June 27, 2023 marks the 20th anniversary of Danny Boyle’s revolutionary zombie horror film 28 Days Later making its debut in the United States. Since I’m a USA-based fan (and because I missed the deadline to write about its initial UK release on November 1, 2002 haha), I thought it would be awesome to rewatch 28 Days Later and see if it still holds up 20 years later.

Yes. Yes, it does.

It’s time for you to bust out your DVD copy of 28 Days Later and give it a much-deserved re-watch. You’ll be glad you did. And if you’ve never seen it before…? Well, it’s going to be a bit difficult for you to do so. At the time of my writing this, 28 Days Later isn’t streaming anywhere (at least not in the United States), so you may need to invest in a VPN or — better still — buy a DVD copy while you still can.

After you’ve celebrated 28 Days Later‘s 20th Anniversary by giving it a rewatch, come back and read the rest of this post! (Or, you can finish reading it now if you aren’t afraid of spoilers from 2003!!). Below, I’m going to share 7 of my thoughts while rewatching 28 Days Later in 2023:

1. The Infected Don’t Show Up As Many Times As You Think

28 Days Later 2002 infected rage zombies

The rage-filled Infected (the “fast zombies”) aren’t in 28 Days Later as much as you may remember… There’s the chimps and the bitten animal activists at the very beginning, the scene with Jim (Cillian Murphy) and the priest at the church, the scene where Jim’s former neighbors bust into his parents’ home, the scene where the Infected chase Jim and Selena (Naomie Harris) up the stairs to Frank (Brendan Gleeson) and Hannah’s (Megan Burns) apartment, the ones who scare the rats in the tunnel during the flat tire scene, the child “I hate you” zombie at the gas station, Infected Frank (more on that in a moment), chained up Mailer, the soldiers being turned one-by-one near the end, and the starving zombies at the very end.

And, okay, now that I’ve listed them all out, that’s actually quite a lot… But still not as many as I (or you?!) thought there were!

Although there’s plenty of on-screen scares, most of the terrors (and the overall deaths!) are either implied or talked about in retrospect by the characters — and most of the mayhem is what Christopher Eccleston’s Major West succinctly describes as “People killing people.”

2. But When the Infected DO Show Up, They’re Still Scary After All These Years!

 Selena (Naomie Harris) kills a zombie in 28 Days Later

George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead was a transitional point for zombie films — it marked the turning point from (very) old school Haitian folklore-style zombies to the shambling undeads with a hunger for human flesh we all know and love today. It revived the genre!

Then, 28 Days Later came along during another slump in zombie media and reanimated it once again. Only, this time, the “zombies” were caused by a virus (an idea already explored in Capcom’s Resident Evil video games) and — in the biggest shock to audiences everywhere — they were FAST moving!

Love it or hate it, 28 Days Later‘s fast zombies has had a lasting impact on zombie cinema for the past 20 years since it came out. Personally: I love fast zombies. Slow zombies are super fun, don’t get me wrong; but 28 Days Later marked the first time I felt like the zombies were an actual threat, even with their limited screentime.

The slow-building, overwhelming sense of dread that accompanies all zombie stories is still there in 28 Days Later, but this time there’s an additional element added: That when the end you’ve been dreading finally comes, it will be fast, relentless, and likely unstoppable.

3. “I Promised Them Women” Is Still Absolutely Chilling

Christopher Eccleston's Major West in 28 Days Later

As scary as the Infected can be, nothing’s more terrifying than when Major West reveals the true intentions of his broadcast, and that the soldiers are far from friends to Jim, Selena, and young Hannah.

Suddenly, it’s a skinny dude who just woke from a coma, a chemist (pharmacist), and a grieving teenage girl against a mansion full of trained killers armed to the teeth with military hardware.

As a teenage girl in 2003, that scene chilled me to my core. As a grown woman in my late thirties, that hasn’t changed. If anything, it hits even harder now. “Women mean a future.” YIKES!

4. Is Mailer Just Bub?

28 Days Later Mailer chained up zombie

My husband thinks that Mailer — the zombie chained up outside the military mansion — is just Bub from Day of the Dead. I can see how he’d think that!

Either way, just as we cheer for Good Guy Bub, we both cheered for Good Guy Mailer when he gets set loose and starts ripping into the evil soldiers. Get ’em, Mailer!!

5. The Crow, The Blood Drop, and Mad Eye Frank

28 Days Later Cast - Frank, Jim, and Selena

You know the scene I’m talking about.


6. Yeah… After Our Worldwide Shared Trauma: 28 Days Later Hits Differently

28 Days Later 20th Anniversary

A fast-sweeping virus, mass confusion, empty streets, families torn apart… Protagonist Jim awoke from a coma to a world we’re all familiar with first-hand now.

The engaging characters, the fast-paced action, the riveting soundtrack were always amazing; but 28 Days Later has become more relatable than ever in the 2020s. At times, this simple zombie horror film was absolutely gut-wrenching to rewatch, but it was also a wonderful example of how horror movies can be cathartic.

7. 20 Years Later, 28 Days Later‘s Hopeful Ending Was Always Perfect and Still Is

Back in 2003 (and, in some circles, to this day), there were debates about whether the official ending was the best conclusion to the film. Having revisited 28 Days Later for its 20th anniversary, my opinion remains as it always has: The ending is exactly what the movie needs because it’s exactly what we need.

I’ve never been a fan of the grim-dark, “gritty” endings that were so popular in the 1970s and had a resurgence in the 2000s. To me, being miserable has never equated to being “deep.” An ending where everyone loses has zero appeal to me. Having humans overcome (even if it’s just ONE human in the form of a final girl or guy!) is far more powerful, far more inspiring, than wallowing ever could be — even if it comes off a little “cheesy.”

28 Days Later‘s optimistic ending was as refreshing now as it was in 2003. We all NEED hope, now more than ever. As Selena says earlier on in the movie, “I was wrong when I said staying alive is as good as it gets.”

Every single one of us reading this post is a survivor. It’s nice to be reminded that we can also be more than that: We all have another chance at happiness. To come together as awesome humans and do amazing things.

Are YOU Going to Rewatch 28 Days Later for Its 20th Anniversary?

So, have I convinced you to bust out your DVD of 28 Days Later and give it a rewatch? If so, has your opinion of it changed in any way since it premiered in the United States on June 27, 2003? (Or are you a UK-based HorrorFam.com reader who got to see it back in 2002?). Let me know in the comments!

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Images purchased via MovieStillsDB and CineMaterial, used for review purposes. (Note: the website address on the promotional wallpaper from 2003 is no longer active at the time of this writing)

About the Author

Lauren Spear (née Tharp) is the owner of LittleZotz.com, a formerly super-respectable multiple award-winning website for freelance writers that's now just a wacky place where she tries to cheer people up anyway she can. Lauren's also HorrorFam.com's primary founder/owner! Lauren grew up in the horror industry (her parents did practical special FX work for many of the horror movies you love from the '80s and '90s) and she basically created this site so she could freely gas on about creepy stuff and stop having to pretend to be normal. o_O

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