There will be a select few of you out there who might think this is a sequel to 28 Days, the overwrought Sandra Bullock alcohol addiction movie from a couple years ago. It's not.
But as anyone who has seen the trailer knows, there will be no mistaking 28 Days Later for anything involving Sandra Bullock. This one's about bloodthirsty killer zombies who are roaming the British countryside and urban jungle, looking for fresh victims to kill. And it's not because they want to eat their prey. They're just angry.
That seems to be a popular topic these days, what with the world mad as hell at the United States and a big angry green guy running around onscreen. But 28 Days Later is different from all of that -- very different. If comparisons are to be made, they would be to such movies as The Omega Man, Night of the Living Dead, and Night of the Comet.
But first things first. This is much more than just a gore-fest, although there are definitely some bloody doings, committed by some surprisingly fast-moving members of the undead, or whatever they're called. Be aware that the script is not going to please anyone even remotely connected to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Though that organization isn't named in the film, the bunch of do-gooders seen at the beginning -- breaking into a research lab to free some caged chimps -- might as well be PETA activists. As they reach for the latches on the cages, a terror-struck lab assistant pleads with them that they don't know what they're messing with, that the animals are "infected with rage and are highly contagious."
Of course, something bad happens. Then everything goes blank. Then it's 28 days later....
A man wakes up in a hospital, after recovery from a bicycle accident, alone, naked -- watch out, male frontal nudity! -- only to find that the place has been wrecked, and, upon donning hospital togs, that everything outside is also wrecked. And he's more than alone; he's ALONE! There are some absolutely stunning scenes of a deserted London in the middle of the day, accomplished not with special effects but through a combination of permits and extremely fast set-ups (courtesy of digital video technology). The crew was able to get in and out quickly while all traffic was briefly stopped a few blocks away.
The survivor of whatever has happened -- Jim (Cillian Murphy) -- is soon accosted by a group of what once were humans but now are simply creatures with murder on their minds. And he's soon saved by two people like him -- Selena and Mark (Naomie Harris and Noah Huntley -- who fill him in on events of the past month. It was a virus, he's told -- one that spread quickly, all over the world. Now there's no government, police, army, electricity, nothing.
He is also told, in no uncertain terms, not to go out at night. The creepy ones are out there, in big numbers. Considering what's already happened in the film, it should surprise no one that the trio is soon reduced to a duo. It's not a pretty sight.
In fact, nothing in this film is pretty. Part of the credit for that credit again goes to the digital video, which provides a gritty look and a grim mood for the film. But not everything is grim. The director is Danny Boyle, who presented black comic tension in Shallow Grave and black comic grittiness in Trainspotting. The even blacker comic mood of 28 Days is offset a couple of times by misleading rays of lightness. There are some relatively happy interludes on the road trip in search of that voice on the radio, and some assurances by an army major once the voice is located.
But in the world of 28 Days Later, you can't count on any of the characters' safety. There's more than the inhuman kind of monster on the loose in a world gone mad. The grotesque and grisly stuff, which rarely stops, is nicely complemented by a soundtrack ranging from an angelic solo voice to rampaging rock.
The ending will leave some viewers satisfied; others will complain. But as they leave the theater, even those who like 28 Days Later will be laughing a bit nervously.