Neoli’s Review: Ask me to recommend a good zombie-themed horror film and I’ll recommend 28 Days Later in a heartbeat. Danny Boyle directed this film which we might expect to feature the same hip and cool vibe as his classic Trainspotting. And guess what Alex Garland wrote the script, the guy who gave us the equally hip and cool The Beach, so inevitably 28 Days Later is all that too. Actually, 28 Days Later is the film that made zombies hip again.
Then again, when you’re trying to survive a hopelessly anarchic, zombie-infested London, being hip and cool is the last thing on your mind. Nevertheless, Jim (played by Cillian Murphy—the always cheekbony-handsome Cillian Murphy!) and Selena (played by Naomie Harris, the strong female character, and black at that) make running away from zombies such a lovely enterprise. Together they’re joined by father-and-daughter team Frank and Hannah to balance the mix.
In 28 Days Later, the zombification process is given a plausible explanation: it’s from a virus (dubbed RAGE) originating from chimpanzees. One bite or intravenous contact with the infected blood and humans are immediately reduced to a zombie–not the usual zombie with a doddering gait and head lolled to one side but the raging maniac kind. I prefer the first kind of course since I figure they’re much easier to outrun. But the fact that the film settles for the quick-moving zombie variety gives it its fast and energetic pace.
In any case, I’ll have to say it was fun—and dare I say—enjoyable watching 28 Days Later. You don’t obsess much about the gore and the horror. You’re much too concerned with the running away and the fending off the zombies and the surviving. And ultimately you care about the bond Jim and his friends make along the way. You root for them and sincerely want them to win, and it breaks your heart when one of them doesn’t make it.
At some point it’s no longer about the dread of what the zombies can do to you. It’s also about the dread of what the other survivors—in this case, the military—are capable of doing for their own purposes.
The DVD copy of 28 Days Later reveals several alternate endings, but the ending where Jim survives his gunshot wound is the one they use. In this scene, there’s a brief, nanosecond inset of H-E-L spelled in big letters. It flashes too quickly for you to form any opinion, but nevertheless I remember thinking it’s “hell” being slowly and graphically spelled out for Jim as he lies on his deathbed. Eventually, he wakes up and goes out of the house and sees Selena and Hannah sewing a giant banner that says HELLO to anyone who cares to help.
It’s not a desperate HELP they wrote there. It’s a hopeful HELLO, and that makes all the difference.
Neoli’s Rating: 8/10
Directed by: Danny Boyle
Starring: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Christopher Eccleston, Brendan Gleeson, Megan Burns