Perhaps I’m a little biased. After all, this is set in the city I live and work in, and seeing Oxford Street and Piccadilly Circus, which I pass by every morning and which are usually teeming with crowds of people, completely empty was enough to send shivers down my spine. Usually when you watch a movie like this it’s located in some nondescript Midwestern village, which makes it easy to detach yourself from the events unfolding on screen. But seeing them occur in the place you call home is something that gives it an entirely new sense of reality, and one I was previously unaccustomed to.
Still, judging 28 Days Later entirely on its merit as a film, it’s easy to arrive at the conclusion that it’s a fantastic achievement, as well as a coming-of-age of sorts for director Danny Boyle; I can’t say the MTV-inspired vanity of The Beach, or the self-consciously trendy posturing of Trainspotting appealed to me, and to my shame I initially expected 28 Days Later to be given a similar treatment. Thankfully, my fears proved unfounded, discarded straight after a opening sequence which is at once effortless and fearsome. The rest of the movie was a joy. A terrifying joy, but a joy nonetheless.
It’s true that sometimes minimalism can be more effective than overblown bravado, and it’s definitely true for this movie. It’s the scenes of complete silence which get to you the most; an entire metropolis empty. The grainy picture serves to add a documentary-style quality to the film, which makes the whole situation seem almost too real to bear. Definitely a wise choice to film this on digital video.
You will occasionally meet people who thought 28 Days Later wasn’t ‘scary’ or ‘gory’ enough. These are the same people who will tell you that 2001 was ‘boring’, or that Memento was ‘confusing’. Ignore them. Others didn’t understand the purpose of the second half, or were confused by its change of pace, feeling that it distracted from the movie as a whole. However, I personally regard the second half as very important because, as another reviewer pointed out, it makes a very succinct point: What is scarier, the end of the world, or having the world repopulated by maniacs? That, I think, is where the real Horror of 28 Days Later lies.
28 Days Later, like the Romero zombie flicks of yore, is ultimately an allegory of the days we are living in, an age in which we are constantly confronted with violence by the media (much like the ape right at the start of the film), where violence begets violence, and humanity faces an uncertain future. I applaud Danny Boyle’s bravery in making 28 Days Later because he undoubtedly took a big commercial risk when the majority of the cinema-going public might prefer escapism to words of caution. Remember, Rage is a human-made disease. Quite the allegory there.
Like most great masterpieces of their time, 28 Days Later has been misunderstood by a considerable amount of people. I have no doubt it will go down in history as a classic, the one movie which perfectly sums up the confused era we are living in. And even if you didn’t like it, it would be advisable to give 28 Days Later another chance; it’s a haunting experience when looked at from the right angle. Danny Boyle has many years left in him, I hope he’ll continue making more movies like this.