27 Days of Fright (The Reprint) – Day Six

Originally Published Saturday 11th october 2008
28 Days Later
Myself and a mate of mine were chatting the other day about what it takes for a film to be classified as a horror. I didn’t have a straight answer then and I still don’t but I do have some thoughts on the subject. I think that the main factor has to be that the lead characters find themselves in a horrific situation. The type of horrific situation then falls into two categories, the scientifically explainable and the supernatural, but this leads me to the odd conclusion that many of the films we consider to be standard horror movies are in fact of another genre altogether, and technically that’s the case with last night’s film.
28 Days Later is a reimagining of the zombie movie, from the director of “Trainspotting”, which paved the way for the recent explosion of zombie films. Set in present day London, 28 Days follows Jim (Cillian Murphy) from when he wakes up on a hospital bed bollock naked. He discovers that the hospital is deserted and soon realises that the rest of London is deserted too. As he roams the city looking for people he encounters a few hiding in a church who appear to be the living dead. He escapes the zombies with the help of two strangers who turn up in the nick of time. They hide out in a shop and explain that a virus was unleashed that quickly spread through the population turning people into zombies (though as far as I remember that word is never used – they’re referred to as the “infected”). An evacuation was ordered and peopled tried to flee Britain to escape infection. Over the 28 days since the virus showed up the country has turned into a zombie ridden post-apocalyptic deserted little island.

Vodafone’s poor customer service is enough to make anyone see red!

Jim wants to find his parents despite the fact that his new friends Selena and Mark assure him that they are already dead. The trio set off the next day to Jim’s parents place, walking through an abandoned city. Jim’s parents are indeed dead having taken their own lives to avoid infection. The gang stay in the house and are attacked by a bunch of infected. Selena kills Mark when she realises that he’s been infected and warns Jim that she’d do the same to him if it becomes necessary. Jim and Selena escape and come across two other survivors, a father and his daughter, Frank and Hannah, in a tower block.

Frank has a clockwork powered radio and has picked up a transmission from some soldiers near Manchester who claim to have the answer to infection and a safe place to stay. The four survivors from London head off in Frank’s taxi cab to find the soldiers and bond as a group along the way, dodging the infected as they go. When they get to the soldiers all is not what they expected and things take a turn for the worse.

28 Days Later is really a science fiction film that puts the characters into a horrific situation because the whole thing is caused by a virus getting loose from a lab that’s raided by animal rights activists. The infected aren’t really zombies as they’re not dead, they’re living people with a terrible disease and they can and do die from trauma like a gunshot or from starvation.

I have always had problems with films that use the “post-apocalyptic” world as a setting, I find it lazy as it means the film-makers wanted to do something in their world that they couldn’t easily explain, but in 28 Days the apocalypse becomes the point of the film which in some regards is unfortunate as you tend not to care as much about the characters as you should. There are some genuinely touching moments in the film, like when Jim finds his parents, but these are few and far between. The dynamic between Jim and Selena is well handled, she starts out a hard bitch and he starts out soft as warm butter and during the course of the film they switch roles as they affect each other and are affected by their situation.

The production values for 28 Days seem to swing about too, sometimes the film seems like a slick big budget production and at other times it’s more like a student’s film – there’s nothing wrong with either approach but the changing quality can be distracting as you look for how a scene is filmed as opposed to what’s happening in it, but that’s a minor enough gripe.

One thumb up and one thumb down for 28 Days Later.

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