Classic Zombie Apocalypse Film Finally Getting Third Installment?
28 Days Later director Danny Boyle thinks a third movie in the zombie series could get audiences to theaters.
During his interview with NME, director Danny Boyle addressed whether he’d be interested in directing the third sequel to his post-apocalyptic zombie thriller 28 Days Later. The 2002 British horror film centered on a bicycle courier named Jim (Cillian Murphy) who awakens from a coma and discovers that a highly contagious virus has destroyed society. Although 15 years have passed since the second movie, 28 Weeks Later, was released in theaters, Boyle believes another 28 Days Later sequel could entice audiences to visit their local cinemas.
“It might come back into focus because one of the things that’s happening in the business at the moment is it has to be a big reason for you to go to the cinema, because there are less and less reasons. It’s hard for companies distributing films and for cinema chains to show films, they’re struggling to get people into the cinema unless it’s something like Top Gun: Maverick or a Marvel. But a third part would get people in, if it was half-decent.”
Interestingly, Boyle and his 28 Days Later screenwriter Alex Garland developed a story for a third sequel called 28 Months Later. Garland, who took inspiration from the works of George Romero and John Wyndham, reportedly met with Boyle in June 2019 to possibly discuss and start work on the sequel. Unfortunately for fans of the franchise, the project never saw the light of day.
Despite the lack of progress on a third sequel, the original 28 Days Later is still one of the most groundbreaking and influential horror films of the modern era and helped launch the career of Cillian Murphy, who spent five years prior starring in short films and Irish indies. In his conversation with NME, Murphy said the success of 28 Days Later allowed him to get more meetings with producers and talented directors such as his now frequent collaborator Christopher Nolan. It became a crucial role for Murphy, which he initially thought he lost out on when he couldn’t nail down Jim’s London accent.
“Jim was written as English – and I was doing a terrible London accent [in the audition]. It wasn’t really connecting but Danny kept asking me back, which was really nice.”
Indeed Murphy was lucky to star in this tremendously successful horror film. The original 28 Days Later was made with a small budget of $8 million and grossed over $85 million worldwide. The producers of 28 Days Later used the same strategy that Blumhouse uses today: keep the production budget low, so it’d be easier to recoup the money later. It’s one of the greater benefits of producing horror films and why they are usually one of a director’s first projects.
Although 28 Days Later doesn’t have the same rabid fanbase as an MCU project would have, it did manage to cultivate a strong following over the years thanks to being aired a lot during Halloween and is often credited for reviving the zombie horror genre. Films like Zombieland, Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead, and even AMC’s zombie series The Walking Dead have all drawn inspiration from Boyle and Garland’s post-apocalyptic drama. While the zombie drama has since evolved, the influence of 28 Days Later is still felt and permeates many of today’s horror shows, movies, and video games.
However, as influential as Boyle’s film turned out to be, there is still some doubt whether it could attract a large audience in today’s modern theatrical and streaming landscape. Universal Pictures has expertly revived the Halloween franchise by bringing in recognizable faces from the franchise’s past. A new story set in the 28 Days Later world may have to use the same strategy and somehow bring back characters from the previous entries to avoid having a large portion of the movie-going audience ignore it.
There are also tons of new drama content on streaming occupying everyone’s attention. Not only is AMC Network committed to expanding The Walking Dead franchise by airing numerous spinoffs next year, but HBO’s The Last of Us will surely be a ratings juggernaut based on the success of the 2013 video game. While it may be difficult to admit, there may not be any room for another 28 Days Later sequel.