Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson for Horror.com
When 28 Days Later came out in America earlier this year, it was touted as a smart horror film and was championed by snooty movie critics and even the not-so-snooty Rob Zombie. I'm a movie critic, I like Rob Zombie, and I love horror... so why I am I going against the grain giving 28 Days Later the thumbs-down? Read my spoiler-laden review and find out...
28 Days Later is the semi-apocalyptic tale of a nasty virus that hurls those infected by it into a permanent state of killing rage, and what happens after it is accidentally released from a British research facility. Why was the Rage Virus even created in the first place? You've got me. And after an effective and chilling beginning, the virus "gets" several other people. Those who manage to elude it, are, of course, our heroes.
28 Days Later picks up, er, "28 days later" after the virus is released, following a London bike messenger played by a hollow-cheeked, hollow-eyed Cillian Murphy (who could readily play Jesus Christ Superstar in the remake) and his new-found friends, Naomie Harris (whose hairstyle is about 28 years out of date), Brendan Gleeson (whom you'll recognize from The Gangs of New York, and many other films), and Megan Burns (who is so flat, she might as well have been a cardboard cutout), as they try to escape the plaque and connect with other uninfected survivors.
Responding to a pre-recorded, looped radio broadcast message from a military outpost somewhere near Manchester, the foursome drive out to the country in a big black taxi. There they only find that more horrors await them in the person of Maj. Henry West (Christopher Eccleston, who looks so much like Ralph, he should be made an honorary Fiennes) and his Adam-minded soldiers.
Although 28 Days Later (in the trailers, anyway) looks and feels like a zombie film, it isn't. The infected (whom even the sewer rats run from!) are not slow and lumbering, and they are not dead. They don't eat human flesh either; in fact, the only way to kill the virus is for its host to be murdered or for him or her to starve to death. 28 Days Later, for me, was very reminiscent of The Omega Man, which starred Charlton Heston back in 1971... and I wasn't so crazy about that movie, either (at least in that one, we got to enjoy the hammy Chuck saying to himself, "Hi, Big Brother -- how's your ass?")
Although I did like director Danny Boyle's Trainspotting, I wasn't so crazy about his much anticipated follow-up, The Beach. 28 Days Later is a lot more like The Beach than it is like Trainspotting, and that's wherein the old rub lies. A movie like this definitely could have used some of the wicked weirdness of the former, and not the pained pointlessness of the latter.
There was quite a lot in 28 Days Later that didn't add up: for example, if the Rage Virus was to cause uncontrollable anger, then why didn't the infected get ticked off at each other? And if the uninfected could readily find food, then why did the bad guys all wind up starving to death? Why were some animals infected, and others not?
28 Days Later did have its moments but for me, there simply weren't enough of them.
However, if you already saw the movie and liked it, then the DVD will probably be on your Amazon.com wish list in no time. There is plenty in the additional release material to satisfy the fans, and even entertain the non-fans -- personally, I really liked the Making-Of Featurette ("Pure Rage"), and the so-called "radical" alternate ending, which was never actually filmed.
The disc is presented in English, with French and Spanish dub tracks. Also provided are optional subtitles either in English for the Hearing Impaired, or Spanish. Unfortunately, the subtitles are sacrificed for the audio commentary track, which means you can't really do the movie and the commentary at the same time. The over-the-movie commentary by Boyle and writer Alex Garland -- who also wrote the boring "Beach" -- is interesting and informative (and for me, better than the movie by itself).
On this special edition widescreen DVD, there are three alternate endings to pick from. You have to choose these separately, after watching the movie with its theatrical release. Out of the four endings in total, my favorite (though admittedly illogical, according even to Boyle) is by far the one they never filmed (it is presented in storyboards and read by Boyle and Garland). The "radical" ending is located on a second page of the Alternate Endings Menu and could be easily overlooked if you didn't know it was there -- I just happened upon it, myself.
There is also a selection of six thankfully deleted scenes, and still galleries (production and Polaroid, both with commentary that is actually quite informative), plus a for-once-not-useless music video (by Jacknife Lee, which is more a fast forward of the movie than it is an M-TV creation).