Saturday, September 06, 2003

Old 28 Days Later review (new headline)

Well, at my old diary, The Experiment, I put up a review of "28 Days Later." Go there, check it out, come back and comment on it. If it pleases you...

UPDATE 11/23/2005: Since my old blog no longer exists, here's the review pulled from my personal files. My files include two drafts of it, so you get them both. I've resisted the urge to revise either one:

I just saw "28 Days Later." It was a good, solid horror/action film.
It looked beautiful, great dark shadows and powerful images. And there were some scenes with real scares. The first half of the film was particularly brilliant. I don't know how they managed to get all the shots of empty London, but it looked amazing.
The second half of the film is where problems begin. Now, I should note, the problems are not evident while sitting in the theater. They only bother you after sitting back and thinking about the movie.
Mostly it's the portrayal of the soldiers. We're treated to the old movie cliche of soldiers being people totally led by their impulses and animal urges, who glory in death. These trained-to-kill soldiers are then beaten by the clever trickery of our hero (with the help of zombies, of course.) It should also be noted that our hero is a bike messenger who has only killed one zombie in his life. He just seems to have a powerful dark side.
The cliche keeps the film moving, but cheapens the experience.
The second half of the movie is also one big riff off of "Day of the Dead," including a chained up zombie who exacts his own revenge.
I should also note that the prologue to the film (the part before "28 days later..." comes up on screen) seemed silly and unnecessary. I would have rather had the whole zombie problem go unexplained. (They never use the term zombie, by the by.)
The movie doesn't hold a candle to the George Romero zombie series, but what zombie movie ever has? The movie seems to have a respect for horror (although, it doesn't indulge in gore at all, except for the brutality of it) and treats its themes seriously. The characters are well drawn and I think Serena's change in philosophy is handled well.
Over all, I thought it was an excellent film. Check it out for yourself and tell me what you think.

That being said, here are the caveats. First of all, George Romero has nothing to worry about. His films remain the zombie films. In fact, this film takes a lot from "Day of the Dead." The whole second half in fact. That's not a killer for a zombie movie though, it's not like anyone else has done anything original with zombies either. Watch any Lucio Fulci films lately?
The film was made on digital camera, from what I know. I'm not sure if it's that or the filmmakers choice, but it does give the film a strong, grainy feel. Documentary-style some would say (although when was the last time you saw a documentary with less than perfect camera work?) TV news style might be a better way to describe it.
They use the digital camera to create a few effects -- Manchester burning off in the distance -- but the most notable is the fast-moving, enraged zombies. I think it works, you never get a completely clear view of these people-turned-monsters.
Zombie fans may be upset that there is not a lot of gore. In fact, the zombies (which are never called that in the film) don't seem to eat people. They puke on people a lot and do a lot of crazed punching and things, but not a lot of eating. It didn't bother me. You still see people get killed and you still get an idea of the brutality of it.
I didn't think there was much need for the beginning of the film, the few minutes before "28 days later..." comes up on the screen. It just seemed to overexplain things. I like the "Night of the Living Dead" style where things are hinted at, but we have no idea if that is really what is behind the zombies.
The ending of the film worked for me while I was sitting there getting into it. Upon further reflection, it has its problems. They're even worse because this is a film that has billed itself (intentionally or otherwise) as an "intelligent zombie film."
First off, do we need to repeat the cliche of Army men out of control. There seems to be this common perception of military as people who are consumed with their animal urges. While I have no doubt the military attracts some of these people, I don't think it represents the real depth of military men. Not to mention, it's a straight rip from "Day of the Dead."
Second, if you're going to have a guy going up against military men, he'd better be damn clever. These are guys are trained not only to fight and take orders, but also to strategize. One bike messenger shouldn't be able to take 10 of them out.
Well, the movie does show him using clever strategies and siccing the zombies on these guys, but still. How do all these plans always work out in the movies? I don't know anybody who could make something like that work in real life. (Unlike "Day of the Dead" where the Army guys' own foolishness does them in.)
But all this is really not necessary. It is a good flick. Characters are well drawn. The action is exciting. The horror is scary. The first half works very well. Over all, it was one of the better horror movies I've seen recently.