28 Days Later (2002)

His fear began when he woke up alone. His terror began when he realised he wasn't.
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29 Days Later - His fear began when he woke up alone. His terror began when he realised he wasn't.

In 2002 British director Danny Boyle proved that the concept of a zombie movie can be updated and used to scare a whole new generation of horror fans. The notion of a fast moving zombie rather than the slow shambling undead that we have come to expect is not a new idea and was first noticeably used in Dan O'Bannon's The Return of the Living Dead in 1985, 28 Days Later is the first mainstream horror to turn the rapidly moving zombie-like-hazard into a plausible threat that manages to shock the audience rather than just look ridiculous. From the offset the viewer is thrown into a desolate world where "The Rage" pandemic has ravaged the whole of Britain and lone survivor, Jim, wakes up from his coma to be faced with a deserted London and no idea why. Numerous scenes of the movie were filmed in the early hours of the morning in stages lasting no more than minutes to minimize disruption to the usually bustling city of London. The sight of a non-bustling London populated only by pockets of flesh hungry zombies conjures up some very powerful sensations of fear and isolation. As the movie progresses and the extent of the disaster unfolds, the coming of Danny Boyle's rapture creates a very apocalyptic sense of hopelessness.

The movie begins with some animal rights terrorists interfering in the typical half-informed, tunnel-visioned way (probably due to having nothing else to do) who release a dangerously "Rage" infected chimp upon society. 28 days later bicycle courier, Jim (Cillian Murphy), awakes from a coma to find he is in a deserted hospital. Upon leaving the hospital he realizes he is also in a deserted London unaware that society has been devastated by Zombie-flu (a situation similar to bird-flu and swine-flu except it is a real pandemic and hasn't been made up by the media in a slow news week).

Rather than making the infected stockpile tissues and stay indoors in front of daytime TV, "The Rage" turns its victims into super-violent athletes (see Steroids), as Jim soon finds out as he is chased through the streets by a maniacal mob of gut-puking disease carriers without a handkerchief in sight. Luckily for Jim he is rescued by two survivors, Selena (Naomie Harris) and Mark (Noah Huntley), who take him to safety and explain what a bad time he chose to become uncomatose.

After Mark is infected with some bad blood and cured by Selena's machete, the two survivors stumble upon another two who have survived the spread of the disease high up in an abandoned block of flats. Frank and his young daughter Hannah's supplies are running low but they offer a glimpse of hope from a radio broadcast that they have managed to find from the military in Manchester who claim to have "the answer to infection".

The four set off on their perilous journey up North but soon discover that the military camp are not offering an acceptable solution to the problem and must now try and escape from their new hell, with the hopes that a better solution exists outside of the confines of the military blockade.

28 Days Later is a superb addition to the zombieish movie genre and manages to give a tired concept a much needed makeover for the modern generation of splatter punks. The gore is plentiful but not over the top and the infected are a threatening addition to the movie zombie population as they puke up their guts to spread the virus amongst the uninfected minority. The storyline goes from an apocalyptic and hopeless filled world, a plotline usually saved for the end of horror movies, to a ray of hope soon extinguished by the evils of society in a disease ravaged world. The concept of ordering the movie progression in this way is awe-inspiring. It is a bit unfair to keep pigeon-holing 28 Days Later as a zombie movie as it is more of an infection movie as the carriers of "The Rage" are not undead and are easily killed compared to the animated piles of guts that we have come to fear from Fulci movies, although the movie is similar in many ways to the tried, tested and successful zombie formula. Top marks to 28 Days Later as a horror movie in its own right and for an innovative spin on a belief that is ingrained in the minds of Romero fans worldwide.
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Categories: British Horror Movies
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