I will admit to becoming an instant fan-boy of director Danny Boyle after just one viewing of Shallow Grave (1994) and became a devout follower after watching (three times) Trainspotting (1996). So when I saw a trailer for 28 Days Later… I could not wait to see the film. I knew Boyle would do a brilliant job in the Horror genre. The baby scene in Trainspotting so freaked me out that even after watching it three times, I had to cover my eyes half-way through. Unfortunately, I had to wait.
I had to because I worked nights, delivering newspapers. Six nights a week. So on my only day off, rather than see films at the cinema, I slept. All day. So I had to wait for the video/DVD to come out and rent it. Even on the ‘small’ screen the film delivered. So much so that I bought the special edition DVD the minute it came on the market.
Boyle has taken the Zombie genre and shifted it slightly to the left. Because the zombies in 28 days Later…are not. They are mindless, they are going to eat you if they catch you, but, they are not dead.
28 Days later opens with multiple scenes of crowd violence and rioting in numerous countries. The camera moves back from the violence and we see a wall full of monitors all showing different forms of crowd violence. Strapped to a table in front of the monitors is a chimpanzee. The chimp has electrodes attached to it’s head. Three Animal Rights Activists break into the animal testing centre where chimpanzees are undergoing, what appears to be horrific tests. The activists are there to record for posterity the abuse the animals are receiving and to let the poor things go free. A lab technician tries to stop the activists explaining that they are all infected and highly contagious. The technician explains that all the chimps have been injected with an inhibitor called Rage. He also explains that it can be spread through saliva and blood. The activist’s ignore his warning, and threaten him. The first poor creature they let loose immediately attacks them. The activists are infected instantly.
28 days later bicycle courier Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up in a hospital bed. He gets up and finds the hospital deserted. Leaving the hospital, he finds all of London is deserted.
So begins the film. 28 Days Later boasts a small cast. For a lot of the film we follow Jim, Selena (Naomie Harris), Frank (Brendan Gleeson) and Megan (Megan Burns) as they flee London and head for an Army safe haven they have heard about on the radio. Constantly on the look out for infected people and ready to run at a moments notice. It seems that Rage was very contagious, with most of the population either suffering from it or getting killed from the infected. While the four are travelling cross country we bond with them just as they bond with each other. When they reach what looks like their destination, it appears deserted. The Army vehicles are empty, the outposts are deserted and civilian vehicles litter the motorway. Frank makes everyone stay put and he starts searching for people who are not infected.
He walks up to a pylon where a crow is pecking at a dead soldier. A drop of blood falls from the infected body and hits Frank in the eye. The change is immediate. He has gotten the Rage virus. As he moves to attack the remaining three people in his party, an shot rings out. The cavalry arrives in the form of a small rag-tag group of soldiers. They are lead by Major Henry West (Christopher Eccleston) who after dispatching Frank gives the survivors a lift to where the rest of the soldiers are bivouacked.
The small group of Army men are using a deserted mansion that the soldiers have fortified against the infected. When the small group arrive at the mansion the Major takes them on a tour of the house. They all begin to feel uneasy when, as part of the tour, the Major shows them one of his men who has been infected. They have chained him up behind the house for “observation.” This “observation” seems to be the soldiers taunting their infected mate and beating him when he comes near. The uneasiness that the three feel is for a good reason. Unfortunately The soldiers have not saved all three of the group at all. It is revealed that the only way the Major West could get the soldiers to stay was to promise them women. Jim is taken out to be executed and Selena and Hannah, who is only about thirteen, are taken upstairs to get ‘presentable’ as a prelude to gang rape.
Jim escapes his executioners and makes his way back to the mansion. Once there he lets the infected soldier loose. While the infected is rushing through the mansion to kill his former colleagues, Jim goes to rescue the two girls.
This film was an adrenaline pumping, heart stopping film. The music in the film helped to set the mood. Especially the use of In the House, In the Heart which has been used at least twice more in other films. The music makes us the audience feel sad, lost and, as I’ve said in another blog, slightly melancholy. The film was very low budget, but it doesn’t feel like a low budget feature. The actors all give brilliant performances and really help to sell the story.
If you were to make a list of Films that just have to be seen, 28 Days later …would be at the top of the list.