What is the best way to describe 28 DAYS LATER? Well if you take the Armageddon-like feeling of Planet of the Apes (the original), mix it with the shaky camera shooting style of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, and add in a little B-Rated late 70’s horror flick seasoning, that’s what this movie is. I liked it a lot! Director Danny Boyle did an excellent job of making me care about these characters. Few horror or action flicks do this. Most of the time it’s just a lot of “POW”, “BOOM”, “CRASH”, and “SLASH”. Perhaps more studios should consider letting drama directors do horror films.
The plot of the movie is about as unoriginal as you can get. More half dead zombies that growl, bite, and walk like Quasamoto. I’ve seen NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, EVIL DEAD, WALKING DEAD and whatever “DEAD” movie you can think of. I’m not even a fan of these movies. I don’t see them in theaters nor do I rent them. When I do see one, It’s usually when I can’t sleep at two in the morning and there’s nothing good on Cable. So I flip to the regular networks (remember them?). If I don’t watch a forgotten 80’s celebrity babbling on for a whole hour trying to sell me something to tone up my abs, I might watch one of those good old low budget “Something of the Something DEAD” movies. So when I say that I actually like one. Take my word for it. It’s good.
The movie begins in a laboratory were wild, plague infected chimps are being set free by a group of environmental terrorist. The next scene takes place a month later (28 days to be exact). We see a young man in an empty hospital (played by Cillian Murphy) awaken from a coma only to find London totally deserted. Eventually he encounters these berserk zombie-like people that have yellow eyes, foam at the mouth, and vomit blood. While running for his life, he is rescued by a couple of seemingly normal humans named Serena and Mark (played by Naomie Harris and Noah Huntley). They begin there journey to find other living non-infected humans. Along the way they they meet a father and his teenage daughter (Megan Burns and Brendan Gleeson) who have the same goals as they do. That is to survive, avoid the infected, and find help. The small group travel from place to place searching for any form of life while fighting off the un-dead. Civilization becomes their “Holy Grail”.
So desperate to find anyone or anything that they can call normal. They make the mistake of letting their guard down and becoming over-trusting toward anybody who is non-infected. The zombies at this point become background as the the film carries us in a new direction were the true battle become people against people. Our main character Jim, is forced to take extreme measures to defend the lives of those he has grown to care for.
As I’ve stated, the plot is not original. As in most zombie film formulas, you start off with your major catastrophe that causes zombism. In this case a plague. Then you have your eclectic group of survivors, usually four to eight. In this case four. And as always, one emerges as the leader. So far all this sounds rather cliche, right? However what sets this film apart is it’s off-centered bazaar style. Unlike it’s counterparts, this film dwells more on human nature that it does on monsters. After I watched it, rather than being afraid to turn out the lights, I felt like engaging in a deep philosophical debate with someone. You know one of those “What’s the true nature of man” conversations. It really makes you wonder what type of creature we really are once the mask of civilization is stripped away. Looking back, I have to say that this movie really wasn’t about good against evil. The zombies were just victims of circumstance and the non-infected people fought over conflicting opinions on what it took to survive.
During this film, I was relieved to feel a rare absence of Hollywood. Perhaps the fact that this was a European film had something to do with that. But what I’m trying to say is that the film didn’t feel polished, which is a good thing. I felt raw. The actors didn’t look like models. They look like normal people who happened to survive an abnormal situation. This down-to-earth quality made it even more terrifying because it made you believe that “This could happen to you”. I kind of lose that feeling in a lot of American thrillers when the main character always has a chiseled jaw line, perfect haircut, and nineteen inch biceps. The people in this movie seem very vulnerable. This added to the suspense. Nobody seemed indispensable. So you felt like anyone could be taken out at anytime. Come to think of it, there really was no one leader. It seemed that each of the characters took the helm at different times during the movie .
I also have to give the special affects artist their props. Why? because in a lot the scenes I didn’t even know that there were special affects, and that’s when you know that they’ve don’t a good job. You would never think that the deserted, blighted, and destroyed images we see of London were really filmed in the middle of rush hour traffic.
If I have to find fault, it would be that the film dragged a bit it some areas. This was fine if you’re seeing it for the first time, because you don’t know what’s going to happen next. But if you’re watching it a second time, you might be tempted to fast forward on occasions to get to a more exciting part. I really like films that I can watch again and still never want to miss anything.
Without giving too much away, I have one more criticism. I felt that Cillian Murphy’s character Jim, who starts off as a mild mannered rather frail individual, becomes too Rambo-like towards the end. I didn’t need to see this. It seemed not fit in with the over-all non-heroic feel of the entire flick that I was enjoying. This is were I felt the film was a little guilty of crowd pleasing.
To sum things up, 28 Days Later is a very good movie that is worth adding to your DVD collection or at least renting.
Review by Alvin Pettit
When he’s not writing reviews for Film Fetish, Alvin is an accomplished painter, sculptor and illustrator. Check out some of his work at alvinpettit.com