I’ll confess to being a bit skeptical about a zombie movie taking place in England, my main concern being that I was going to have a difficult time sorting out the humans with bad teeth from the zombies with bad teeth. How would they even tell themselves apart?
Director Danny Boyle brings a technical level of achievement that was previously unseen in the zombie genre. Lots of quick edits during the violent scenes, lots of big panoramic shots of the deserted countryside, and lots of music that didn’t sound anything like Italian horror music legend Goblin.
That Boyle spit-shined this movie with his twenty-first century digital abilities was very much appreciated since the actual story was pretty much the same story that all of these movies have followed whether made by Americans, Italians, or guys named Danny.
Twenty-eight days after an incident at animal research facility we find ourselves inside a hospital. A patient wanders around the hospital for awhile and finds that it is deserted. You may recall this scene from the British novel and movie, The Day Of The Triffids where killer plants took over the world except for a guy napping in a hospital room.
Our hero (Jim) wanders outside to find London deserted and kind of unkempt. He makes a pit stop at a church for some symbolism and encounters his first batch of infected people. These things look like us except they have these red eyes and they screech and run really fast. Oh, and they also try to eat you. He runs away with these guys in hot pursuit and eventually runs into a couple of other survivors.
One of them is a woman named Selena. She tells Jim that staying alive is the only point to existence and demonstrates her lack of sentiment in rather fast and graphic fashion. They head over to Jim’s house because he wants to know what happened to his parents. Here is where you get a little bit of The Last Man on Earth as Jim replays home movies of happier times in his mind.
Selena and Jim move on after a really bad zombie attack and make their way to a high rise with Christmas lights blinking. They hook up with Frank and his daughter Hannah. They listen to the radio in hopes of finding some sign of life, but the only radio broadcast they can pick up talks about a military outpost near Manchester and the broadcast says they have the answer to the infection.
The foursome pile into Frank’s cab and drive out toward Manchester. Along the way, they have an exciting time driving through a tunnel involving not only zombies, but rats, too! To Jim’s credit, he was telling Frank over and over that going into the tunnel was a really dumb idea.
Once out of the tunnel, the movie switches over to Dawn Of The Dead mode. You’ve got a scene in a grocery store where everyone has a good time “buying” whatever they want. Mercifully, this is kept really short, unlike the middle hour of Dawn Of The Dead. There’s also the scene where they have to gas the vehicle up. Remember when they had to gas the helicopter up in Dawn Of The Dead? What is it about gas stations and zombies? They copy this scene right down to the close encounter with the infected child!
Things then head off into Day Of The Dead territory once we get to the military base at Manchester,. The few soldiers left turn out to be a group of degenerates commanded by a guy who has been broadcasting the message for their own purposes. The “answer” to the infection the message promised wasn’t exactly what Jim, Selena, or Hannah had in mind.
While the commander (Major Henry West) is showing Jim around his base we see that Major Henry has captured one of his men who was infected and now has the thing chained up in the backyard. Henry wants to see how long it takes for these things to starve to death. When they had a zombie captured for research purposes in Day Of The Dead, his name was Bub. This movie’s version of Bub ends up causing problems like the original did.
The lack of originality though didn’t turn me off since the presentation was so well done and the characters were likable. Jim, Hannah, and Selena are just regular people trying to figure out how to stay alive and find some meaning in a world where everything they thought they knew has evaporated overnight. There’s no pointless hysterics here. It’s been a month since it’s all started and the time for that has long since passed.
Boyle also attempted to deliver a message about violence in society and at the end when Hannah attacks Jim because she thinks he’s attacking Selena (they were actually just kissing real hard) the point has already been thoroughly made that the so-called “uninfected” people are just as infected with rage and bloodlust as the mutants (there’s very little difference between the chained up zombie’s and Jim’s actions towards the end).
Nothing like an ultra-violent movie that I’m watching to tell me that I shouldn’t be exposing myself to ultra-violent images. Disregarding its holier-than-thou attitude and not concentrating too much on how little new ground this treads, fans of end-of-the-world movies should experience a fair amount of desensitized excitement.
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