28 Days Later...

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner29/10/2002

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 113 mins

Impressive, atmospheric and VERY scary, this is an extremely effective British horror movie – it falls apart towards the end, but by then you’ll be too scared to care.

Alright. Hands up all those of you who’d written off Danny Boyle and the Trainspotting team as having, essentially ‘lost it’.

Well, exactly. And who could blame you? Amazingly, however, it turns out they were just biding their time and suddenly up pops this rather impressive Zombies In London flick, directed by Boyle and written by Alex Garland (the author of The Beach, who you’d have thought would have disowned Boyle & co. after the Beach movie, but apparently not).

It’s also safe to say that Fox know they have a potentially huge Halloween hit on their hands, as their frankly superb teaser campaign indicates. If you’ve yet to see the sequential comic artwork currently visible as you ride the escalator in certain tube stations, then check out the relevant ‘underground’ section of the 28 Days Later website.

No. No. Don’t Release The Killer Monkeys!

The film starts brilliantly, with a brief prologue in which Stupid Animal Rights Hippies break into a research facility and release a bunch of Killer Monkeys, ignoring David Schneider's cries of "No. No. Don't release the Killer Monkeys." etc. They are injected with RAGE, apparently, as, like, a metaphor for our times, yeah? Anyway, if one of these pesky monkeys bites you, or just one drop of infected blood touches you, you turn into a zombie before you can say "Grrr. Argh."

Cut to London, "28 Days Later..." (there are no other credits) and Cillian Murphy as Jim, who wakes up in a hospital, Day of the Triffids style and finds that there's no one around. This leads to perhaps the most impressive bit of the film – several shots of Cillian wandering around a completely deserted London, including Waterloo Bridge and, amazingly, Piccadilly Circus.

(In case you suspect Digital Trickery, these sequences were apparently done for real, with special permission from That Nice Mr Livingstone and everything. In fact you can tell it’s genuine because Cillian completely fails to notice someone clearly walking up Haymarket as he comes up the steps near The Mall...)

High Speed Zombie Chase

Shortly afterwards, in the first of many superbly-timed shocks, Jim discovers some people in a church but -ARGH!- they're zombies and they start running after him extremely fast. Well, fast for zombies. Not speeded-up fast. But they wave their arms around a lot so it looks like they're faster than they are. It's a lot scarier than it sounds and, if you think about it, Running Zombies is a stroke of genius in Making Zombies Scarier terms.

So, Jim gets rescued, then hooks up with a couple of Zombie Hunters, one of whom (Naomie Harris) is really rather cute. Then they meet Brendan Gleeson and his daughter, (who have somehow avoided being evacuated or becoming zombies, but no matter) and they decide to investigate a radio signal they’ve heard, suggesting there’s a group of people out there leading a resistance…

To be honest, the film loses it somewhat in the second half, when Christopher Eccleston And His Band Of Bastards turn up and it becomes, in places, irritatingly silly. However, there have been so many great scenes and scary moments by this point that you’ll be too caught up in the film to really get that annoyed.

Gritty Not Glossy!

The film is well-acted, particularly by Murphy (Disco Pigs), who has a spaced-out, not-quite-of-this-world quality as an actor that really adds to his role. It’s also filmed on digital video (by Anthony Dod Mantle, who shot Festen), giving the film a gritty, more realistic feel and distinguishing it from glossy Hollywood horrors such as Scream etc.

Boyle has also made some daring decisions with the soundtrack, particularly during one or two key sequences. (These scenes are destined to be argued over in pubs – does the music add to the effect or ruin it completely? You’ll have to see the film and decide for yourself.)

To sum up, this is an excellent film that presents a unique view of London and breathes new life into the zombie genre. In addition, the shocks work brilliantly and there are some truly terrifying moments. Which, let’s face it, is all you really need from a zombie flick. Highly recommended.

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Content updated: 16/12/2019 09:18

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