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28 Days Later (2002)

R 113 minutes

Directed by Danny Boyle
Written by Alex Garland

 · Cillian Murphy
 · Naomie Harris
 · Brendan Gleeson
 · Megan Burns
 · Christopher Eccleston

Review by Thom Stricklin

I don't do this often.  Here I am, writing a review simply to dispute what someone else on the site has written.  In this case, it's 28 Days Later, fresh on the heels of ReelMonkey's critique.  It's a shame that I haven't written this sooner, because if you've read any of my reviews on horror films in the past six months, you've probably noted my many comparisons made to 28 Days Later.  In a world of mindless stalkers and equally braindead underage-drinking-stoner-teen "protagonists", Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later has been a breath of fresh air.




Indeed, at its most basic level, this is a zombie flick.  It involves a small number of people trying their bloody best to escape and outlast the innumerable throngs of mindless, flesh-hungry former humans.  Yet, 28 Days Later begins to diverge as soon as the zombies are explained.  They're not the undead, nor aliens, nor bodies possessed by aliens or demons or satan, nor the strange byproduct of nuclear testing from the 1960s--they're quite literally rabid, infected with a disease that leaves them with only the most primative, "dinosaur" brain functions and a bad temper.  It's a frightening concept, actually, because what's to stop a disease like that from occuring? (Sure, it's scientifically implausible for the infection to spread and behave as it did, but it's a lot more believable than the aforementioned causes for zombie syndrome.)

All this, however, is merely done to give the backstory credibility.  The true gem in 28 Days Later is the crew of uninfected: Jim, Selena, Frank and Hanna.  Without a lot of exposition, Boyle and scribe Alex Garland do a good job fleshing out the characters, making them believable and sympathetic.  They're not drunkard teens, looking for trouble, but ordinary people thrust in a horrible situation just trying to survive, live, and keep the comfort of having each other as companions.  Perhaps this isn't so revolutionary, as it's a basic requirement of many genres, but there has been so little attempt to do so in the past decade of horror films.  It's a welcome addition here.




The good guys don't just remain cheery, smiley people.  Perhaps 28 Days Later isn't "Scary! As! Hell!" as it was advertised, but it is quite chilling, not because of zombies or viral infections, but the psychological effect of those healthy individuals remain.  Each of the uninfected, in order to survive, becomes as cold or mad or brutal as the heathens they wish to avoid.  It's a survival instinct, and its unnerving to think what we as humans are willing to resort to for the sake of self-preservation.  That's right--a horror film can actually be thought-provoking!

While the concept and character handling are the strongest points of 28 Days Later, Boyle keeps it from becoming weak in other areas.  The choice to shoot on digital video gave the film a dark, gritty appearance, perfect for obscuring shadowy figures and building tension.  Cinematography, while not astounding, is more than proficient and really contributes to drawing the correct audience reactions.  The soundtrack is minimalist, for the most part, though one of my few complaints of the film is the music during Jim's waking-up scene, which tries entirely too hard to build suspense.  There's plenty of blood and gore, and Boyle found a good balance between making it gross but not nauseating.  All in all, 28 Days Later is a solid film.



28 Days Later is probably not a film for everyone.  Horror "purists" may find it hard to place the film relative to their normal expectations.  On the other hand, some may ask too much of 28 Days Later, wanting it to be scientifically accurate in its handling of virology.  (To the latter, I say go watch Outbreak again.) Hopefully, however, there will be a large niche of moviegoers tired of dumb, recycled slasher flicks and hungry for something a cut above.  I found it in 28 Days Later, and with it I found a renewed faith in the future of horror.

642 Words Published: 21 November 2003

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