28 Days Later... (2002)
Another movie about the four-horsemen of the apocalypse arriving; the end of the world, where everything is kissed goodbye. Do we need another movie about this? We've had enough alien invasions to last us a lifetime, but what if the danger was people? Regular people turned nuts destroying humanity. 28 Days Later opens with the intent of starting and letting loose as soon as it can. That's why there are no opening credits, or title. Immediately we see that shuddery infamous British camera switch on, obviously Danny Boyle is standing or sitting somewhere behind it, maybe wearing a smirk, as he watches his interpretation of a common nightmare unfold.
'The End' all begins in an unknown facility, top secret of course, where some animal rights protesters decide to release some animal test subjects. Despite a warning from a scientist working there, who swears that the monkeys they're about to free carry a deadly disease, the dumb people open up the cages, and monkeys immediately devour them, with blood spraying everywhere, the screen fades out. And then, here is our only information regarding time, a black screen that holds the words "28 days later...", maybe it's intended to double as a title.
Light enters the screen again, as we see an unknown patient (Cillian Murphy) wake in a hospital, surrounded by a nightmarish silence. In his locked room, he finds a key on the floor, only barely past the underneath of the door. He opens the door to only discover more silence, phones off the hooks and what appears to be vandalised furniture. He makes his way outside into a normally busy London, but there's no one in sight. Is this another Vanilla Sky alone moment, or are more sinister things at bay? Sinister goings-on are exactly the case here, as he finds that he is not as alone as he once thought. Next, our patient finds himself running from people groaning, with bloody eyes, and an inhuman twitch.
No, ladies and gentlemen, these aren't zombies as such. They are kinda like rabid humans, and the thing that makes them different to regular Hollywood zombies is that they sprint at the speed of steroid pumped Russian athletes; they are appropriately referred to as "The Infected". They chase after our hero like cheetahs, until he has his ass saved by a pair of other, normal people. It so happens there are more survivors, but are they really any better than the deep red clothed sprinting bags of pus that he fears so much?
To our disappointment, the gargantuan danger of a wasteland that Boyle and Garland create, all becomes quite insignificant, as the epic shrinks into an almost claustrophobic drama. There's absolutely nothing at all the matter with Boyle's direction, it's admirable, and he makes the best use of a horribly muddy British camera. It just seems as if nobody in the film cares about the sprinting rabid psychos searching for them, but only for a few socialistic issues. Instead of running rampant across a deserted United Kingdom, the survivors meet more survivors and find it a great idea to all huddle together inside of a house.
That's right, they don't bother to find others like them so that they can restart the human race, they simply spend some time in an abandoned country house turned fort, which they don't even seem to be defending. And because we're focusing on the relationships between the characters so much, we almost forget about The Infected, so that when they pop up again at the start of the mediocre ending, the entire audience gets that rush that makes them want to scream out "Holy Crap!"
Or it may just make them want to throw up, because some things here are just overly sick. The factor responsible for this is that Alex Garland hasn't been censored, as with The Beach, this is an original screenplay with some sickening imagery from the gifted writer. 28 Days Later isn't full of the freaky formulaic horror movie deaths you would normally see; there's nothing really spectacular about any of the deaths. Strangely, the violence has the taste of a realistic war film. The heaps of the bodies in the streets of a post-apocalyptic London are shown in an unnecessary way, it almost looks like something from the 1940s death camps. 28 Days Later shows Garland as being one sick little monkey.
It's true that 28 Days Later doesn't quite give you what it promised, and Alex Garland unedited is too graphic at times, which means that it is really only something special for fans of the genre. In all likelihood, most others will be entirely grossed out.
Sam Gournay is a film critic for Movie Compound.