The movie begins with images of mass panic, chaos and police/military brutality, playing on televisions that are being shown to monkeys that are being experimented on. A bunch of activist come in taking pictures of the animals and the experiments being performed on them, and it’s horrifying to be honest. Despite a researcher coming in and trying to tell them that the animals are infected, the activists don’t listen and release them, and thus the cluster-eff begins.
At a local hospital Jim wakes up naked as hell, still strapped to all of his surgical equipment, half his hair missing and looking like hot shite on a stick. The overhead shot of him, totally isolated and alone is disturbing but the next shot of London, utterly still, is reminiscent and chilling and reminds me of this movie’s obvious predecessor: 12 Monkeys.
This movie is a masterpiece of terror, a constant, unstoppable build, even when things seem to be getting better. It uses panning and overhead shots, with sped up frame rates right before attacks are unleashed, shadows and quiet to build tension.
One of this movie’s greatest strengths is its use of sound: the suddenness of the car alarm going off in the otherwise quiet city is terrifying (especially as we, the audience know that there’s still something there to hear it), the sound of thousands of rats running in fear, and the super-fast shuffle of the infected all fill you with dread.
Then there are the action sequences. While the moment in the church when Jim accidentally sets off a pack of infected is one of the most terrifying moments ever committed to film, it’s his rescue by Mark and Selena that employees dynamic use of shadows, quick cuts and darkness in a prime example of how to do more with less.
The use of side shots, particularly when characters are reacting to the horror of a world with nothing – no medicine, no government, no police, etc. – are super effective in showing you the isolation of this utter crapsack world, in which you never know if you’re going from the frying pan to the fire with each person you encounter. Will they be assets or get you killed? Are they truly friends or do they have darker motives? When every room you walk into might be filled with infected you have to choose your friends wisely.
The sense of rebuilding, of making your family out of those around you is strong in this movie. Brendan Gleeson’s Frank, the ultimate self-sacrificing father, who goes above and beyond to keep his children, Hannah by birth and Jim and Selena by proxy, alive being the prime example. These four quickly become family and it’s when they’re separated from each other, forcibly, that things go downhill right quick.
You see, while the infected are the immediate threat, it’s humans – the ones who created the virus in the first place – who are far more dangerous. When the crew arrives at a place they think is safe, they end up in even worse shite than they were before as Selena, Jim and Hannah’s youth and more importantly their beauty, becomes a liability. Jim begins to cotton on sooner than the others, after a one-on-one with the dark and handsy Major West, but soon Selena, who’s been distracted taking care of Hannah realizes they’re in deep as well.
Filled with social commentary, amazing set pieces, and fantastic action; 28 Days Later is the standard that all other survival horror films have to beat.
Five out of Five Infected