June 29, 2003

28 Days Later

Irony out the Wazoo

28 Days Later Scare yourself witless. Aw, go on, it'll be fun.

In 28 Days Later, a powerful virus called Rage is accidentally unleashed on the British population; within twenty seconds of exposure it locks an infected person in a permanent state of murderous frenzy. Within 28 days, the country—and, as far as can be determined, the world—is devastated. Into this empty world awakens Jim (Cillian Murphy), a bicycle messenger who was injured in a car accident and spent those 28 days in a deserted hospital.

I am embarrassed to report I spent parts of this movie whispering typical horror-movie warnings at the screen, something I never thought I'd do. "No no no no please please please don't go in there get out of there turn around turn around eeeeeeee!" Ah well. It was worth it.

Now, then: the rest of this review will contain some spoilers. I feel they are quite minor. In fact, you've probably had this part of the movie's overall premise spoiled for you by television commercials and just about every review of the film and interview with the director (Danny Boyle, Trainspotting); but if you already know you want to see this movie and you want to go into it with no prior knowledge of the premise, read no further. I do promise that there are far fewer spoilers in this review than in every other major review I've read so far, some of which tell three-quarters—or all—of the plot, as if it's far more important to give a smug cinema critique, or as if nothing matters but watching the movie for the shocks rather than the unfolding of the (deceptively simple) plot.

The key to this genre is well summed up in a two-sentence horror story within the story "Knock" by Fredrick Brown:

The last man on earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock at the door....

Knock Knock
I saw the trailer for this when I went to see The Matrix Reloaded and thought it looked promising. I was upset when I found out that this wasn't going to be one of my favourite genres, Last Man on Earth (cf The World, the Flesh, and the Devil or Quiet Earth), but one of my least favourite genres, Zombie Flick (cf Omega Man). Jim discovers there are still hordes of infected persons on the rampage, in a scene so startling I won't describe it here. These creatures mostly emerge at night (mostly), seeking out uninfected humans to devour. The smallest drop of infected body fluid in a cut or in one's mouth will spread the virus (at least you won't be eaten—the infected apparently prefer fresh meat); and there is a lot of splashing blood. In one of the film's marvellously unnerving touches, Jim cuts his cheek while shaving, exposing himself to possible infection, showing just how fragile humans are in the face of the world's dangers. I spent the next several scenes watching and waiting for those cuts on his face to heal before the blood started splashing again.

But: Don't let any reports of the movie being a simple "gore fest" turn you away; be warned about but don't be turned away by images of the virus' bloody ebola-like symptoms; don't be turned off by comments that the film is just a "SARS-era Night of the Living Dead." Parts of it are an homage to that film, but its relevance is completely modern—or, timeless. To seek a "science is bad" or "military is evil" message, another popular theme in reviews of the film, is to miss the individual humans degenerating—or merely emerging. This is a film about people, humanity, and about what humanity means in a world where you can no longer tell the behaviour of the infected from that of the uninfected. The film's opening sequence—animal rights activists break into a lab where primates are subjected to constant viewing of violent news video—and what may later be a glimpse of understanding and sanity in the blood-red eyes of one of the infected, bring into question from the start whether the Rage virus is nothing more than what already flows through human blood.

Running Time: 108 harrowing minutes. (Apparently it runs 112 minutes overseas. Hmm.)

One Truly Puzzling Moment: What was that Impressionist matte painting of flowers doing in the middle of the movie? Give the film credit for it taking exactly 3 seconds for me to forget about it and get back into a steady state of fear.

Product Placement: I really, really never want to go near a Pepsi can again.

Previews: When Freddie Met Jason or some such similarly titled horror flick; The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which title the voiceover seems incapable of saying more of than "League"; something involving Kate Beckinsale in dominatrix leather; and maybe some other horror flick, I forget.

Outside Food: Veggie sushi and a cucumber salad, and relief that I didn't opt to bring meat to a movie involving a lot of cannibalism. Mostly offscreen cannibalism, but still—I was glad that was only a carrot I was munching on.

I have to go barricade the door and light a bonfire now.

Posted by OutsideFood at June 29, 2003 11:38 PM

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