Professor Diviani Chaudhuri
28 May 2011
“Infect: (verb) to contaminate with a disease-producing substance or agent (as bacteria)” (Merriam Webster Dictionary). Let’s face it, when the term “infect” is used it is never in a positive manner, especially in horror novels. Who brought the disease? What causes the infection to occur? Where are the “infected” living? When will it stop? These questions are the basis for what Bill Albertini calls the “Outbreak Narrative” (Albertini 443). The conclusive part of the outbreak narrative is what keeps film viewers at the edge of their seats; what draws faces into the depths of the horror novels. In the most successful of horror stories, such as Living Dead, Resident Evil, Fatal Contact, The Hot Zone, Outbreak, etc., fail to approach what Albertini refers to as “containment” (Albertini 444). “When containment does occur in such texts, it rarely suffices to close off the formidable anxieties unleashed by contagion” (Albertini 443). In the film 28 Days Later, there is never a point where the viewer is satisfied with the feeling the horror will no longer return; there is always a chance of it creeping behind again.
In order to determine if the outbreak will come to a closure, it must first be examined how to infectious disease arrived in the first place. The premiere scene in the film starts with a zoomed in glimpse of global warfare, fighting, riots, chaos and turmoil. The view zooms out to find that the insanity is merely taking place on a TV screen, and the actual setting is inside a science laboratory or what Albertini would describe as the “safe zone” (Albertini 449). The laboratory serves the purpose to examine “the infected” and its goal is to cease the disease. In 28 Weeks Later the monkey’s contagious disease to be cured. Not all things work out as planned however, and as Albertini states: “…the laboratory-as-lifeboat, in recreating the technoculture from which it promises an escape, threatens the same catastrophic failures of containment that prompted the desire for its existence in the first place” (Albertini 451). The chimpanzee manages to escape without the scientist’s control, and the director turns his shot into counted framing; chaos and instability everywhere. The outbreak is now imminent; humans have the ability to contract the disease. The film then flashes forward to 28 weeks, where protagonist Jim (Cillian Murphy) is first introduced. Coming out of the hospital, director Danny Boyle shoots a deep space shot of London from a distance, alerting the audience that the city has been completely wiped out. This symbolizes a feeling of loneliness, isolation, and solitary in the main character. The sky is setting; a hint that nighttime, a world of unknown horror is approaching. Going back to Albertini’s “laboratory as lifeboat” analogy, Jim comes across the church in which he chooses to enter because he wants to feel safe with the lord. Ironically he comes to find out that even the priest has contracted the disease, which introduces doubt towards any type of containment to this infection. Albertini makes note of this in his work “Contagion and the Necessary Accident” when he recalls Casey in Outbreak, and his crew entering a dangerously infected laboratory zone. Casey, the most cautious one on the team, gets a rip in his “safety suit”. The point Albertini is trying to make is that safety is not a factor in the outbreak narrative. No matter how cautious, everyone is still as most likely at risk for infection. Another example of this occurs in Danny Boyle’s, 28 Days Later. A leader of a four person survival group comes in view from above with a crow gnawing at an infected, now deceased person. Again, even though the crow is biting the infected, and the disease travels through bites and a mixture of blood cells, the crow does not contract the disease. The leader of the group, Frank, attempts to draw the bird distant by...