A group of idealistic animal activists break into a laboratory to free monkeys that are being experimented on. The captive scientists warns them that they are extremely contagious, but they don't listen, unleashing a devastating virus that causes mindless rage in the infected into the world. 28 days later, Jim wakes up in an empty hospital room. Then he discovers that the hospital, the street, the city, and all of England is a barren wasteland. After encountering other survivors, he discovers that the last piece of news before the TV and radio went out was that the virus was spreading. Jim and his small group of survivors hear a broadcast over the radio, urging them to join a military group for shelter, safety, and an answer to the plague. With no other options or places to go, they head to the location, satisfied with some sort of plan for the future. They try no to dwell on the fact that the men that left that message may already be dead.
28 Days Later is a unique zombie film. I've avoided seeing it for a long time because I would catch bits and pieces and I wasn't really impressed. Seeing the film in its entirety is a different experience, so I'm glad I finally sat down to watch it. It isn't perfect, but a very good addition to the zombie genre. The film has beautiful and powerful cinematography. Danny Boyle is extremely talented and crafted surprisingly artistic scenes. The most visually striking scenes are when Jim is wandering London, which is completely empty. The signs of the apocalypse are the only things that mar the landscape and include overturned cars, money all over the floor near banks, fires, and dead bodies. The aftermath of the chaos, the silence, and the blank canvas of a city created a suspenseful atmosphere. The Infected are also filmed in a different way than the rest of the film, giving them a jumpy, rough quality that sets them apart from the rest of the characters.
The zombies aren't quite zombies. They are more akin to the Beaters in Sophie Littlefield's Aftertime because they are still human, but driven by rage. It makes more sense why they are fast because they are still living, breathing humans. Because they can't feel pain normally, they can push themselves beyond human limits. When humans aren't around, they go into a dormant state, which is a perfect time to conserve energy and rest. They come out of this state when humans get their attention, through movement, sound, or even light in the darkness. The virus that causes the rage state is very much like Ebola: transmitted through blood, saliva, and other body fluids and can communicable between primates and humans. One aspect of the disease that is unique is the infected vomiting gouts of blood in order to spread the disease. This just made sense to me and reminded me of a disease that makes rats get eaten by cats so it can be in its preferred host. With the infected being human, it seems to be only a matter of time until they starve to death (or, more realistically, die of thirst).
The film poses some important philosophical questions. Is survival or happiness/friendship more important? How far should science go with experimenting with deadly viruses/biological weapons? Is there a point when life is no longer worth living? How far would you go to protect yourself and loved ones and survive? At one point in the film, Jim is committing horrible acts of violence against humans to protect the women he's traveling with. The film technique used for the zombies is used for Jim in this instance, challenging the viewer to compare the two. When he finishes his violent acts, one of the women can't tell whether he has been infected or not: his appearance is savage and the acts he committed are very similar to what one infected would do. This also challenges us to define what it is to be human.
This is no ordinary horror film. 28 Days Later explores many themes critiquing society and it revamps the zombie in a unique way. I must say that this is one of the most suspenseful and frightening films I've seen in a while. I literally screamed out loud at some points and had the urge to cover my eyes. The soundtrack created a perfect atmosphere and heightened the suspenseful moments. I had a few very minor problems with it, but overall I highly recommend this film to all zombie fans.
My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins