Thursday, October 19, 2006

28 Days Later

(2002) ****

While my Mad Hillbilly concentration this year has been a bit of a trial, revisiting the Zombie genre has been nothing but cake. Rotting, lurching cake. Like Night of the You Know What, 28 Days Later is a movie I had some problems with at first. If you've been following along, you might have noticed I can't help but keep close tabs on the Zombie Rules, and technically this movie doesn't have any zombies in it. After a second look, I'm now ready to give it the street cred: this is a zombie movie.

You don't get the necessary cavalcade of head wounds, because these ghouls aren't dead, they're Infected. You don't get any cannibalism, because the Infected don't eat their kills, they just kill. And if the Rage virus gets in your blood or mouth, you've a maximum of twenty seconds before you start killing, so you don't get protracted "we've got to kill him/no, we can't" speeches. What you do get is the end of civilization, the triumph of entropy, and the enemy is us.

One of my problems on my first viewing is that not much about the virus is explained. Somehow I missed that they tell us just enough. We open on a montage of disturbing footage of riots, public hangings and basic human misbehavior. This is revealed to be a bank of TVs arrayed in front of a strapped-down lab monkey with tubes coming out of his head. Somehow this features in the creation of Rage, but the technical stuff is skipped in favor of the loose implication that Rage is somehow brewed in these TV monkeys, distilled and inadvertently given back to us. Nice touch.

I really fell in step with the movie this time. I described Land of the Dead as the most character-driven of the Dead flicks, but 28 Days is character, down to its roots. Danny Boyle has described his movie as neither horror nor sci-fi, but rather drama. He's right, the characters in this movie are solid and real, and the survival of good, decent human connections is as important to the story as plain old bodily survival.

If you haven't seen it, it goes like this: Eco-terrorists break into the lab and wind up getting infected. Four weeks later our hero Jim wakes from a coma in a London hospital, baffled by the deserted city that greets him. He's found by some un-Infected and after tooling around London for a bit they head out of town to investigate a beacon left by the army. There are elements of all of the classic Romero flicks here. One character tells a chilling story about losing his family in a mob at Paddington station, much like Barbara and Ben trading stories in NOTLD (but much better if you ask me). There's a cute scene of looting a supermarket (Dawn) and then it's Fun Time with the Soldiers, which without saying too much isn't exactly what they expected. That was another thing that stuck in my craw on my first viewing. I thought "don't go to the soldiers! Didn't you see Day of the Dead?"

As monsters go, the Infected are kinetically scary. Constantly bleeding from the nose and mouth and affecting a hacking cough that sounds just wrong, you only ever see them in two modes: twitchy, red-eyed goggling or (usually right afterwards) tearing down the street screeching like inhuman maniacs. When Jim is saved from his first encounter, the Infected who are lit aflame by Molotov cocktails just keep on running after him.

There are a couple of flaws in this, but once you're in the groove it's difficult to even notice them. Lives up to its hype.


Summerisle said...

Well, well, well. It looks like Octopunk has finally joined my side regarding this movie.

JPX said...

I've only seen this once when it first came out and I don't remember it very much. I do remember disliking it because the characters end up in a military compound a la Day of the Dead and most of the action takes place there. Perhaps I'll give it another look...

Octopunk said...

I highly recommend it. Like a new CD that's initially unsatisfying, once you can anticipate this movie most of the problems go away.

Anonymous said...

This was my favorite horror flick --Jessica