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Friday, February 27, 2009

Movie Review: 28 Days Later

28 Days Later is a really good zombie flick.

Despite all those distractions, I STILL thoroughly enjoyed this movie. It combines elements of Night of the Living Dead, but it does them better. Like in the remake of Night of the Living Dead, the director makes a statement about mn killing man -- is it okay to have fun shooting people when they're zombies?

They're not really zombies, of course. They're victims of a disease called "Rage" that turns you into a murderous killing machine. These are still people though -- they can be shot, set on fire, and starved to death.
  • Cool Device #1: Main character wakes up from a coma. We're as clueless as he is.
  • Cool Device #2: It takes place in deserted London. It's a plague that spreads fast. I imagine it spread to all of England, actually. Sort of like Vanilla Sky in NYC. It's probably not even as creepy for Americans, as we don't live or visit there very often.
  • Cool Device #3: Rage can be transmitted by any bodily fluid exchange, blood being the most likely.
  • Cool Device #4: Rage takes 20 seconds to take effect. Whenever you think a character gets infected, you subconsciously being counting to 20. This keeps the audience perpetually on edge.
Eventually, the protagonist and his companions find a military base and we expect the movie to end. Only the message here is that being with the military (the supposed savior of the people) is actually WORSE than being with the zombies.

This movie was done before, and the parallels between the two are quite amazing. The movie: Resident Evil! Of all things, Resident Evil -- a true-blue zombie flick -- didn't pull off horror nearly as well as 28 Days Later. But they have the same elements:

28 Days Later/Resident Evil
  • Protagonist wakes up in hospital with no idea what happened/Protagonist wakes up in a deserted house with no idea what happened
  • Movie begins with protagonist in a completely deserted city (London)/Movie ends with protagonist in a completely deserted city (Raccoon City)
  • Movie begins with protagonist naked in hospital/Movie ends with protagonist naked in hospital
  • Zombies get shot by a military agency (UK military) sent to eliminate them /Zombies get shot by a military agency (Umbrella, if I remember correctly) to eliminate them
  • Zombie disease spread by infection (20 seconds)/Zombie disease spread by infection (uh, more than 20 seconds)
  • Two females end up running around in red dresses/Female protagonist runs around entire movie in red dress (thank you Mila!)

So what did 28 Days Later do right as a horror movie? Well, it's a horror movie for one. To clarify, it focuses on horror. Zombies are scary enough, but they alone do not a good horror flick make. There needs to be more. And the director (the same one who made Trainspotting) has no problems going "there."

"There" is watching a father figure turn into a zombie and being forced to kill him. "There" is bashing a zombie child's head in with a bat. "There" is being attacked by a priest who's a zombie. "There" is having one of your friends turn zombie and -- instead of the old, "I refuse to kill my friend" -- brutally hacking him to bits.

28 Days Later succeeds because it ignores horror conventions. There is none of the angst associated with a person turning into a zombie. Hell, even Night of the Creeps had that. No, 28 Days Later succeeds because the director isn't a horror filmmaker. He knows that collapse of basic human decency is what's horrifying, not zombies.

Don't get me wrong, Resident Evil kicks ass. But it's a science fiction action movie. This is real horror, the way it was meant to be made. See it, you won't be sorry.



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