What else summons terror like zombie horror? As zombies spread like the plague, humans typically cling to their instincts and hope for a fearless future. Each non-zombie then fights for his/her own safety and sleeps with one eye open. After all, a human killing possessed, undead, or (in this case) “infected” humans and vice versa is scary and suspenseful stuff.
Twenty-eight days after British animal rights activists unknowingly released an incurable Rage virus in the form of a medical research chimp, a bicycle courier named Jim (Cillian Murphy) awakens from a coma in an abandoned London hospital. Upon exiting the hospital, Jim discovers that the city appears to be a barren wasteland, void of human life and stricken with devastation.
When he meets Selena (Naomie Harris), Mark (Noah Huntley), Frank (Brendan Gleeson), and Hannah (Megan Burns), Jim learns about the virus and how it has morphed humans in London, Paris, and New York into blood-thirsty monsters, referred to as “the Infected.” With the odds stacked against them, the uninfected head toward a military encampment at Manchester to seek refuge. Those involved quickly discern that safety doesn’t necessarily lie in the company of others.
With 28 Days Later, director Danny Boyle bends genres and infuses his modern mode (previously displayed in 1996’s Trainspotting and 2000’s The Beach) into the world of zombie horror. In grabbing a DV (Canon XL1) camera, Boyle creates a gritty, washed-out look that fits the post-apocalyptic theme like a glove. In doing so, he also creates an appropriate balance from the final scene (at the cottage), which was filmed in standard 35mm.
In looking past the blood-borne biohazard signs and the red-eyed crazed zombies, 28 Days Later is about how the human psyche transforms when world’s end is near. The film depicts how humans become self-dependent, selfish, and even eager to kill if the situation calls for extreme measures.
For example, take notice how the soldiers treat the women. Focus on how hard each individual character strives for protection. Most importantly, pay heed to how Jim equates himself with “the Infected” at the film’s climax. The camera effects, music, and butchery match the style used in filming the zombies. Jim presents the symptoms of Rage, but is without the virus.
Stacked up against Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Planet Terror, I am Legend, any George C. Romero effort, and the like, 28 Days Later is by no means revolutionary. Nevertheless, Boyle’s work is blood-pumping enough to please any crowd and appropriately play in any man-cave near you.
While you’re at it, seek out its sequel, 28 Weeks Later and fast-forward 196 days after 28 Days Later. You won’t be disappointed.