28 Days Later…(2002)
A zombie movie without zombies, that’s how a lot of people view this film. Including the director, Danny Boyle, himself. However, using the older definition of a zombie as someone who has had their self-will removed, I happily class it as one of my favourite zombie movies. Just without undead zombies.
Things kick off with a bunch of animal rights activists freeing caged primates from a lab, not realising the chaos they are unleashing thanks to the animals being infected with pure rage. The infection is passed through blood and/or saliva and as soon as the cage doors are opened the devastating chain effect begins. 28 days later . . . . we cut to young Jim (played by Cillian Murphy) waking alone in a hospital and wondering where the hell everyone is. After his first run-in with the infected he meets two other survivors (played by Noah Huntley and Naomie Harris) and learns more about the grisly situation. Upon meeting two other survivors ( father and daughter, played by Brendan Gleeson and Megan Burns), Jim gains some optimism back and when everyone hears a recorded broadcast from a faraway military base they know where they have to head for. But once they reach their destination it turns out that things aren’t anywhere near as idyllic as they could have hoped . . . . and the proposed “cure” is radically different from the standard interpretation of the word.
Taking a range of influences (including “The Day Of The Triffids” and a number of Romero movies) and blending them masterfully, Danny Boyle once proves himself as one of the best modern UK directors around. There are a number of horrors on display here for genre fans to take in and consider: the standard “zombie” activity displayed by the infected, the reduction of human behaviour to pure survival instinct, the swift revert back to the “kill or be killed” ethos, the following of any established ordered pattern despite how ridiculous it becomes, etc.
The acting is all pretty top notch (added to the names above I must mention the small, but vital, role played by Christopher Eccleston) with Murphy, in particular, excelling in the lead role. His mix of naiveté, optimism, confusion and inevitable acceptance is wonderfully displayed in a performance both enjoyable and sympathetic.
The fact that it was shot in DV may put some people off but considering the shots needed for this vision of a ravaged UK and how the entire movie is styled I think it’s a) very suitable to the material and b) beneficial in providing something that looks different from every other horror movie and yet still maintains a professional sheen.
The script, by Alex Garland, gives everyone at least one decent scene or monologue and there are just as many horrors described to characters as there are bloody moments on screen, allowing your imagination to fill in some horrid blanks.
It’s a fantastic entry in a sub-genre it apparently doesn’t belong in. But, to me anyway, it does.
As for the DVD, it’s well worth seeking out the release that contained numerous special features if you’re a fan of such things. A great commentary from Alex Garland and Danny Boyle both entertains and informs. There are numerous deleted scenes with optional commentary. An alternate ending that’s not got too much different in it is included but if you get to the Special Features menu then go down, highlight the Main Menu and then hit right you will highlight an arrow. Hit enter to access the listed storyboarded “radical” alternate ending. A decent “making of…” gets contributions from most of the main players and there’s a music video and some galleries (also with commentary) to enjoy as well. A great package with some crossover material but not enough to spoil any individual feature.
DIRECTOR: DANNY BOYLE
CAST: CILLIAN MURPHY, NAOMIE HARRIS, CHRISTOPHER ECCLESTON, MEGAN BURNS, BRENDAN GLEESON
RUNTIME: 108 MINS APPROX