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Movies: 28 Days Later

Curious as it may seem, some people, when in the mood for an "exciting movie," are more interested in those that involve shotguns instead of spelling bees. Here's a movie review for you for that crowd.

But first, an apology to M. My friend M. dislikes "scary movies," and will flat out refuse to see films like The Ring or Hannibal. But I somehow convinced her to accompany me to a showing of 28 Days Later. I did this by employing my preternatural ability to Not Know What The Hell I Am Talking About. "Oh no, it's not a scary movie," I reassured her, despite almost complete ignorance about the film's subject matter. "I think it's, like, an old fashion zombie flick, more of a shoot-em-up action movie than anything else. You'll like it."

Ah, no. 28 Days Later is, in fact, a Scary Movie, and a fairly good one at that. That's because it takes its cues not from Day Of The Dead (as I had assumed), but from Steven King's The Stand. As with King's novel, the story begins just as civilization ends, as a super virus rips through society leaving only a few survivors in its wake. Well, actually that's not true -- unlike The Stand's Superflu, the pathogen in 28 leaves plenty of survivors: the handful of those who never contracted the disease, and thousands of the afflicted who have been turned into mindless rageaholics (see "zombies," above). The former group tries to live through onslaughts on the latter and, well, there's your movie.

Plucky bands of humans beset by relentless hordes monsters, you say? Why isn't this a shoot-em-up action movie? Well, for one thing, it is set in London where stricter gun control laws have left people at the mercy of roving bands of savage automatons, just as the NRA has always predicted. Second, these guys are, like, the Marion Jones of zombies. No more fumbling around with the car keys while the zombies slowly lurch towards you -- here it's flight or fight -- and "fight" ain't lookin' so good.

But what really prevents 28 Days Laterfrom becoming Quake: The Movie is that, like The Stand, it doesn't assume that humans would become a unified front against a post-apocalypse menace. As in our current, pre-apocalyptic world (assuming your reading this before the upcoming North Korea debacle), the characters in 28 are motivated by different things -- survival, greed, lust, fear -- and not all of these motives are harmonized. Those who band together are not simply trying to get to the helipad or infiltrate the lab to find an antidote, they are struggling to come out on top in this Brave New world, and that takes them into conflict with their companions as often as it does the Infected.

28 Days Later is one of the better horror / psychological thrillers I've seen in the last few years -- certainly better than the aforementioned Ring. My only big complaint is the lousy film quality. Director Danny Boyle said he chose digital video to give the film a gritty feel -- and it does, admittedly. But a friend of mine, who saw 28 before me, summed it up best when he said, simply, "Whenever I see a movie in the theater that was shot on digital video, I feel ripped off." Nine bucks to see a movie that looks crummier than an episode of Everybody Love Raymond is kind of a drag, even if the film turns out to be unexpectedly enjoyable. In other words, 28 ain't going to lose much in the transition to DVD, so maybe you'll just want to wait and rent it. But if you do, here's a tip: don't watch it with anyone with a stated aversion to "scary movies," or you'll be in trouble afterwards.

Posted on July 15, 2003 to Movies





Comments

Tried to talk my friend K into seeing it with me. She was tipped off by the warning "Strong Violance and Gore". Damn you, MPAA!

Posted by: Ray on July 15, 2003 4:26 PM

The night after I saw 28 days by myself, I was chillin with my lady and a friend of ours. I was starting to explain the premise of the movie and why I'd enjoyed it so much, when with drunken rudeness J cut me off and changed the subject to something closer to the waitress. A subsequent attempt to discuss the movie met a similar fate. But we all agreed to go see it again the next evening.

We didn't hear much from J throughout the movie. Only as we left did he admit that he would have nightmare's for weeks and that he never goes to see "scary" movies - EVER.

;-) I tried to tell him................

Posted by: Kram Suibom on July 15, 2003 5:55 PM

So, Sandra Bullock is at drug rehab, and somehow everyone is turned into zombies? What?

Posted by: Hildago on July 15, 2003 6:44 PM

i thought it took its cues from reign of fire :D but anyway boyle is back!

Posted by: Anonymous on July 15, 2003 8:00 PM

So, what did M. think of the film? You gave us the setup but not the payoff!

Posted by: J.D. on July 15, 2003 10:16 PM

i thought it was more of a tip off to "day of the triffids" than any of the zombie films, i loved the blood idea

for me it was sadder than scarey tho.. the last moments of that one character (no spoilers here) makes me cry just thinking of it..

Posted by: kactus on July 15, 2003 10:45 PM

Yeah, digital video is shit. It amazes me that anyone can claim otherwise. But, as the movie progressed, it seemed to become more and more appropriate for it to look shitty. This general shittiness still bothered me though, mostly whenever that one chick was on the screen. Was it just me or was she totally hot?? No way she's actually 15. I hope. Please.

Posted by: K on July 16, 2003 12:16 AM

Haven't seen it, but from all descriptions so far, it sounds like Resident Evil 2: People Don't Work Together This Time.

Posted by: John on July 16, 2003 6:30 AM

Yes! Yes! Return of the Jedi was the best one! Finally! Someone who agrees with me! In your face Empire Strikes Back!!!

What? 28 Days? Um.... haven't seen it. Maybe if there was a pirate skeleton army....

Posted by: Stephanie on July 16, 2003 7:02 AM

Now you know the REAL reason I'm an NRA member. It isn't the 2nd Amendment stuff, it's to protect me from the zombie hordes!

Posted by: Duane on July 16, 2003 7:50 AM

The praise this film is getting is only a reminder of how low the bar is for a scary film. Much like the lovefest for the yawn-tastic Signs, critics seem to be fawning over any slightly edgy film that isn't hugely moronic.

28 Days started off with promise and flair, and then squandered it with one absurdity piled on another.

And since I want to be spoiler free with my venting, I'll shut up now.

Posted by: Mr. Nosuch on July 16, 2003 7:50 AM

I liked it. You could see my city burning on the horizon. Lool, mum, I can see our house from here. Mum...what's wrong with your eyes...mum...? Yeargh!!!

Dis

Posted by: Dismas on July 16, 2003 8:56 AM

Strong violence and Gore? Al Gore?

My God, that's *scary*.

Posted by: Vidiot on July 16, 2003 9:28 AM

Much like the lovefest for the yawn-tastic Signs

Hm. I don't remember a lovefest for Signs. In fact, the tomatometer shows a not-so-hot 78% favorable rating (compared with 28 Days Later's 87%.

Posted by: J.D. on July 16, 2003 10:01 AM

Isn't every movie featuring Sandra Bullock a horror movie by definition? Now I'm very confused...

Posted by: Stacey on July 16, 2003 10:25 AM

I saw this. I didn't think it was all that scary but I did enjoy it. I actually thought some of the visuals were pretty good.

There was a scene right after they left London where they were driving through the country side and all the flowers looked like impressionist oil paintings of flowers. I liked that bit.

My biggest complaint was with the sound. The "scary" parts all seemed to consist of cranking the volume up. Ouch. It was hurting my ears.

There were a few logic problems, but what horror movie doesn't have those? Why didn't the original 3 people grab a car right away? How could a virus propagate so fast it could overwhelm your senses in 20 seconds? Why didn't those angry zombie people attack each other? How could the zombie people live 28 days if they weren't feeding themselves?

But I enjoyed myself, that's all that counts.

Posted by: YetAnotherMike on July 16, 2003 12:56 PM

REPENT—THE END IS EXTREMELY FUCKING NIGH

Posted by: brittney on July 16, 2003 1:10 PM

I went to see this film with my fiance L. I thought it was one of the best made movies I've seen in awhile, by that i mean that it had an actual story that was interesting and not just eye candy and no substance like other "blockbuster" movies that have come out this summer. I found it very enjoyable and reminiscent of the video game resident evil and not its movie counterpart.
My fiance L has no wishes to see this movie again.

Posted by: S.D. on July 16, 2003 6:17 PM

Why must a movie be shot to fit a certain Hollywood standard? I've read complaints of 28 Days being shot on digital video. Why does it have to have a certain lighting scheme? Certain color quality? I thought on the whole all the shots were really artisitic, and not in that "Oo, everything that's different and artsy and indie is pure genius" but some of the stuff was really cool and not Hollywood and not "normal" and I thought that was the most interesting part. I don't think things should be written off as shit because it's not what fits the normal standard. Plus you got to see a man's frontal nakedness instead of a woman's. And he was hot. Fantastic.

Posted by: Initial K? on July 17, 2003 2:29 PM

i have to admit people have been rather spoiled by that hollywood standard of film , digital video to be honest once and a while i appreciate not seeing a movie with jerry Bucklehieny crisp quality, i consider the ability to do a movie without a 1000000000$ budget to be a good thing, if we only had blockbusters (which in my opinion arent worth the money spent on them) then the film world would be rather dull.. i am so sick of hollywood being the standard to which 99% of the world compares film too.. if all you go to a movie to see if the quality of the film stock perhaps give it up and read a book instead..

Posted by: kactus on July 17, 2003 4:08 PM

eep i should have said I agree with Initial K, her's was much better written than mine ...

Posted by: kactus on July 17, 2003 4:10 PM

I haven't seen it, but after hearing all the rave, I just may be convinced to. That digital video thing however, does turn me off a bit. Raw film qualiy is one thing, but doesn't everybody always expect a film to look vivid on the big screen? ... At least digital is not as bad as 8mm blair witch quaility... now that is a way to feel ripped off at the movies.

Posted by: Meghan on July 18, 2003 9:36 PM

I haven't seen it, but after hearing all the rave, I just may be convinced to. That digital video thing however, does turn me off a bit. Raw film qualiy is one thing, but doesn't everybody always expect a film to look vivid on the big screen? ... At least digital is not as bad as 8mm blair witch quaility... now that is a way to feel ripped off at the movies.

Posted by: Meghan on July 18, 2003 9:36 PM

Oh, man, Roger Ebert is totally ripping on you this week:

The film's style is precisely suited to its subject. Critics who disliked the cinematography perhaps have a narrow taste for elegant, polished and "beautiful" photography, but you are correct that Mantle's opening scenes are even more effective because he has the hero wandering in the frame, instead of the frame following the hero.

Posted by: Eric on July 27, 2003 8:17 AM

i liked the movie but i wanted the lead character to get killed because he was so stupid twice he left behind automatic rifles he could have easily taken with him and then he leaves another one bayonetted into a villen . one should at least consider that in a situation concerning flesh eating zombies and a lunatic fringe mitilia all looking to do you in, you bending down to pick up an automatic rifle could very well be worth the strenous effort

Posted by: mike on February 2, 2004 2:17 PM

i liked the movie but i wanted the lead character to get killed because he was so stupid twice he left behind automatic rifles he could have easily taken with him and then he leaves another one bayonetted into a villen . one should at least consider that in a situation concerning flesh eating zombies and a lunatic fringe mitilia all looking to do you in, you bending down to pick up an automatic rifle could very well be worth the strenous effort

Posted by: mike on February 2, 2004 2:17 PM