11 Things About 28 Days Later

  1. The digital video really captures the harshness of the lights on living surfaces like the test animals. Jim, a Londoner, gets out of bed in what was a nod to DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS but is now as much a requirement of zombie flicks as head wounds and lesbian sex scenes (with ray guns). Jim awakens from an accident-induced coma and finds London deserted.  The monkey virus has run rampant, and has transformed the bulk of the population into quick-moving zombies.  I’m not getting into the zombie vs. infected thing.  The quick-moving zombie is another dumb debate I won’t be joining.  From Jim’s awakening through the encounter with the priest are, like the lab opening, expertly shot—the sunlight, the empty streets, the church, all help to draw us into this abandoned world.  The photography makes everything look both blurry and sharp at the same time.th (1)
  2. That people were angry that ‘good’ terrorists were the cause of the disease just shows how hypocritical we all are—the same folks have no problem when trained professional military soldiers are shown to be boobs and dolts. I guess PETA types are perfect, which is why they hang with animals instead of getting laid. But what I liked about the opening besides causing hair to ripple is the way the whole operation goes to shit in part because the animal liberation sorts think their love for all things animal protects them.  No; your religion or your belief system will not save you when The Shit Goes Down; this needs to be told to those with the Correct Beliefs today just as it did to those with the Correct Beliefs back in the fifties or sixties.  Progressives get just as cranky over being told this than the most conservative Guns ‘n’ Religion sorts.
  3. Why can’t the infected come out in daylight? Because then they’d just keep attacking and eating and Jim would’ve been swarmed before he could steal his first Pepsi, The End.th
  4. Selena gives Jim the rundown in a monologue that could be pulled from a fifties big bug movie, which is a lot for her to carry—Jim seems like a guy we could know, Selena a cliché. When she kills her infected friend instantly we’re shocked, but her reaction is unconvincing in its coldness.  She’s been killing people for less than a month, not for twenty years.
  5. They escape the city, leading to the movies spookiest scene, when their car gets a flat, and its stupidest contrivance—why drive so recklessly in such a situation? They have to change the tire while the infected chase them.  The imagery is terrific here, with shadows and backlit infected running through the tunnel and finally giving up.  Still, it feels like it was time for an action scene, so they put one in.
  6. 28 DAYS LATER is a quasi-remake of both DAWN and DAY OF THE DEAD. Instead of a mall, there’s a city; instead of an underground bunker, there’s a mansion filled with soldiers.  Jim and Selena meet the dad and the kid who’ve survived up in their apartment.  It strikes me as unbelievable that only two people are alive in London, but someone was channeling J.G. Ballard.  Sorry, just got woozy thinking about the lost opportunity of a zombie flick written by J.G. Ballard.  They listen to a recorded message telling any survivors to leave the city and meet up with the military (duh-duh-duh), so The Plot Kicks In.  The movie could have gone in many different directions at this point, but the movie makers chose to head into George Romero territory: Who’s Worse, The “Monsters” Or Society’s “Authority Figures”?  Here’s where the movie reveals its hidden reality: It is a compressed remix of DAWN and DAY OF THE DEAD.  We get the Consumer Fantasy scene, not in a mall but a market.  And, of course, we get…The Military Guys… 34794_medium
  7. John Murphy’s score is well done, with guest appearances by Brian Eno and “J.S. Bach,” whoever that is.  While he incorporates drum machines and electric guitar, Murphy’s music for the quieter scenes is sublime, creating a real feeling of dread.  Not a score that struts its stuff except in the louder drum-and-guitar moments which I don’t much care for, but throughout it does the job; in the quieter scenes more than that.The Eno piece is imported for the scene with the horses. Every End of the World flick is required by law to include a scene in which our characters marvel at nature going on without humans and how great it is that millions are dead because horses can now run around without fear of spurs and being cuddled by teenaged girls.4863484
  8. Frank’s death is very dumb. A guy so resourceful would not go near a bloody corpse with a bird messing around on it.  He must be killed, traumatizing his already no-doubt messed-up kid for life, but you can’t worry about such things in these new realities, stiff upper etc. There is the suggestion of romance between the two leads—gee, didn’t see THAT one coming—and the father performs his required role as The Decent Middle Aged Man common to so many science fiction films, maintaining his middle-class values by disapproving of drug use even after the world has been overrun by monsters.th (3)
  9. That weird liberal Puritanism makes its appearance soon after the opening. (“The libs’ll lose their knickers if ‘n’ we don’t piss on the pope a little!”  No idea what kind of accent I was going for there.)  Jim reads a postcard with a Biblical quote about a city bringing destruction on itself for its corruption.  Progressive movie makers love them that 50’s morality of mankind daring to meddle with science and thus deserving destruction.th (2)
  10. The movie’s pacing slams to a halt when Christopher Eccleston stands in front of the Union Jack-decorated mansion, with soldiers acting like buffoons, though there are still interesting images and action. It just seems so unoriginal and pre-ordained here.  The best parts of the movie to this point were original moments like the tunnel sequence and the horses, the shot of Manchester burning like a forest because there are no fire fighters to put the fires out, so this retreat to Romeroland is a letdown.  Am I making my point with enough subtlety?  We get “satire” like a soldier in a frilly apron—an indignity they’d never foist on the lead actress—and having one of the infected chained up ala the zombie in Day of the Dead…a BLACK zombie.  GET IT???  Jim and Selena are the smart ones, while the men trained in military matters are complete dolts.  The movie goes off the rails when the military men show up, and it never achieves the level of drama it had reached to that point.  Horror movies have always been at the guys with guns who movie makers will run to for protection when the zombies finally come for us; more specifically, Romero has ownership of the “Who’s worse, the monsters…or the HUMAN monsters?!” cliché.  Here we get the glowering dude who says “I promised them women” and forces our female characters into hideous dresses.  What kind of guys dig women dressed up like they’re going to high tea?  (Brits, of course.)  It wouldn’t have bugged me at all if it had been a house full of gun nuts who’d established their own safe location.  It turned instantly into a good guys vs. bad guys (the military) deal–I mean, the way they were presented, who the hell in the audience is going to side with the military gang?  If it were a place of desperate folks who understandably holed up in the house but THEN slowly went nuts and performed the exact same actions I’d have loved it because it would indicate a larger madness happening all over the world where ordinary people were driven to this kind of behavior.  The climax would have been lots more horrifying because it would show that this is where the world was heading–they could hole up and fight with their guns but it would ultimately lead to our destruction.  The climactic attack by the infected HELPS the heroes—instead of increasing the fear of the infected, it turns them in to allies: “Ah good, kill all those evil military men, they’re not like US.”download (1)
  11. The last two points feed into this observation: 28 DAYS LATER is a curiously regressive movie. The foolish scientists tampering in Things They Should Not is very fifties; the PETA Earth Firsters being just dumb kids is very sixties (pre-Easy Rider), and the ending has everything return to where it was before, also very fifties SF.  The DVD includes two alternate endings, one only on storyboards; both would have worked because they jumped off these old attitudes into the unexpectedly downbeat, in the way that SEVEN took a buddy cop frame and exploded it in the last minutes.  I like that these characters survive and all but it feels unearned—how much more of a HORROR movie would it have been if everyone, good, bad and indifferent died in the mansion attack?  In the end  28 DAYS LATER is about nothing more than another tract about the machinations of Evil Government Labs end up fucking over the average guy, while the evil military folks are useless without some civilian brains and compassion behind them.  As much as I like the movie—and I know it seems like I don’t because I’m fixated on its problems—it could have played out its beliefs as expressed in the lab, the hospital, “domestic” and military sequences: Everything has failed.  We’re back in Romero territory—not the Romero of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD but DAWN and DAY, where the Good Ones survive.  After trying to show that society has failed, in the end, we hit the reset button, symbolized by…the military being back in control, and it’s a Good Thing.download