It’s a break in of some kind; men and woman enter a room filled with animals in cages, and while they’re horror-struck at what they see, their resolve to free these “torture victims” will not be swayed, even when the voice of reason tries to intervene. Before you know it, a monkey infected with a rage virus is free and on the attack…
So begins (brilliantly) “28 Days Later,” a zombie thriller from Danny Boyle; these well-meaning but foolish environmental activists spark off a plague throughout the United Kingdom, but that backstory is unknown to our protagonist, Jim (Cillian Murphy), who suffered a head injury and has been in a coma. When he wakes up (28 Days Later), the world is empty and silent, with no one to hear his “Hello.”
Of course, like all good zombie movies, he meets up with some other survivors, Selena (Naomie Harris) and Mark (Noah Huntley) who fill him on what’s been going on and help him get by in the brave new world.
Jim’s new little family meets up with Hannah (Megan Burns) and her father, Frank (Brendan Gleeson), and when they hear a radio broadcast promising salvation, they hit the road in hope of something better out there.
One of my thoughts during the course of this adventure how, if it comes to it, I don’t want to survive the end of the world. It’s going to be a dark, dreary place, and “28 Days Later” does the genre justice with some believable twists and turns, and non-clich visuals (the England of this world is deserted and beautiful and new, like man was never there to muck things up).
I’ve said before (and will likely say again) that it takes a lot for me to really get behind horror films, mostly because the majority of them focus more on creatively dispatching people than the actual people in the story. While the main characters aren’t too deep, they are not clichs; these are people in survival mode, and their past lives, their former selves, are all gone, and what’s left is only the basic part that wants to eat, drink, and breathe, and as the film points out, that’s not enough to live on, and we get to see the characters transform, for better and worse.
High praise there, especially from me. I didn’t expect this movie to move me, and it did. Horror films get a bad rap, and most of the time I support that negativity, but here’s a worthy exception. At their best, horror films show us what the worst-case scenario would be like, and “28 Days Later, ” like my beloved BSG, doesn’t flinch at showing the worst, along with the best.
“28 Days Later” (2003)
Directed by Danny Boyle
Written by Alex Garland
Starring: Cillian Murphy (Jim)
Naomie Harris (Selena)
Megan Burns (Hannah)
Brendan Gleeson (Frank)
Noah Huntley (Mark)