"28 Days Later" was a game-changer when it came out. It almost single-handedly ripped the horror genre from the sludge the 90's had dragged it into with its gritty urban realism and its haunting imagery. Over a decade later, in a world full of inventive, serious horror (and riddled with genre zombie media) that it opened the floodgates to, i revisited it and found that it had lost none of its potency.
No good deed goes unpunished in this fictional world, as activists unwittingly unleash an infection that wipes out the bulk of the United Kingdom leaving death and the ravenous infected in its wake...and those that would dare survive. The premise is one frequented by many an apocalyptic film but 28 Days Later's delivery method is what truly makes it stand out.
Hauntingly atmospheric is the best way to describe the lonesome urban landscape that protagonist Jim (an excellent Cillian Murphy) wakes up to, all the moreso in a post-9/11 world then and, years later, in a charged atmosphere where the origins of the movie's plague are more common than ever. So much imagery evokes emotions in the viewers that we link to modern day chaos and catastrophe that all that is presented feels disturbingly plausible. The film's visual palette screams out like a harbinger of inevitability, with its uncompromisingly lo-fi appearance and washed out, bleak tones. It's a somber and depressing affair, made all the more disheartening with a simple but ambitiously soul-crushing score.
Any astute cinephile will note that the film bears undeniable resemblance to the narrative of George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead, to the point that you might call it an abbreviated version of the core events in those two films. Unlike Romero's classics though, "Days" doesn't seek to say much about society's ills. Instead it highlights something we most often forget in the fray of our lives. Its ultimate purpose is to espouse the power of hope in the face of utter adversity. Here is the lifeblood of the story and what keeps you trudging through madness alongside its protagonists. Here also is what makes it stand above the pack.
Appropriately enough the film is primarily shot in frenetic style on grainy digital cameras but that eventually gives way to the more refined beauty of of 35mm film stock as the film's culminating moments come into play. The allusion does not go unnoticed and it almost comes as a relief in kind with that felt by the protagonists.
"28 Days Later" is harrowing, unsettling, kinetically paced at times and nighmarishly languid at others, it feels dirty, it feels hopeless....then it makes you care, it makes you hope, it makes you yearn. In short, it is an experience. 9/10