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"28 Days Later"

Directed by Danny Boyle.
Written by Alex Garland.
Starring Cillian Murphy and Naomie Harris.
Release Year:  2002
Review Date:  7/1/03 


Zombie films...yes!!

Where “House of the Dead” (finally set for release in September) has large numbers of zombies getting shot by teenagers with big handguns, director Danny Boyle (“Trainspotting”) goes down another path.  In “28 Days Later”, a team of chimp activists tries to release some captive chimps in the film’s opening scene, not knowing that these bad boys are being imprisoned because they have some pretty whacked-out contagious blood in their stream.  Naturally, the chimps get out, and infect the team of activists...who go on to infect the entire population of England in about four weeks.  Fast forward 28 days, and a guy named Jim (Cillian Murphy)--who was at the hospital when all of this was going on--walks out to find the streets of London deserted.  We go on to learn that only a few humans are left in town uninfected...and, they seek out refuge outside of the city limits while trying to stave off zombies that have been infected with the strange disease.

But, there is much more to it than that, and that is what makes Boyle’s film so interesting--sure, there are plenty of gore-filled scenes with zombies eating human flesh, but it’s a zombie movie with...feeling?  Yeah, I think that is it, with characters a bit more interesting than the big-breasted screaming blondes that normally populate this category.  You get a father and a daughter trying to get over the loss of the family matriarch, and a woman named Selena (Naomie Harris) trying to survive AND figure out why that’s even a worthwhile endeavor.  The bleak world that is created in the opening minutes is a scary one--no people, no power, no running water, no hope.  Boyle uses DV cameras to good effect here; the grainy look of the print helps to confuse you during scenes of violence even more than normal.

The soundtrack is always important in horror films, especially when there isn’t anything to hear but silence.  “28 Days Later” does a fantastic job of keeping things quiet until just the right moment--I think almost everyone in my theater lost it when those zombies dropped down through the skylight at Jim’s parents’ house.  The sound effects of knife-hacking, or zombies gargling blood while looking for their next victim, was pretty creepy, and blood splatters on adjacent walls quite effectively.

As my friend Derwin “Holla” Hylton mentioned to me last week, the film’s biggest problem is its hero.  Blame it on the screenwriter, Alex Garland (“The Beach”), and not Murphy’s performance--Jim has two very Hollywood “Hey, what’s going on in that dark corner where there might be a zombie?” moments that just don’t fit with a film trying to paint a picture of a sorta-realistic situation.  Then, he goes from a weakling that doesn’t want to kill to becoming fucking John Rambo from “First Blood Part II” in exactly one scene; jeez, did I miss that Bad Ass Training Course that Jim took while he was eating a sandwich in the middle of the park??  He is perfect as a vantage point for the film’s first 30 minutes, but after that, his evolution is very poorly developed.

Otherwise, you want horror, action, sci-fi and drama wrapped into one flick?  You got it with “28 Days Later”...and, as with all horror films recommended by Bellview, DO NOT take the overly squeamish.  I’ve seen hundreds of these films and I don’t think you can find more violent eye-gouging scenes than the one in this film.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09