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28 Days Later [VHS] [Import USA]
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A deadly virus escapes from a research centre and within twenty eight days the entire country is infected with the exception of a few survivors... Together they try to build a future for themselves... --This text refers to the DVD edition.
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Now, onto the video resolution issue that many reviewers are complaining about. I was also shocked when I rented this Blu-ray and saw the awful video resolution. Basically, it's no better than a standard DVD except for the closing scene.
The reason: The film was filmed mostly in standard DV resolution, using a Canon XL1s camcorder (the closing scene being the exception - it was filmed in 35mm). DV is very low resolution in comparison to HD or 35mm film, so the problem (if you consider this a problem) is with the source material, NOT the transfer to Blu-ray. It was the director's decision to film in standard DV, so this is the best resolution that you will ever see of this film.
So, if you don't have this movie and the Blu-ray and the DVD version are the same price, I'd probably stick with the Blu-ray version just for future compatibility. But, if you already have the DVD version, I would recommend just sticking with that copy for now because the Blu-ray version isn't going to offer any enhancements, other than the closing scene.
I can understand those who give the movie a bad review since they were expecting something extremely scary (that's the way in which it is being marketed) and ended up watching an intelligent, well presented study in good and evil, right vs. wrong, loyalty vs. survival, and many other concepts that one wouldn't expect from a "horror" flick. This movie, in that sense, simply was not what the average goer was promised.
Now, as far as good films are concerned, this is definitely a worthy effort. It has more depth than one could ever expect; the cinematography is done extremely well; and the acting is superb (even on the part of the nearly silent and secondary infected characters). The symbolism is one that the average movie watcher might not get, especially if they're looking for two hours of gore or scary moments (there are very few of those, as the director clearly preferred to refrain from using extremely graphic imagery).
Indeed, what makes this film a valuable one is the social criticism and the analysis of human nature that it presents. What is more important, survival or friendship/family? Are the ethics of scientific research being checked to prevent the creation of harmful agents (even if not as tragic and extreme as what we see in this film)? Is it worth fighting for one's life when hope is dim or even non-existant? Many more questions arise and give extreme value to this film. This is definitely an excellent example of existentialist movie making. Whether it is a horror film or not becomes irrelevant once you observe its true meaning.
So, if you are the kind of person who enjoys trashy and bloody films like the Jason or Freddy "epics," or if you cannot handle too much thinking while at the theatre, then this is not a movie for you. If you've enjoyed "smart" flicks like "Lost Highway," "Frailty," or "The Ring," then this is definitely for you. You will feel good about seeing this one, even though it portrays so many bad and ugly things about us as "humans."
The movie focuses on the people who have not been infected with a virus that turns humans into rage filled zombies. In fact, the zombies only make a few screen appearances, the fear factor of the movie coming mainly from the reactions of the uninfected people to their situation. The main characters are well acted and I cared about what happened to them. Visually the movie is a masterpiece and the scenes in an empty London are incredible.
I recommend 28 Days Later to fans of the other movies mentioned above or anybody looking for a thoughtful, scary zombie film. People looking to pull their brain out for a few hours or for non-stop gore and zombies will most likely be disappointed.
Have you ever thought that very thing---thought it as you watch the news, as you surf the Net, as you read your morning paper? As you watch flickering news reports of the latest mass riot in Liverpool or Paris, ethnic cleaning in the Balkans, slave-trading in the Sudan, tribal genocide all across Africa, our own politicians slobbering at the mouth as they call their opponents liars, morons, traitors?
As you see the latest news flash: shaven-skulled "militia" in dusty fatigues in some dirty border town, shoving weary refugees this way and that with the muzzles of their AK-47s. Or a breathless anchor bringing you up to speed on the fact two levees have given way, erasing---totally obliterating---a city you thought was there for the Ages?
Great. Now imagine that that kind of Insanity amped up a billion times, only it's catching through the blood. Imagine that and you have the travelogue to Hell that is Danny Boyle's "28 Days Later." And in Danny Boyle's film, Hell is very much other people.
Centuries ago the brilliant English physicist and celebrated polymath Sir Isaac Newton contended that "I see so far because I stand on the shoulders of giants." The same thing might be said of director Danny Boyle, who draws heavily on his own giants---zombie Grandmasters like George Romero, Dan O'Bannon, and Stephen King---for his own hyperkinetic descent into a post-Apocalyptic English Hell, "28 Days Later".
But with that in mind, Boyle has distilled all of the shock and terror of Romero's zombie trilogy into two hours of pure adrenaline, two hours of raw, sheer, shrieking terror. He has, with "28 Days Later", out-Romero'd Romero, and his stark, horrific, harrowing portrait of a London gone literally mad manages to capture the end of the world in a manner that utterly eluded the the TV-adaptation of King's "The Stand".
Forget the fact that the red-eyed, shrieking legions of the Infected in this movie aren't classic zombies: sure, they don't feed on the flesh of their victims, and yes, they don't lumber and shamble along.
The Infected don't just get Mad. They get Even.
Nothing in this movie lumbers or shambles along---but make no mistake about it, Boyle's latest is a zombie film, and it is so good, and so scary, that it rightfully claims its Crown as King of the Zombie Movies.
Here are some tasty little nuggets about the movie to tempt you with, without spoilers to ruin your appetite:
The PLOT: Animal rights activists break into a Cambridge biowarfare research facility, intent on setting their primate buddies free. A goggle-eyed scientist, returning a bit late with his moca frappucino, witnessing the break-in, begs them not to free the chimpanzees: the beasts are infected with a highly contagious virus known as Rage, which is spread through the blood and within 20 seconds turns its victim into a froth-mouthed, shrieking homicidal maniac.
The activists ignore the warning, a young woman opens a chimp's cage, and within seconds the chimp launches itself into its erstwhile rescuer's face.
Our protagonist, a bike messenger played sympathetically by Cillian Murphy, awakens from a coma in an eerily empty hospital ward; he stumbles out of the hospital into an equally empty London, and the fun begins.
The CINEMATOGRAPHY: Director of Photography Anthony Dod Mantle is an adherent of Dogme, the cinematic movement committed to using natural lighting; the result sets up the movie's haunting, sere, and unsettling visuals. London broils under a jaundiced, sterile sky, and broods at twilight in an otherwordly greyish blue; the empty city resembles an alien moonscape, and a gas station explosion is shot as though on another planet.
The Infected here don't walk, lumber, or lurch: they run---fast.
London's zombies are glimpsed only as a shrieking blur, or caught as loping shadows against a tunnel-wall; the combination of hyperkinetic editing and the blood-spattering gore (captured using much the same technique employed in the battle sequences of "Saving Private Ryan" and "Gladiator") makes the lulls between encounters with the Infected unbearably suspenseful.
The ACTING: Everyone here is an unknown (with the exception of "Gangs of New York"'s stolid Brendan Gleeson, who plays a London taxicab driver and---for a few minutes, anyway---gives the movie a reassuring moral center), and the acting is all superb and believable.
Cillian Murphy manages a remarkable transformation during the film, remarkable both for its outlandishness and (given the horror of his character's plight) believability. Noamie Harris and Noah Huntley shine as London survivors, and Christopher Eccleston is superbly Kurtzian as an embattled British Army Major at the center of his own raging heart of darkness.
MORAL of the STORY? Two, really: 1) if you're an animal activist, pick targets other than biowarfare facilities; and 2) if you're a soldier holed up in an English manor home, don't keep an infected zombie chained by the leg in the house garden.
Many of "28 Days"'s critics have attacked the movie for being 'derivative'---and yes, Boyle borrows heavily from a treasure-house of zombie and horror movies. The movie practically condenses all of the major action from Romero's 'Dead' trilogy, and the climactic, operatic final sequences in a storm-tossed English manor house could have been lifted directly from the horror video game "Resident Evil. But Boyle takes his inspiration, consolidates it, and then sets out in new, unexpected, and terrifying directions.
Boyle has crafted a masterpiece of movie terror, and one of the most bleakly disturbing films about the end of the world ever made.
And keep your lights out---they're drawn to lights.
As the story begins we find ourselves in a research laboratory specifically one that seems to deal with chimpanzee monkeys. The lab looks relatively deserted (except, of course, for the test simian test subjects), that is until a small group of masked individuals enters...ah, the activists...anyway, a hapless technician walks in on the group and warns them some of the monkeys are infected with some particularly nasty and infectious virus known as `Rage', and that they should avoid letting the animals loose. Of course they don't listen, brimming with their own sense of self-righteousness, and one of the idiots gets bitten...by the way, I don't think they're idiots for their beliefs towards not using animals for such testing, but they are idiots for thinking it a good idea to let loose monkeys infected with who knows what...so much so I'd be lying if I said I didn't find some enjoyment in seeing the troupe reap the bloody benefits given their obviously overwhelming sense of self satisfaction. Anyway, it's 28 days later, as indicated by some text on the screen, and we're in a hospital. A man named Jim (Murphy) in a bed wakes and notices there's no one else around...the hospital is literally vacant. Not only that, but the city streets of London are the same. Newspapers indicate some sort of mass evacuation, but it seems not everyone has gone...a visit to a church yields a meeting of sorts with a few crazed, bloodthirsty, infected individuals, who Jim manages to escape from aided by a couple of norms, one of them named Selena (Harris). They fill Jim in on current events (seems Jim's been in a coma for the last month due to an accident), and Selena imparts a few rules to live by...after a visit to Jim's parents house, they hook up with a tower block dweller named Frank (Gleeson), and his daughter Hannah (Burns), and all decide to hit the road based on a pre-recorded, repeating radio broadcast promising salvation from the madness. The wanderers eventually find the source of the message, in a small, grabasstic military group holed up in a large, country estate, led by someone named Major Henry West (Eccleston), but not necessarily salvation as the unit has their own designs for the travelers, especially the ladies...
This seems to be an important point to many, so it's probably worth mentioning...the term `zombie' is never once used within the film (as far as I can tell), and, in a traditional sense, those suffering from the disease do not appear dead, just overly prone to unspeakable acts of extreme violence, and thereby aren't really zombies (at least not of the George Romero/walking dead variety). As far as consuming the flesh of the living, I really couldn't say...there did seem to be a tendency to bite, and I suppose those `infected' would have to turn on the `norms' if only because their madness would prevent them recognizing any other viable source of food (tinned meats, canned fruits and vegetables, etc.), but I never really saw a close up sequence of the infected feasting on flesh featured in the film. The `Rage' virus seemed odd if only because it drove its victims not to randomly attack anything in general, but rather only those not yet infected (the infection passes easily enough, especially given the infected's penchant for projectile vomiting). Why should the homicidal loonies not attack each other, focusing rather on those not yet affected? I'm unsure, and it's never related in the story...oh well, a lot of things are left open ended, so it was no big deal. The one aspect I really liked about this film was when Cillian Murphy's character first woke, and then began wandering around the city, unaware of that which had transpired during his Rip Van Winkle impersonation. There was an entirely spooky feeling seeing him walking these streets that should have been normally teeming with life, hustling and bustling crowds all intent on fulfilling whatever purpose they have at the moment. Does the plot here offer up anything we really haven't seen before? Not really, but what it does do is give it a good once over, sort of a fresh spin, and juice things up in general. I had a lot of fun with this film for the first half (the flaming `Ragers' were amazing, and the gas station explosion sequence incredible), but then things got a little draggy during the latter half of the movie, after the initial group hooks up with the military types running their own program. I spoke earlier how director Boyle `juiced things up'...one way he did this was by shooting the film (a majority of it) using digital cameras. The effect is to sort of break down the barrier between the screen and the audience, almost like your watching live TV rather than scenes choreographed for a film. All in all a strong film with a solid sense of direction, despite the story getting a little predictable near the end.
The anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) picture on this DVD is clear, sharp, and exceptionally clear, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround audio comes through clean. As far as extras, there's quite a bit including a commentary track with director Boyle and writer Garland, six deleted scenes with optional commentary, still photo galleries, a music video, animated storyboards, a `making of' featurette titled `Pure Rage: The Making of 28 Days Later', and three, alternate endings...the first is slightly more depressing than the one actually used in the film, the second a little less so, introducing a relatively new character to replace one that got lost, and then the third, titled the `Radical Alternative Ending' excludes virtually the last third of the film, offering a completely different tale all together.
If I learned anything from this film it's that Cillian Murphy can't grow a decent beard to save his life...