28 Days Later.

Planning is pointless. Staying alive is as good as it gets.

28 Days Later

A powerful virus is unleashed on the British public following a raid on a primate research facility by animal rights activists. Transmitted in a drop of blood and devastating within seconds, the virus locks those infected into a permanent state of murderous rage. Within 28 days the country is overwhelmed and a handful of survivors begin their attempts to salvage a future, little realizing that the deadly virus is not the only thing that threatens them.

-Official Press Pack

28 Days Later is the 2002 film from Danny Boyle – the man who brought us Trainspotting and The Beach – which has been hailed as,

 

“The most frightening film since The Exorcist

-Entertainment Weekly

Firstly, despite the posters and DVD box arts claims, 28 Days Later is not a zombie horror movie. Yes, it has infected people who act a lot like zombies (similar to those of the video game Resident Evil 4) however this is not a zombie movie. If you want a film of lots of people running around beating the shit out of the undead all the while causing you to jump out of your seat and generally feel sick to your stomach, go rent the remakes of the George A. Romero films (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, etc.). If however you want an interesting film that takes the idea of actual people becoming infected and how one would cope then 28 Days Later is for you.Unlike most zombie flicks, there is a considerable amount of “down time”, that is to say, until the last half hour of the film, there is very little zombie-ass-kicking action. There is also very little on-screen gore (until the very end of the film) with most of it being implied by the clever use of editing and camera angles. While this may not appeal to gore-hounds, it makes for a very interesting film.

What I personally loved about 28 Days Later is that it feels very realistic. It contains elements of documentary, which gives a real feeling that this whole situation is really happening. While there are still numerous horror movie conventions used (quick cuts, Dutch angles, under cranked film, etc.) the film still manages to feel almost documentary like thanks to the sheer control the director has. Another element is that for the most part, you see very little of the “zombies”. They tend to be in silhouette, and when you do see them, although covered with blood, they look more “infected” than undead.

Another element that contributes to the realistic feeling of the film is the writing. It is not easy to take a relatively far-fetched concept and make it feel as though it could actually happen. However Alex Garland manages to do so with relative ease. This is mostly to do with the avoidance of horror film clichés. There aren’t any pithy comments after a zombie has his face kicked in. There isn’t any “I’ll be right back” and then the character gets his face eaten. Garland uses realistic dialogue – natural dialogue – to make it feel as though this is truly happening.

As for the actual technique of the film, it is extremely well crafted. Boyle uses lighting extremely well to set the tone of the film. The editing in particular is noteworthy for the fact that while it does occasionally use the horror conventions of quick cuts, it tends to be used to mask the violence of the film – allowing the audience to imagine most of the horror in their own heads. The cinematography is wonderful as well – once again, using horror conventions yet still managing to feel almost documentary like. The sound design of the film is very interesting. The music fits the tone of the film brilliantly and really underscores the film nicely without sounding too much like your average horror score. The sound effects are interesting in that much like in the way the violence was edited, the sound of the violence feels much more real. There aren’t the regular thuds, crunches, squirts, and splashes you expect from a horror film. For the most part the violent sound effects are played at a fairly low level and sound much more realistic than those of films like House of Wax.

For the most part 28 Days Later is an excellent film, however the film does have a few flaws that should be pointed out. While for the most part the lighting does an excellent job of setting the mood there are some scenes that are far too dark to be able to tell what is going on. While this perhaps was the director’s intention, it comes off as being just plain annoying. Another rather large flaw with the film is that the middle section tends to drag slightly. While for the most part the length of the film is good – the audience may start to become slightly restless in the middle section where it seems like not much is happening. The film would do well to have about 10 minutes trimmed out of it just to make it flow nicer during the middle. However at the core of it – this all points to the one major flaw of this film. It is not a zombie horror movie. I don’t mean that because its not a zombie horror movie that it’s flawed, what I mean is that because it is marketed as a zombie horror movie (one only needs to look at the DVD box art to see what I mean), and the audience comes in expecting one thing but gets something completely different. I came in thinking I was going to get something similar to the classic Romero films and instead got a film that for the most part spends more time talking than kicking in zombie heads. Once I got over this fact, and understood what it was that I was watching, I stopped worrying about it and enjoyed the film. However the average viewer may not understand this and come away feeling jilted (of course, you are not the average viewer). Once again – the flaw is not that its a realistic and smart “zombie film” but that it goes to great lengths to make one believe that it is something it’s not – when what it really is isn’t something to be ashamed of.

However despite all this, 28 Days Later is a very enjoyable film. While not as exciting as most zombie films, it becomes much more haunting due to the realism and makes you start to think, “What if this really happened”. This is not the kind of movie you just sit and watch and then move on once the closing credits roll. It will stick with you a little bit. You won’t be sitting there with your mouth open squirming at the violence – you will actually think about what your seeing on screen, how you would react in that situation and ask yourself the same questions that the characters in the film ask themselves. You will start to wonder who really are the lucky ones: the dead, or the surviving? You may not be on the edge of your seat, but you will certainly feel uneasy as the film goes on and be relieved once the whole ordeal is over.

ACTING: 8
PLOT: 8
DIALOGUE: 8
EDITING: 9
CINEMATOGRAPHY: 9
DESIGN: 8
SOUND: 8
LENGTH: 7

EXCITEMENT LEVEL: 7
BOREDOM LEVEL: 5
ARTSY LEVEL: 3
CGI LEVEL: 0 (If there was some, you did a damn good job of hiding it!)

OVERALL: 7.5

Related Links:

Official Site
28 Days Later at the IMDB.
28 Days Later at Wikipedia

Advertisements

About this entry