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Zombie vs. Zombie: Comparing Night of the Living Dead and 28 Days Later

Updated on October 24, 2016

When talking about zombies usually the first thing that comes to mind is that they are slow, flesh hungry, low intelligence rotting corpses. But, not all zombies are the same, some zombies are a result of a parasitic type of infection that kills and then revives its human host, giving the host an insatiable hunger for human brains. While others are just regular people infected by a rage inducing virus causing them to act out erratically and destroy anything in their path. There are many differences when comparing books or movies about zombies, which can vary greatly depending on the creator. An example of this would be George A. Romero’s classic thriller Night of the Living Dead and Danny Boyle’s zombie flick 28 Days Later, both featuring zombies with origins, characteristics, and looks and styles that differ from each other.

When looking at the origins of the two stated films it is evident that the cause of the zombie apocalypse is completely different and unique for both movies. The film plot summary of Night of the Living Dead on the AMC Filmsite states, “The mass media emphatically emphasized the panic and threat... an ‘epidemic of mass murder’ being committed by a virtual army of unidentified assassins with no apparent pattern or reason…” (Dirks), leaving the cause of this epidemic as undefined because there is no evidence of how it happened throughout the story line. In Night of the Living Dead there is only speculation of radiation from outer space as being the reason for the dead to come alive.

However, the zombies in 28 Days Later are a result of the spread of the rage virus, and the rage virus was created by Cambridge University scientists. This gives a defined reasoning of how, why, and where the zombies come from.

The characteristics of zombies between Night of the Living Dead and 28 Days Later are different as well. 28 Days Later shows a new trend of faster zombies capable of running at full speed whereas Romero’s zombies, showcase a more traditional, slow and simple style. Another example of characteristic differences is that 28 Days Later zombies are not the undead but rather people reacting to a virus. Thus, killing them becomes an easy feat because they have the same vulnerabilities as an ordinary human being. On the contrary, Night of the Living Dead zombies are the actual dead returning to life, with their only weakness being severe trauma to the brain. Also, in 28 Days Later, the rage virus is transferred through bodily fluids such as, blood or saliva. Selena, one of the characters in the film, mentions that, “It was a virus. An infection. You didn't need a doctor to tell you that. It was the blood. It was something in the blood” (Harris). However, in Night of the Living Dead, a person will come back to life regardless of how they died, or a zombie must bite a person causing them to die almost immediately, causing them to transform into the undead.

The look of the zombies that are shown in both Night of the Living Dead and 28 Days Later are different as well. Night of the Living Dead shows the flesh eaters as pale corpses with rotting flesh falling from their bodies and darkness around the eyes, similar to a racoon’s eyes. Zombies in Romero’s film have cuts and fatal injuries caused by whatever death they had endured before rising from the dead. These zombies are seen as docile, mindless creatures wandering aimlessly for human flesh to satisfy their hunger. 28 Days Later zombies have bright, red, rage filled eyes and an expression of anger and insanity across their face, making them look more menacing and dangerous. The rage filled zombies are often covered in the blood of their victim while the Night of the Living Dead zombies do not show any sign of blood on their bodies.

Night of the Living Dead and 28 Days Later depict zombies with various traits on how they act, how they originated, and how they differentiate in style. Night of the Living Dead portrays a traditional, slow walking zombie with no real reason on how they came to be. 28 Days Later gives more detailed insight of the epidemic while introducing a new kind of zombie to the world. Despite the differences between the two types of zombies they are both scary and creepy in their own way. If either one were to become reality rather than a fictitious character in a horror movie, anyone would be terrified out of their mind upon seeing one of these monstrous creatures.

Which zombie do you prefer?

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Full Source Citation

28 Days Later. Directed by Danny Boyle, performances by Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris,

Christopher Eccleston, and Megan Burns, Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2002.

Dirks, Tim. “Night of the Living Dead (1968).”, dead.html. Accessed 08 Oct. 2016.

Harris, Naomie, actress. 28 Days Later. Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2002.

Night of the Living Dead. Directed by George A. Romero, performances by Judith O’Dea, Duane

Jones, Marilyn Eastman, and Karl Hardman, The Walter Reade Organization, 1968.


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      Lizbeth H. 16 months ago

      This is a very good comparison piece. I like that you chose 2 story-lines that are at 'opposite sides of the spectrum' from one another in more than one way. Your comparison of each "zombie type"gives the reader a very clear image of what exactly differs between them, even though they are both labeled "zombie flicks" Whether the reader is a zombie-enthusiast or not, I'm sure both will appreciate the manner in which this was presented. The whole thing flows very well. I enjoyed reading it :)