Most zombie films follow a formula. They often begin by explaining how the epidemic of brainless cannibals came about, which is usually through means of witchcraft, tampering with biohazard material, space aliens, etc. In a movie like 28 Days Later, the very first scene shows activists freeing monkeys from a laboratory. Unbeknownst to them, the monkeys are infected with a zombifying virus called the “Rage Virus.” As soon as they open a cage, the monkey attacks and infects an activist, who in turn, attacks and infects the other members. From there, as in most zombie movies, it rapidly spreads. However, some people argue that the creatures in 28 Days Later are not technically zombies. Zombies are the living dead, meaning they would have to be dead already and then re-animated back to life. 28 Days show normal people receiving the viral infection through blood transmission, whether they were bitten or the infected blood enters their system, and then immediately turning into mindless, cannibalistic murderers. There is no stage of death in between the transition. They are simply not zombies, but the movie begs to differ. In a scene involving a captured zombie, an army officer observes it, and remarks, “he’s telling me he’ll never bake bread, farm crops, raise livestock. He’s telling me he’s futureless.” He’s implying that the zombies are indeed dead, because only the dead have no future.
Zombie films often follow a group of people trying to survive amidst a zombie apocalypse. As we watch as the survivors try to trek across an infested terrain to reach a safe zone, many zombies are slashed, shot, or burned down. Not all members of the group reach the safe zone, due to zombification or being eaten alive. These safe zones range from fortified army base or a boat, used to escape land itself, because the zombies may not be able to swim. In the case of 28 Days Later, we watch a group of four head for an army base that has been sending radio signals out, to alert people of its existence.
The composition of the survivors also varies, from children to senior citizens, but there is usually one bumbling fool who ends up dying, and in the process, making life difficult for the others. 28 Days happens to have omitted this character, though the main character does make a silly mistake; he lights a candle in the middle of the night, attracting zombies to attack them. Still this does not make him that specific character, because he survives the incident and continues on until the end. Another typical character found in zombie films, is the psychopath, or someone who becomes mentally distraught because of the ensuing chaos around him. This personality is displayed in 28 Days as the whole squadron of soldiers at the safe zone. They become obsessed with the idea that they have to repopulate the earth, and try to take the two female protagonists by force, at the same time attempt to execute the male protagonist so he is our of the picture.
Of course other motifs exist in the zombie genre, which are included in 28 Days Later too, such as the inner conflict of having to kill a friend or family member because they have turned in to zombies. In this movie, a girls father falls victim to zombification, simply because a drop of infected blood falls in to his eyes. Obviously they have to kill him, otherwise he will infect or kill the others, but while debating whether or not to do it, the father transforms and begins to attack, which at that, moment military personnel appears and saves the others.