Halloween Horror Movie Month: 28 Days Later (2003)


When in doubt, make ’em fast.

28 days later after a rage-virus has swept the area and turned every infected person into crazy zombies, bicycle courier Jim (Cillian Murphy) awakes from a coma in the deserted intensive care unit of a London hospital. He soon meets up with a fellow survivor, Selena (Naomia Harris), and both embark on a journey to get themselves the hell out of London, and also, be able to get themselves out alive.

I’ll never, ever forget the first time that I saw this movie. I was probably in 8th grade, and it was late at-night (on a school-night of course), and I stumbled upon the beginning of this flick on FX and thought to myself, “It’s 10 o’clock. Should I watch this movie for the next 3 hours and be extremely tired tomorrow, or should I go to sleep, catch it another time, and get my 9 hours of perfect sleep? Hmmm….” Thankfully, I went with the first option and to be honest, it didn’t matter how late it was because my ass wasn’t getting any sleep at all that night after watching this. Seriously, that movie kept me up all night and at one-point, I was afraid to even go to the bathroom because it was a dark hallway, and I thought I heard noises. Little did I know that it was just my dog, but still, you couldn’t have told me that at that time and place because I was so wrapped-up in what I just saw that my mind wasn’t taking anything else in.

This whole dumb story about me and my first-viewing with this flick may come off as random and unneeded, but in my case, it totally is. See, I rarely ever get scared by horror films because I for one, know that they aren’t ever grounded in-reality. Iconic horror characters like Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees, Freddy Krueger, and etc., don’t scare me because I know they aren’t real and most likely, never will be real. But, what really scared me about this movie was how it didn’t have those elements, instead, everything felt, looked, acted, and played-out, as if it was all real and could actually happen in a world like ours. Yes, I know it all sounds pretty freakin’ goofy that I would assume a zombie apocalypse would ever run rampant in our world and go out like this, but seriously, just think about it: they don’t even have to be zombies, they can just be a bunch of infected human-beings that have no control over anything in their minds. Seriously, it could happen and if it doesn’t, I will be glad to be proven wrong, but that is why this movie scared the utter bajeebers out of me 5 years ago when I first saw it, and that’s why it still does now.

Most of the credit for scaring the hell out of me has to go to Danny Boyle and what he does with this material. Instead of making this your typical zombie-movie where all we see is a bunch of people shooting blood and guts, we get an actual story-based type of approach that not only fits the characters in it, but also the mood that Boyle has set for us as well. Right from the beginning with those iconic shots of a deserted London, we know that we are placed in a post-apocalyptic world that is sad, depressing, and as dark as you’re ever going to get with any other film of this nature, and the way Boyle sets it off is exactly how he allows it to all play-out.

Of course we all know what a post-apocalyptic world looks like: no people, no civilization, no order, and in some cases, no nothing, but there’s something so realistic-feeling about this world that Boyle paints that has me still frightened to this day. See, it seems like this could happen any day, any place, at any time, and it doesn’t matter where it begins or where it ends because it’s going to sweep the globe as soon as possible. That’s the way you mostly have it with any type of zombie/virus movie, but this one is different because it feels like a real-threat. These people can run, they can hide, and they can do whatever they want, but one of these days, they may not be so lucky and end-up biting the dust sooner than they may think. This urgent sense of danger and doom surrounds this flick in every single shot, and it never goes away, which is why I’m still clinging to my pillow as we speak.

None of this would ever feel so realistic and dangerous if it wasn’t for Boyle, and this guy sure as hell doesn’t lose that idea in his head. See, the best thing about Boyle is that he isn’t just a type of director that shoots the scenes, gets good performances from the cast, and calls it a day. Nope, this guy is all about everything else in-between all of that and it shows so perfectly here. The digital-camera brings an extra grainy-look to the flick that puts us inside of this cold and dark world that never seems to have a bright day; the music comes in at times at makes you feel happy, then makes you feel sad, and then makes you feel like your about to go crazy by how tense everything is (I’m talking about you, tunnel scene); and the color-schemes that Boyle chooses for each and every scene bring out a certain amount of beauty to each scene, as dark and hideous as it may be (the red dresses during the last-act just freakin’ popped-out at me). Basically, when it comes right down to it, Boyle is a guy that looks at everything in a flick, makes it better, and gives it his own little stylistic touches that in some ways, may come off as too “artsy”, but in other ways, it comes off as fan freakin’ tastic.

But, let’s not forget people, this is not your typical zombie story that we have all seen a hundred times before-hand, because believe it or not, there’s actually a story here that talks about something more than you might expect from a movie about a bunch of ragged-up killers on the loose. The film talks about how it sometimes takes a devastating act like an apocalypse  or a break-down in society to show you who evil human-beings can be. This point is never really hammered-through to you until the last 45 minutes when the story takes a dramatic turn, but you get an essence of that the whole time throughout and you also feel like the only way most people can get through such terrible events like this, is by love and friendship with the people around you. That’s why the “romance” here works, because it’s shoe-horned in and quick for a reason, people need each other in the world no matter what. There’s also a juicy little piece of context in here about how we, as people, have been killing each other for years and years and years, but now have to actually go-forth with that in a society where that’s the only-option. It’s a fairly obvious point you can pretty much gather right from the first scene or two, but it’s still one worth mentioning because it goes beyond what you normally expect in a movie about zombies.

Jeez, I feel like I’ve gone on way too long about this movie but the fact is, after seeing it over 8 times now, I still can’t get enough of it and look at each and every scene as if it was just another piece of art that Boyle chose in his mind and was somehow able to paint it all out onto film. The sturdy story that takes over the first hour or so, does change-up drastically by the last hour and becomes more of an action/thriller type of movie but even that still works, even if it is a bit conventional. Still, though, I realized there was a lot more to this plot than just blood, guts, and violence, and in a way, all of that shit that does go down in the end sort of justifies it’s point and by what it’s trying to say. Trust me, the plot-conventions and cliches are more than you think they are, and that’s the whole beauty and uniqueness of this movie.

Boyle also did something very daring and smart with this movie and chose people for the roles, that were the normal people you’d see in movies like these, let alone in movies in general. I mean now, these people are pretty big-stars, but before this, they looked like nothing else except for just real people, that were stuck in a real world, and tried their hardest to find happiness in it. Cillian Murphy does a great job with his role as Jim because the guy starts out as such a wimp, and dumb-ass that seems to be a bit way too in over his head with the world he has yet to get a grasp hold onto, but after awhile, builds up enough courage and steam of his own to actually have you believe that this guy can really stick up for himself and survive in this world. The transformation Jim goes through isn’t touched-upon enough, in my book, but is still shown in a believable and understandable way, thanks to both Boyle and Murphy themselves.

Rounding out the rest of the cast is a nice line-up that all do perfect jobs with the limited-material that they’re given. Naomie Harris plays Selena as a bad-ass that would kill you in seconds if she had to, but also shows there’s a lot vulnerability to her as well that makes her seem more well-rounded as a human-being rather than just a straight-up, vicious beotch; Brendan Gleeson is a delight to watch as Frank, the loving father that always seems to look on the bright-side to any situation and kept me smiling the whole time he was on-screen; Megan Burns wasn’t so good as the daughter, but I think she was supposed to underplay this role a bit so I can’t be too hard on her; and last, but certainly not least, is Christopher Eccleston as Major West, a guy who comes off as a knight in shining armor right from the start, but starts to slowly change your mind about him and you never, ever know what this guy is going to do next. I like that with characters and I think Eccleston handles that well and shows to be more of a human-being, rather than just showing off as a villainous d-bag.

Consensus: Maybe, just maybe, I’m in the minority with this one but 28 Days Later is one of my favorite horror films of all-time. The world that Boyle paints is as devastating and frightening as it gets; the characters are more well-rounded and developed than the script actually gives them credit for; the scares and chills get to you by the utter feel of realism that shoots-out in every frame of this picture; and the message about who we are as humans and what we’ll do to live-on in life is as heartbreaking and brutally honest as it can get. Definitely go out there and see it, not just to be scared, but also to be a bit enlightened as well.

9.5/10=Full Effin’ Price!!

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21 comments

  1. Just watched this for the first time last night. I totally concur with your enthusiam! I love when the guy says it’s simply “people killing people”. It really hammers home the reality of the situation. Those red dresses really popped with me too and I also thought the daughter was a bit strange. So, I think we had a very similar viewing experience. 🙂

    • I’m glad because I freakin’ love this movie! It brings so much reality to such a fantasy-like sequence that it’s hard to believe it happening any other way.

  2. The daughter is terrible! Easily the worst part of the film. I’ve watched 28 Days Later 5 or so times now and I try to skip her dialogue. There’s a part when they’re in the tower block deciding whether they should stay or go with Jim and she monotonously says, “we should go, we are not safe her”.

    She’s actually a punk singer now under the alias, Betty Curse. Google her or check her wiki out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megan_Burns

    Aside from that, I fully agree with you and I’d give the film a similar rating! Nice one Dan.

  3. I generally don’t like horror movies, but I have to admit that 28 days later is one of my absolute favorites. It’s so well done, fast paced, creepy and believeable!

  4. I already loved this film before I bought it on blu-ray. After I got it and watched it though, I decided that it may be the best blu-ray purchase I’ve made so far. Never has a horror movie looked so damn sexy as it does with Boyle at the helm. This compelling flick cemented him as one of my favorite working directors. 28 Days Later definitely sticks with you. It’s scary, beautiful, and it has fantastic characters.

  5. You didn’t go too long talking about this movie. A good portion of my senior thesis was devoted to 28 Days Later. It’s so good on so many levels, especially once you start analyzing the effect of some of the content decisions, like having fast zombies or the fact that you are giving a view of what humans could be stripped down to as part of the animal kingdom.

    John Murphy’s score really helps the movie.” In The House – In A Heartbeat” alone is amazing.

      • I actually really enjoyed writing it. I wrote a zombie screenplay and the critical part with it was mostly discussing zombies and movies and some highlights on themes and choices for my script. Best part was saying my research was watching movies.

        My college has a lame grading system for our independent study/thesis. It’s Good, Satisfactory, or No Credit. I got a Good.

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