Most zombie stories are about the initial outbreak and are good cautionary tales about the first 48. Most people will not survive the first 48 hours of the outbreak. First off, you won’t know it’s happening for the first couple of hours, which will eat up critical response opportunities. Add to that the initial denial due to normalcy bias and some early rookie mistakes like crashing your car into a telephone pole or boarding yourself up in a farmhouse and you’ve lost four hours of good travel time. Meanwhile the zombie threat is spreading exponentially.
In the first 4 hours, there will be dozens of zombies in your area. That’s when you’ll probably start understanding the scope of the problem.
By the end of the first 24 hours there will be hundreds, which is why people who board themselves up on the first day aren’t able to run by the second.
By the end of the first 48 hours there will be thousands of zombies in a well-populated area, because by then 50% or more of the population will have been turned. Another 30% of the population will probably be dead, because the purpose of zombie attacks is not infection, but predation. That will leave the zombie population ravenous and enraged, with a swiftly diminishing food supply.
By the time they run out of food they will be in large enough numbers to successfully lay siege to any fortification and wipe out anyone still living in it. Critical mistakes in the first 4 hours of the outbreak lead to most people not surviving the first 48 hours. Your best bet is to get out of the area while there are still other people around for the zombies to eat.
First 48 Filmography:
- Night of the Living Dead: Classic negative example. Not understanding the nature of the threat, they all hole up in the same farmhouse and practically end up killing each other before the zombies even get to them. Rookie mistake.
- Dawn of the Dead (original and remake): They try to fortify a mall, which is one of the least defensible places on the planet. Death wish.
- Return of the Living Dead: Hoping to be rescued, they call for help and the military nukes the town. Points for understanding the scope of the problem, but getting out of town would have been better.
- Resident Evil: Realizing that they’ve released the zombie plague into their lab, they seal the building off and try to kill everyone in it. Good effort, Umbrella Corporation, but containment is always impossible.
- House of the Dead: 24 hour party people get into a gun shipment and go John Woo on the lumbering dead, but eventually they get surrounded and have to hole up in a mausoleum. Making a stand never ends well; eventually you’re just going to end up in a zombie pirate sword fight. Might sound like fun, but it’s actually just really really stupid.