Stephen King Loved ’28 Days Later’ So Much He Bought 800 Tickets


The Big Picture

  • 28 Days Later revived the zombie subgenre in the early 2000s, bringing a fresh and intense take on the undead.
  • Stephen King, a renowned horror author and fan of the genre, showed his support for 28 Days Later by reportedly buying 800 tickets for its opening night.
  • King’s own zombie novel, Cell, was a response to the newfound zombie craze and showcased his ability to reinvent classic horror genres.

Sometimes, a movie comes around that’s so good that you have to tell everyone on the planet about it. For horror and zombie lovers, director Danny Boyle‘s 28 Days Later was one of those must-see titles. These days, it can be a bit easy to forget how big of a deal the movie was when it came out. We’re used to running zombies, have survived numerous Walking Dead shows, and have seen the undead wave settle back down to being just another horror subgenre. People just don’t get too worked up about zombies anymore, but, back in 2002, 28 Days Later was all the rage.

In fact, the movie was such a big deal that it even captured the attention of the world’s most famous horror author, Stephen King himself. King’s zombie fever was so bad that he seemingly bought out an entire theater, somewhere in the ballpark of 800 tickets, for opening night! This was a huge deal for the team behind 28 Days Later, who had been hearing mixed reactions about their movie ahead of release. While King might not be the first person to come to mind when considering the best zombie storytellers, he’s such a prolific writer that no one should be surprised to hear that he has actually written a zombie novel, one that curiously came out a few years after 28 Days Later. With the recently announced 28 Days Later sequel apparently on the way, there’s a world in which Mr. King will whip his wallet back out and shell out some cash for a new chapter in the zombie saga.

28 Days Later

Four weeks after a mysterious, incurable virus spreads throughout the UK, a handful of survivors try to find sanctuary.

Release Date
October 31, 2002

Alex Palmer , Bindu De Stoppani , Jukka Hiltunen , David Schneider , Cillian Murphy , Toby Sedgwick


Main Genre

’28 Days Later’ Revived a Dead Subgenre in the Early 2000s

Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson, and Naomi Harris standing together in 28 Days Later
Image via 20th Century Studios

If you’re new to the zombie genre, then there’s a good chance that you haven’t seen 28 Days Later. Maybe start simple with one of George A. Romero‘s classics, be it Night of the Living Dead or Dawn of the Dead, just to dip your toes in the water. Then you can turn your attention to this early 2000s classic. The film stars Oppenheimer‘s Cillian Murphy as Jim, a man who wakes up out of a coma in a post-apocalyptic London, one infested with zombies and sinister renegade soldier groups. To this day, 28 Days Later remains one of the meanest, angriest zombie movies that you’ll ever see. And it came at a time when the undead subgenre was … well … pretty much dead. Zombie movies were old hat! Romero had already revisited the field numerous times, Return of the Living Dead gave it a dark comedy spin in the mid-80s. Meanwhile, directors like Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson were busy reinventing the ghouls for younger, more well-versed audiences. The 90s were almost a complete wasteland for the zombie subgenre, making it the perfect time for 28 Days Later to come in and shake things up. Danny Boyle’s film made these creatures faster, meaner, and bloodier than ever. Zombie movies would never, and could never, be the same.

Stephen King Apparently Bought 800 Tickets For ’28 Days Later’s Opening Night

According to a recent oral history of the movie published by Inverse, things weren’t always looking great for Boyle’s film, though. Audiences repeatedly walked out of its test screenings, leaving Boyle discouraged and feeling that his big break into horror just wasn’t going to work. A slight silver lining came through in the form of Mark Kermode. The film critic stopped Boyle in a pizza shop to tell him that his movie was “fucking great,” some simple yet incredibly high praise.

The actual rollout of the film itself also proved to be a bit odd. Producer Andrew McDonald recalls, “When the film actually got released, I remember, classic British media, most of them in the reviews were pretty awful. Because it was a genre movie, they dismissed it. It got really good reviews in America.” No one seems to have loved it more than Stephen King though! MacDonald went on to say, “Stephen King loved it. He bought 800 tickets on the opening night or something. And it made almost $50 million in America.” Zombies might have been old hat, but 28 Days Later ended up being a huge deal in horror, and it seems as though Mr. King can sniff out a hit from a mile away.



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It’s Not a Shock that Stephen King Loved ’28 Days Later’

Stephen King cameoing in 'It Chapter Two'
Image via Warner Bros. 

Why would Stephen King have heavily supported 28 Days Later, though? For one, King has always been an enormous fan of the genre. That might seem obvious, considering his bibliography, but even with his title as the king of his genre, he manages to come across as the least snobby horror fan ever. On Eli Roth’s History of Horror, King was quoted as saying, “The worst horror movie I’ve ever seen was … still pretty fuckin’ good.” King isn’t just a great horror writer, he’s a true fan who can find things to enjoy in almost every horror film.

Like Danny Boyle and screenwriter Alex Garland, King has also done his fair share of reinventing classic horror genres. He’s tackled vampires with Salem’s Lot, ghost stories most famously with The Shining, killer clowns in It, aliens in The Tommyknockers, and more. It seems as though he’s the kind of guy who can not only appreciate somebody giving old scares a new spin, but he’s done it himself many times. Why else would King support 28 Days Later? Well, the trailer alone promises a visceral experience. Might as well buy a ticket (or 800) for opening night, right?!

Just a few years after 28 Days Later came out, King responded to this newfound zombie craze with his own take on the genre — the 2006 novel Cell. The book tells the story of Clayton Riddell, a man who tries to find his son and estranged wife after a signal is broadcast over the cellphone network, turning cellphone users into zombie-like killers. While Cell isn’t one of King’s very best, it is regarded as a reliably spooky entry in his collective works. More than anything, it’s fun to see the genre’s most prolific figure finally tackle creatures as synonymous with scares as zombies, all with a fascinating new idea for how these monsters come about. On top of all of that, Cell is a brisk 350-page read. King fans know that this is a true rarity for him. While this fresh take on the undead works well as a novel, a less-than-stellar movie adaptation was released in 2016. It might be a 1408 reunion for John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson, but that’s about where the fun ends.

If you’re new to the zombie subgenre, then take King’s enthusiasm as a sign to fire up 28 Days Later right away. It very well could be the best of its kind. Cell, on the other hand, might not be the most iconic take on the walking dead, but it is a fun example of a true master broadening his horizons. Any way you roll it, zombie stories are the best.

28 Days Later is available to watch on Sling TV in the U.S.

Watch It On Sling TV


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