15 Things About 28 DAYS LATER

  1. The digital video really captures the harshness of the lights on skin of people and the test animals. … the encounter with the priest and the lab opening are effective in large part bcuz everything looks both blurry and sharp at the same time.

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    Well, yes, I DID post about this just the other day, but figured why not just post the whole thing today? You’re welcome.
  2. Animal rescuers are the cause of the outbreak. Folks who have no problem with portraying trained soldiers as idiots and rapists were upset because PETA types are shown as well-meaning idiots. This is a tip-off to how some people view movies as propaganda; for all their claims that showing military as bad people is just about dramatic convenience, folks know the value of propaganda in entertainment. Here the rescuers are shown to be people who think their love for animals protects them. Not so, the movie is saying; your religion or your belief system will not save you when The Shit Goes Down. The folks who love it when the military and the church are shown to be useless against the outbreak don’t like it as much when THEIR particular pet group is included, which shows they miss the point, or ignore it as any Bible-thumper would. The message needs repeating 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 as cranky over being told their beliefs aren’t impenetrable shields as the most conservative Guns ‘n’ Religion sorts. I know I’ve gone on about this at length but this is the rare movie with Progressive politics that has the courage to not play favorites. (Don’t worry, guys, religion and the military’ll get theirs.)

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    No time for love, Dr. Jones.
  3. Why can’t the infected come out during the daytime? Because then they’d just keep attacking and eating and Jim would’ve been swarmed before he could steal his first Pepsi, The End.
  4. Selena gives Jim the rundown in a monologue that could be pulled from a fifties big bug movie. 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. Selena is well-played, but the character is as much of a cliché as Rambo, who at least was a result of being trained and indoctrinated into killing.

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    Some people just have a knack for that sorta thing.
  5. The scene in which the car gets a flat while the group escapes the city is spooky, and it’s also hokey. Why drive so recklessly in such a situation? Answer: We need to see an example of our character’s hubris, for which he will pay. They have to change the tire while the infected use jump-cuts to approach. As someone who’s had to change more than his fair share of flat tires I found this unbelievable due to the cutting, which hypes up the situation in a way that pushed me out. Imagine if they stayed on them changing the tire, so we HEAR the infected coming, but only see their shadows in the occasional wider shot showing the flat being removed, or the new tire being put on. Or imagine if they didn’t have a flat. The shadows and backlit infected running through the tunnel are well-done, but the editing makes it all feel too gimmicky instead of dramatic, like someone said it was time for an action scene, so they squeezed one in.
  6. 28 DAYS LATER is a quasi-remake of the original Romero DAWN and DAY OF THE DEAD. This is no great revelation but I’m mentioning it because it shows just how influential Romero’s trilogy was and still is; he really created the archetypical situations for the zombie-seige genre. Instead of a mall, there’s an apartment block; instead of an underground bunker with civilians and soldiers, the civilians end up in a mansion filled with soldiers.  After a first half that’s about surviving a zombie apocalypse, the movie shifts into not so much George Romero territory but Critics Who Idolize Romero’s Supposed Message territory: Who’s Worse, The “Monsters” Or Society’s “Authority Figures”?  Also like Romero is the Consumer Fantasy scene, not in a mall but a market.  And, of course, we get…The Evil Military Guys…

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    I’m done whining about the military angle, so chill.
  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 effectively evokes the desolation.  The quieter piece for Jim’s encounter in a church creates 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 it does more than that.
  8. 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. Horses can now run around without fear of spurs or being cuddled by teenaged girls.
  9. Frank’s death is very dumb. A guy so resourceful would not go near a bloody corpse with a bird messing around on it. But we need to keep zapping the audience after Jim’s Dawn of the Dead-like encounter with a kid in the store.

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    One sequel I won’t be commenting on. Poltergeist 3-level bad.
  10. Certain character tropes will never die. 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.

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    I promise I’m done with spending 2-3 days on one movie.
  11. That weird liberal Puritanism makes its appearance soon after the opening. (“Blimey, 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 making reference to 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.
  12. The movie’s pacing slams to a halt when Christopher Eccleston stands in front of the Union Jack-decorated mansion. The tunnel sequence and the horses running free and the shot of Manchester burning like a forest because there are no fire fighters are all potent and different, whatever their thematic points, so this final 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???  Our female characters are forced to wear hideous dresses.  What kind of guys dig women dressed up like they’re going to high tea?  OK, BESIDES Brits? I kid!

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    “Told ya he can’t let the military thing go.”
  13. 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? What if our heroes were grabbed by people whose motivation came from fear, like we in the audience would experience in such a situation? Desperate folks who understandably holed up in the house but THEN slowly went nuts and performed the exact same actions would indicate a larger madness happening all over the infected world where ordinary people were driven to this kind of behavior.

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    Leave the social commentary to Romero. Or not.
  14. 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.  What happens here is 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.”

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    He’s really attached to that little bag.
  15. 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 seemed to follow it for nearly two hours only to nuke  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?  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 harsh Romero of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, but the Romero of 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 isn’t that a Good Thing?

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    The alternate ending, which I liked, but might have hated in the theater. Dilemma. 
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