“28 Days Later”
Stars: Cillian Murphy, Naomi Harris, Christopher Eccleston, Megan Burns, and Brendan Gleeson
Writer: Alex Garland
Dir: Danny Boyle
So, here we are, at the one film, THE one film that really pinnacled the running/slow zombie debate. The film that made fanboys around the globe either jump up and down or crap themselves with the argument of “zombies don’t run!” or “running zombies rule!”
But, the one thing that all horror/zombie fans can agree on: this film kicks major ass on nearly every level.
And, knowing I am opening up myself to major criticism, the sequel also delivers on many, many levels and, in a handful of ways, surpasses the former.
So, let’s sink our teeth into this surprise.
“28 Days Later” is a film that should need no introduction; it’s director, also, should not demand an introduction, but, on the off chance you have never seen “Trainspotting” or “Slumdog Millionaire,” just know for sure that Danny Boyle received the greatest attention via this flick prior to his Oscar© win with “Slumdog.”
It’s a simple set-up and one that has been done several times before: A man wakes up in a hospital bed, completely alone, and tried to figure out where everyone went. What he later discovers is that the United Kingdom has been decimated by a plague, a rage virus that nearly instantly turns each infected person into a violent, fast-as-hell maniac with the only desire to rip apart or spread the virus by vomiting blood onto or biting a subject.
What I like about this film is that the “rage virus” begins the spread in the movie typical way: The virus is contained in a facility; a few hippies break in and try to free the experimental animals, having no clue what they are doing. And I have never, nor will I ever be, a fan of radical animal activists. So, I apologize in advance for smiling like a donkey when an infected monkey rips into one of the dumb ass activists and immediately makes the “activists” realize they just screwed up big-time.
Political statement aside, “28 Days Later” is a firm study in how mankind simply wants to survive and how, no matter the odds, mankind will find a way to do so.
Case in point: Our “coma” patient Jim awakens to find himself alone and immediately begins to search for humans.
And when he finds companions, Selena and Mark are not exactly what he was hoping to find. Selena and Mark have been surviving and battling the “infected” for nearly a month, and have figured out how the infection and the infected operate. And, while they may seem cutthroat to the audience, the audience quickly realizes survival is the only motivation they have.
Another case in point: Jim wants to visit his parents, and the three travel to his parents’ home, only to find they have committed suicide. With nightfall approaching, the trio agree to stay in the home. And the rage victims find them, moving at lightning speed, with frenetic camera-work and quick edits adding to the tension (according to IMDB.com, Boyle used a specific camera and filming technique to make the rage victims not only appear faster than human, but also to heighten the chaos; unfortunately, a lot of other lesser-talented filmmakers have warped the technique and ruined the frantic effect Boyle perfected and used for dramatic effect. Sad.). Anyways, the brutal attack takes place in Jim’s home, wherein he is hardly effective. And, in a moment which will forever live in my mind, Selena sees Mark has been injured. Before he can even explain the injury, Selena marches over and hacks him into pieces. No choice, no humanity; Brutality at its core.
Selena and the thankful Jim continue to travel Britain’s barren landscape and discover a father and daughter whom have somehow survived the infestation and join up with them, hoping to meet the source of a radio message that promises not only a cure but protection: an Army, fully-loaded and ready for whatever danger they face.
Parts of the message may or may not be true. If you are one of the few to have not seen this gem, I do not want to ruin the outcome. But, I will say this: the instinctual nature of mankind to figure out how to survive despite all odds is the key factor in this film. It makes it flow. It drives it. That is the story, zombies or rage victims be damned.
And here, this is the hardest part for me…
Romero Rules Followed: The “rage victims” fall to an unruly virus, die, and are reborn…They have the instinctive need to infect their prey; while they are not looking for food, they are searching for recruits, an instinctive need for any zombie.
Gore factor: Over the top, including a rather gore-less eye-gouging that will forever haunt my brain.
Zombies or Wannabees?: F*ck it. Boyle argued convincingly that each generation has it’s own version of a zombie, and this hyper, over-the-top running crazed-out version was the modern version. Reading all of his arguments, I have to give in: They are zombies.
Classic, fine, or waste of time: Absolute modern classic
Additional comments: I hope, really, really hope I take a lot of heat for this one. I have railed for a long time that if it ran, it wasn’t dead. A revisit to some of my favorites, including “The Return of the Living Dead,” helped change my tune. This film is a great introduction to the mythos, but I encourage those who loved this one to go back and review the classics. *Hint, some are here on this very blog…And if they are not, they will be. Andrew and I work moderately hard to put up new recommendations each week. You are more than welcome to ask us why, where, and when our true favorites will appear.
We have real plans for all of them.
“Do you think they saw us this time?”