You are on page 1of 4

Zo Freeman A2 Media Mr McDermott

Compare and contrast 28 Days later with Shaun of the Dead, commenting on the structuralist or
poststructuralist qualities
Foucault and Lacan developed the theory of structuralism, suggesting structure exists in all texts and
art forms. The concept of structuralism is embedded in many elements of Danny Boyles 28 Days
Later due to the adherence to the codes and conventions of the zombie apocalypse sub-genre
meaning is created through the audiences expectations of what a horror film is. Seeing such
expectations played out in film relates to Barthes Pleasure of the Text theory that being when the
audience see what they expect gives a sense of closure and fulfilment. Conversely, Edgar Wrights
Shaun of the Dead is evidently poststructuralist due to it demonstrating several identifiable features
as it is: self-referential, demonstrates a blatant awareness of breaking the codes and conventions of
the apocalypse sub-genre, and also the fact that it combines the two binary opposites of horror and
humour. The differences between these two films demonstrate how diverse any given sub-genre can
be, and as Strauss identifies, the opposition between the humour and horror genre can help to
propel the narrative and become an integral part of the zombie sub-genre.
The trailers for Shaun of the Dead and 28 Days Later contrast immensely, the conventional
apocalypse trailer evidently being 28 Days Later due to its adherence to structuralism. The early use
of tone cards in Boyles 28 Days Later helps to contextualise the plot, installing an expected fear in
the audience. Terminology such as epidemic and infection is used on tone cards to create the
feeling of isolation amongst the audience. As preceding scenes are shots of a deserted London city,
the sense of isolation for the audience may be heightened due to there being a personal relation to
where the film is set. Comparably, Wrights Shaun of the Dead is a critique of the average Londoner
in which a hero must rise...from his sofa a comedic comment about the sudden laziness of
society when it comes to taking action and making changes. Humour is used in Shaun of the Dead to
mock the audiences obliviousness to the world around them; whilst this can be seen as a critique
with an underlying moralistic message about being more self-aware, many directors chose to embed
humour as it propels the narrative in a different direction. Poststructuralist films find success as the
audience enjoy seeing subversions in horror films whilst it is one thing for the audience to see their
expectations played out; Barthes argues that it is another, more pleasurable thing, for the said
expectations to take an unexpected turn. Similarities are evident however, the protagonist in both
Shaun of the Dead and 28 Days Later are both oblivious to what has happened around them and
neither seem like what Propp would define to be the hero. Whilst a contextual understanding may
help when deconstructing both trailers, the structuralist nature of 28 Days Later allows the film to be
engaging with wider audiences as less emphasis is placed on British culture.
Both 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead utilise the concept of isolation; particularly the different
forms it can take in horror films. A prominent example of this in Shaun of the Dead is the scene in
which Shaun is first exposed to the zombies but remains unresponsive as he is oblivious to them.
Whilst this again is a critique of British culture, it also reinforces the ideas of post-structuralism due
to the scene eliciting a humorous reaction. The mis-en-scene goes largely ignored by Shaun; perhaps
due to the area he lives in being one which broken windows and large amounts of litter is an
expected element of society. This scene also further subverts the idea of Shaun being the
courageous hero that the audience expect from horror films; his inability to detect the possibility of
danger combined with the simplicity of his character and attire demonstrate his severe lack of
awareness and appreciation of the world around him. To compare this to 28 Days Later, the scene in
Zo Freeman A2 Media Mr McDermott

which Jim awakens from his coma to find he is one of the only people to have survived the societal
collapse imitates many zombie apocalypse films where the lone survivor is identified from the start.
Performance is an important element of establishing Jims character, his fear has to be believable for
the audience to side with him and want him to find others and survive. The mis-en-scene of this
scene also follows the conventions of structuralist horror films; the whole of London city is empty
and destroyed, adding to the credibility of the plot which is being created. Isolation in 28 Days Later
is initially created through Jims false perception that he is the only one who is still alive; as many
other elements of the film relate directly to what the audience expect, it is likely for them to
sympathise with him as most zombie apocalypse horror films only feature a small group of survivors
which he soon after finds.
Shaun of the Dead features a theatrical scene in which the protagonist is seen to play with the
generic conventions of horror films with an evident subversion of paradigms. Whilst the scene
initially starts with the promise of being similar to a typical horror film, the start of Queens Dont
Stop Me subverts the expectation of gore and disaster. Ed for example suggests using cocktails as
a weapon to defend them against the zombies an unconventional idea given the circumstances
and the other weapons which may be available. Similarly, the protagonist Shaun, whom Propp would
liken to the role of the hero, advises the use of an unconventional weapon which is not questioned
by those following him. When looking at this in the context of zombie apocalypse horror films, it
could be due to the fact that anything that can be done in order to survive will be tried no matter
how absurd it seems. However, considering this film has poststructuralist qualities, it can be seen as
a critique of the gruesomeness of other horror films as this weapon does relatively little damage but
still manages to defeat the villain. Use of a tracking shot in which the protagonists circle the zombie
hitting him with a pool cue reinforces how unrealistic the events depicted in horror films are.
Humour is created through the diegetic sound of the song and the sound of the beating being in
time, and also the choreographed leg movements of Shaun when he slides over the pool table, and
also when he gets up from being knocked down by the zombie. David conforms to Propps idea of
the helper as he is the one who aides Shaun to find an unlikely resolution to the main problem of
the scene. Use of a shot reverse shot between David and the shadow of hands reinstall the fear and
isolation key elements of horror films. Diane also plays an important role in this scene as the only
female character feminist critics would argue that she is masculinised in both her costume and also
mind-set. As Clover argues in her essay Her Body, Himself, masculinity and femininity are more
states of mind than states of body in horror films; particularly those which are postmodernist.
Dianes character does not conform to Mulveys ideology surrounding the male gaze either her use
of profanity and simplistic attire deter the general male audience from objectifying her.
(I was going to compare this to 28 Days Later but I cant find much of it on Youtube as the school
have blocked a lot of stuff)
To conclude, both Shaun of the Dead and 28 Days Later are of great relevance to the zombie
apocalypse horror sub-genre. Similarities between the two films are minor but are existent; many of
the codes and conventions of structuralist horror film 28 Days Later exist also in Wrights
poststructuralist film, Shaun of the Dead. The main differences between the two films is how they
are executed whilst Shaun of the Dead heavily emphasises the intertwining link between horror
and comedy, 28 Days Later redefines the zombie apocalypse sub-genre by adhering clearly to
conventions and allowing the audience to become submerged in the film.
Zo Freeman A2 Media Mr McDermott





Shaun of the Dead, Jims character in 28 Days Later



a common feature of poststructuralist films due to the audience seeking enjoyment from the
subversion in the sub-genre.
wareness of
many poststructuralist trailer use this feature
both conclude that an unlikely hero could be anyone


Both films subtly rely on the audience understanding the context of London and being a British
citizen more so Shaun of the Dead than 28 Days Later.

emblematic of many medical related apocalypse films such terms also help









Zo Freeman A2 Media Mr McDermott


Conversely, the trailer of 28 Days Later conforms predominatly
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6MR1I1vvxo
Unlikely resolution
A tracking shot
as the beating is in time with the music
The comedy element of this scene indicates how humour in horror films attempts to
A perhaps more appropriate proposal is given from Shaun