28 Days Later
Only two films scared me when I was a wee lad, Salem's Lot and Evil Dead. Later other films have creeped me out such as The Exorcist and the terrifying Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: the Secret of the Ooze. 28 Days Later is not necessarily the scariest film ever, but it is guaranteed to make the audience jump more than once.
The film opens with an animal testing lab, freshly broken into by activists’ intent on freeing the laboratory animals. During the raid, a scientist warns that some of the creatures have been infected with a killer virus called RAGE. Naturally, being activists, they chose not to heed the warning and before anyone realises what’s happening, the virus is loose and spreading like wild fire.
Cut to 28 days later, a young man called Jim (Cillian Murphy) awakes in hospital bed after recovering from a car accident. He walks around the hospital not seeing a soul, just a mess; it's as if everyone in London had left in a hurry. Jim wanders around Piccadilly and still meets no one; also there is no electricity and newspapers are strewn across the ground with the headlines screaming “EVACUATION”.
Jim finally manages to find some people in a church, but it turns out that what he thought were people were in fact zombies and Jim, even in his confused state, does the most sensible thing – start running.
As luck would have it, he gets rescued by a couple of zombie hunters, one of whom, Selena (Naomie Harris) explains the events of the last few weeks to Jim. It turns out that the virus RAGE is so powerful that if someone was to be bitten or even if one drop of blood enters the body stream, the victim has about twenty seconds before full transformation takes.
During their travels over, under and around London they stumble across father-and-daughter duo Frank (Brendan Gleeson) and Hannah (Megan Burns) who spend their time holed up in their flat.
After they hear a radio communicant promising answers to infection and a safe haven from attackers, the foursome decide that they must head there. Unfortunately the message came from Manchester, so begins the arduous journey to the promised salvation.
When they finally make it, they discover that a small band of soldiers led by a wild-eyed Major West (Christopher Eccleston) has created a final standing post against the hordes roaming the countryside. The desperation of the soldiers has driven them to dealing with the horrors in unusual ways and the travellers have to decide whether they are better off under their protection or if the odds favour them alone.
28 Days Later is visually stunning, especially in the early parts while Jim wanders the streets of a deserted London, which was deserted for filming, no CGI trickery involved. Even seeing a black cab, the vehicle of choice for the trip to Manchester, driving along a completely deserted motorway is strangely mesmerising.
Performances are good, with Cillian Murphy leading and Brendan Gleeson being dependable as ever. With such few lead actors in the film, being able to bring such realism to their characters is essential.
Director Danny Boyle redeems himself after the lacklustre Beach and with writer Alex Garland, has managed to bring his game back on track. With the onus on a carefully balanced act of excessiveness and calmness, they manage to keep the horror going well. Boyle knew that if he went overboard with long zombie shots or flourishes then the audience would get used to it and become bored. As a result quick attacks with the intention of making the audience jump works very well for him (and us). The zombies never come at regular intervals, but burst out with brief savagery, making the impact much more frightening. While on the subject of zombies; they are filmed in dizzying, violent shots, whilst spewing blood and flailing around, making them much more effective than other films such as the dire pasty faced cheese heads found in Resident Evil for example.
28 Days Later is violent, fresh and has a great impact. The ending is weaker than the start, but by the time it comes round the scares and great scenes from the first half carry it though without too much trouble. Thankfully this is one horror film of late that doesn’t have a bunch of annoying pretty American teens trying to pathetically run away from whatever incarnation of Freddy Kruger/Michael Myers or Scream Masked killer is lurking around the corner.
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