a critiQal film review 28 Days Later… (2003)

Plot: Jim (Murphy) wakes up in a hospital one day to find that civilization has been destroyed while he slept thanks to a virus that has infected the entire population and has turned them into zombies - if you’re bitten or ingest some of their blood, you have 20 seconds before you become one of them. Survivors Jim, Selena (Harris), Frank (Gleeson) and his daughter Hannah (Burns) journey on to what may be their last hope: a military unit that seems to have survived the catastrophe.

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  • ...seems more like a slightly disappointing Resident Evil sequel than anything else.

When I first saw the preview for 28 Days Later…, it seemed almost as if this was the continuation of the film Resident Evil (2002), which I’d seen a short while ago. Since I’d enjoyed that movie so much I was immediately intrigued by this one.

With Danny Boyle at the helm, who I remembered fondly from his film Trainspotting (1996), I knew I was in for something quirky, but entertaining. Would 28 Days Later… be the Resident Evil (2002) sequel with a twist I thought it was going to be, or would it be just another in a long line of Night of the Living Dead (1968) rip offs?

This film consists of lesser known actors for the most part (in fact Christopher Eccleson is the only name that seems vaguely familiar although Brendan Gleeson’s face rings a bell). Since Resident Evil (2002) had some built-in star power in Milla Jovovitch, it had less to do to capture the audience’s interest. The actors in 28 Days Later… had to work a lot harder to achieve the same purpose and did put a good effort into doing just that. No one really stands out as exceptional, but Gleeson’s portrayal of Hannah’s father really shines in showing the relationship between him and his daughter.

The plot, as was mentioned earlier, seems almost to have been taken from a Resident Evil (2002) sequel script. With the director’s risky choice of lesser known actors in the main roles he put himself at a disadvantage from the start. Since the audience recognizes a Milla Jovovitch, or a Stephen Dorff (FeardotCom (2002)), the audience is more ready to involve themselves into the plot of the film, whatever it may be. While this lets famous named actors somewhat off the hook, lesser known actors definitely have their work cut out for them.

While the actors in the plot eventually involve the audience, the beginning is somewhat slow. If there had been famous named actors in 28 Days Later…, the audience would most likely have been more involved from the get go, and the same beginning might not have seemed to drag as much.

Another difference from Resident Evil (2002) is this film showcases 2 different themes (man versus zombie and man versus man), while Resident Evil (2002) focuses mainly on one (man versus zombie). This diversion in the main theme of the film seems to dilute the films impact and, at times, the film seems confused as to which theme it’s concentrating on. This momentary confusion on the viewers part may cause a slight brake in their suspension of disbelief and detracts a little bit from the film. But, since this isn’t Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004) they needed to put something into the film to differentiate the two, so you really can’t fault them for it.

The special effects, which tend to be overused in zombie flicks, tend to be pretty low key in 28 Days Later…. The zombies don’t look much different than the normal folk (except maybe a little buggy in the eyes), and the zombie attack sequences tend to be done in quick flashes, so you don’t really have a chance to tell if the special effects suck or not. It’s a good technique for the director on a low budget, but if he has money to spend then it’s not that worthwhile. It seems the director probably spent most of his money clearing the streets of London, so probably didn’t have a lot left over for the special effects department.

Zombie flicks seem to be a dime a dozen these days, and they also seem to have one thing in common: they suck. Decent zombie films, like Resident Evil (2002), seems to be the exception that proves the rule, rather than a common occurrence.

28 Days Later…, if it came out before Resident Evil (2002), probably would’ve just been another flash in the pan in the horror genre. But, since Resident Evil (2002) preceded it, the audience will probably have that film in mind (especially during the beginning sequences, when Jim is wandering around the ghost town) and will serve as a continuation of Resident Evil (2002), at least until Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004) comes out.

True, it’s not on the same level as Resident Evil (2002), but 28 Days Later… will help tide us over while we wait for Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004).

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