  It’s nice to see that this fear was still around even in the aughts.  Here you have the biggest zombie movie release in ten years and no one involved with it will own up to the facts.  Even after it’s a big hit!  Still they keep up the charade of ‘oh it’s about people who go crazy and kill.  But they’re totally not zombies.’  

It’s also funny to note that even though the film’s director tried his best to portray ‘the rage’ as totally natural; everyone still bought it as a zombie movie.  It was perhaps the last movie to suffer from the horror movie stigma.  Its own success helped end that trend.


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