Unlike many other nerds, I never waste any time wondering what I’ll do when the world is overtaken by zombie apocalypse. This is because I’m a large, slow-moving target with no practical or combat skills and a picky appetite. In the event of things going all Romero my assigned role isn’t as one of the plucky, desperate last remnants of humanity but rather as one of the shambling mindless horde. To be honest, I’ve got Boomer written all over me.
Not that these are zombie movies, of course. The difference between zombies and the “infected” from 28 Days / 28 Weeks Later is both semantic and profound. Zombies symbolise our mortality – they might be slow but they pursue us tirelessly and relentlessly. We can stave them off for a while but in the end there’s no escape, whether through bad choices or bad luck eventually they’re going to get us. There’s also an element of zombies representing our society and specifically our worst impulses – our fears, our hate and/or our greed. Single zombies are easily avoided and almost laughable, it’s only when gathered en masse they become incredibly destructive and dangerous.
You know. Like Leeds fans.
The infected don’t have quite the same flavour. They’re much more of a direct individual threat and especially in the first movie we rarely see them in large groups. And, of course, they run. Key sequences in the opening of both films feature characters fleeing with the infected in hot pursuit. It’s a threat that feels more personal, more aggressive than that which their forebears present, an impression that’s further heightened by the speed with which victims join their ranks. Unfortunates bitten by zombies generally take hours if not days to die and rise again, but the Rage virus is passed on in seconds. We live in a world where advertising and the media bombards us with the message that we’re all special, that we’re all clever nonconformists, that our opinions matter. These films give us the monsters we deserve, zombies suitable for attention spans eroded by the millions of different ways Western society presents to distract ourselves while the planet falls to ruin. The infected are suppliers of bespoke carnage for the Me Me Me Now Now Now Generation. Because we’re worth it.