"The first truly frightening horror film of the new millennium."
Danny Boyle of Trainspotting fame teams up once again with screenwriter Alex Garland (The Beach) to give us one of the most harrowing post apocalyptic tales ever to hit the big screen. It is also the first truly frightening horror film of the new millennium.The film opens with the outbreak of a virus codenamed ‘rage’ from what looks to be an experimental government lab. The movie then launches forward 28 days where we join Jim (Cillian Murphy), a bicycle courier who has just woken from a coma only to find the hospital trashed and empty of people. Confused he leaves the hospital, which is in central London, only to find the city’s streets in disarray and also completely deserted. Buses are overturned, shops have been looted and money blows about unwanted and seemingly useless. This scene is one of the films most profound moments and even though they blocked off various streets around London (a city of 7 million) very early in the morning, it is still a mind boggling achievement. You can feel Jim’s sense of dread and utter bewilderment as we follow him around the deserted streets of a usually very busy city. As if this was not enough for poor old Jim’s mind to cope with, he soon discovers that there is a form of life in this devastated city but they are not the type you would want to befriend. They are what appear to be zombies but are much more athletic and vicious than the staggering undead that the genre has served up in the past.
Jim is saved from his first encounter with these creatures by Selena and Mark who fill Jim in on the blanks which he has missed during his coma. We learn that the rage virus has all but wiped out England’s population except those lucky enough to escape during manic evacuations. There is no government, no police, no army and no form of electricity. Those still alive who carry the rage virus, known as 'the infected' are hell-bent on spreading their disease. They take down their prey at breakneck speed and pass on the sickness by either biting their victims or vomiting contaminated blood all over their faces. It also only takes twenty seconds for the virus to take effect giving you no time to think about killing someone that you may have previously cared for if you are to survive yourself. Things are looking very bleak indeed until they meet fellow survivors Frank (Brendan Gleeson) and his daughter Hannah (Megan Burns) who have news of a military radio broadcast near Manchester. They team up and decide to try and make it to Manchester not knowing whether the broadcast is live or just an old recording.
The film is shot on digital camera which is a format that I do not usually care for but in 28 Days Later it works a treat. It makes the story seem more realistic particularly in our times when we have become accustomed to media broadcasts of chaos and violence filmed in a frantic hand held manner. The cast, who do exceptionally well, are relatively unknowns with Brendan Gleeson (Gangs of New York) and Christopher Eccleston (Jude, Elizabeth) being the only familiar faces. Boyle and Garland have created a deep sense of dread which is aided beautifully by John Murphy’s haunting score.It is a chilling survivalist tale that is frightening on many levels and seeing that this is a quality that the horror genre often lacks I have to give it full marks.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Los Angeles Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Los Angeles Film Festival series, click here.