28 Days Later review by The Grim Ringler

This film doesn’t officially open in the U.S. until late June but I got a chance to see it before it opened and holy COW was I pleasantly surprised. Director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting), not a director known for churning out horror films, has created one of the most satisfying and creepy zombie films ever made, and with any luck, it is a sign that perhaps horror films are going to be taken more seriously in the near future.

Set twenty-eight days after a highly contagious virus is leaked into the public, Great Britain is brought to its knees. One man, not even certain what has happened and what is happening since he had been in the hospital at the time of the virus’ leak, finds himself alone in the middle of the city, and with no explanation as to what has happened to everyone. While scavenging for food Jim, our coma patient, stumbles upon a church filled with dead bodies, unable to reason out what is going on, Jim pleads with a priest at the church to help him but instead finds the holy man is mad and flees as the priest and several others give chase. Jim runs from his assailants but cannot outrun them and just as he is about to be overtaken two people in paramilitary gear kill the madmen pursuing him and then tell Jim to follow them to safety. Jim follows and the three of them hold up in a small convenience store as they wait for daylight and a chance to escape, filling Jim in on the news that the world has gone mad, that the virus, which can be spread by any secreted contact with the carrier (a nod to AIDS), and which turns the carrier, essentially into a rage filled zombie. Jim, unwilling to believe this demands the three seek out his parents so he can see how they are, but what he finds is that all hope may indeed be lost and, with a sudden zombie attack, there are now only two left of the three and Jim and Selena must find a way out of the city and to safety before it’s too late. Along the way they pick up a father and his daughter and the four of them decide to seek out a military instillation that is broadcasting that it has a rescue center near them. What they find instead of help though is a small ragtag military group more interested in Selena and the now orphaned fourteen-year-old Hannah. Now, with zombies and paramilitary to contend with, Jim must find a way to save Hannah and Selena before it’s too late for all of them.

Not at all the sort of zombie film we are used to, Boyle takes the well-worn genre and tweaks it in ways few have tried before. Making the virus an allegory for AIDS, the film takes on a deeper, darker undertone, helped by the fact that these zombies are ravening fiends you can’t easily outrun. These are rabid animals bent only on spreading the contagion. My guess is that the disease makes them made for blood and that spilling more of the same only sates the madness. Filled with a sense of dread throughout, Boyle never pulls any punches in the film, letting the movie play out naturally without feeling the need to inject humor or hope into a world stripped of both. The message too is something to ponder since as bad as the virus and its carriers are, it becomes readily apparent that the remaining humans pose more of a danger to themselves than even the zombies can.

And no, this film is not ground-breakingly original. There are many homages to past zombie films and some moments in the film will feel a bit like a re-tread. But Boyle, unlike many before him, never once tries to make his more than what it is, and that’s a very dark horror film. Yes, there is a subtext, and there are interesting social commentaries, but it is a zombie movie and it gleefully acts like one. The acting is very good as is the filming, though the DVD I saw was a bit dark, but heck, it was a bootleg, so that doesn’t mean a lot. The biggest knock I have is that Boyle was limited to filming with a film stock that doesn’t lend itself well to video geekdom, this stock does actually help the movie by giving it a grittier feel that makes everything really feel as if the world has ended to a degree. And having just read a quick ‘fan’ review, no, this isn’t a rip-off of Resident Evil. What it is is a re-invention of the zombie film, and god-bless Boyle for it.

While I am a horror fan, and am pretty forgiving as one, I do know a good horror film when I see it, and while 28 Days Later isn’t good, it is great. There are very few truly great zombie films, and of those, few that manage to have an interesting thing to say about Man, society, or what it is to survive, but this film has all three. Not perfect in any way, and not as original as any of us might hope (though by now it’s awful hard to manage a really original zombie movie), this truly is a horror film that deserves to find an audience and I urge you to see it when it makes its American debut. This is the stuff us horror fans get all drooly and sweaty for, and you should too.


9 out of 10 Jackasses
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