Horror movies, by and large, are bogged down beneath the weight of their conventions. In order to break new ground, the conventions themselves must occasionally be broken, and one film has done that to great effect. In 2002, a film shattered the traditional idea of the slow-moving flesh-hungry zombie by totally flipping the script and having their murderous pseudo-dead move with the speed of sprinters on meth, as well as having the stamina of a Kenyan marathoner. This film is Danny Boyle’s ode to apocalyptic zombie epics, 28 DAYS LATER.
Regardless of whether or not you think the infected in the movie are zombies or some other sort of monster, the argument can be made that no film made within the last 20 years has so influenced zombie filmmaking. Just look at the 2004 version of DAWN OF THE DEAD and try and tell me you don’t see tons of Boyle’s influence on Zach Snyder’s version of Romero’s shambling corpses. You could even look at SHAUN OF HE DEAD as an anti-28 DAYS LATER in its depiction of traditional zombies.
Danny Boyle, once again, has fucked the world up with a movie, just like he did when he released TRAINSPOTTING (which did more to scare me away from drug use than a thousand DARE snuff films).
Not only did Boyle affect the horror genre, he also affected the way films are made. 28 DAYS LATER is probably the first low-budget movie ever shot on digital video to not look like a complete and total pile of shit on a shingle. Hell, as J.K. told me when we were discussing the film, Danny Boyle could make a home movie of a toddler’s birthday look like gripping cinema, and no doubt hold our attention more than a thousand Uwe Boll shit-fests (HOUSE OF THE DEAD, for example) ever could.
Enough praise. Onto the synopsis of the film.
Jim (Cillian Murphy) is a bicycle messenger who wakes up after being in a coma for (hold on to your hats) 28 days only to find that the world has gone to shit and that people have degenerated to the level of dumb beasts like Hunter Thompson on an ether binge. He gets his fat pulled out of the fire by Selena (Naomie Harris) and Mark (Noah Huntley). Jim and company bumble around London until they run into genial cabbie Frank (Brendan Gleeson) and his daughter Hannah (Megan Burns) and they decide to head out of London into the safe arms of the loving military.
Some conventions still exist, even in Danny Boyle’s world. In every horror movie, the military is run by crazy assholes who want to rape the horses and steal the women. This is no exception.
This film is carried along by the fierce performance of Cillian Murphy, and as you draw to the end of the film, Boyle and Murphy expertly blur the line between the monstrous Infected and the potential of every human to be a monster in his or her own way. Smart, gripping, suspenseful filmmaking that doesn’t rely on cheap Foleying tricks to make you jump. My only complaint would be that there needed to be more Infected attacks, but in their limited screen time, Boyle’s version of the zombie menace turns out to be really fucking frightening.
Sometimes less truly is more.