April 27, 2004

28 Days Later

British movies piss me off -- even the really good ones -- because I can't understand the bleedin' dialog. However, about a third of the way into this one I remembered that I could turn on the English subtitles. Ahhhhh. Then I could enjoy the movie. I'm wondering if I shouldn't do that all the time; even if the accents are Kansan you still miss a word here and there. This morning I rewatched the first 37 minutes and gained a better understanding of the basic story.

28 Days Later, if you've seen the trailer or previews, could easily be confused with Night of the Living Dead. And 28 Days Later does have some very aggressive and deadly zombies that will strike when you least expect it, creating a very consistent tension throughout. However it is far above such Grade B fare as George Romero's tale. Most of the way into 28 Days Later, I thought that it was simply a condensed British rewrite of Stephen King's The Stand. It has much in common with Steve's magnum opus. A virus suddenly appears and just as suddenly wipes out the entire population except for a few lucky or unlucky souls, depending on your perspective.

However, I think the objectives of the respective storytellers are different. Danny Boyle, famous for Trainspotting (couldn't understand that one either) directed, screenplay by Alex Garland.

I'm growing to dislike "message movies" more and more, unless the message is obscure enough to allow for multiple interpretations, like this one. It could be a simplistic message: man's normal state is that of killing his fellow man, or, military people are assholes, or, we are all just sex-driven beasts, or, military people are just sex-driven murderous assholes, or, most probably, we are all assholes except the three central characters in this movie.

The message I think runs a little deeper here. Based on the derivation of the virus, the meaning has something to do with rage as a genetic part of our makeup that will kill us all one day. I'll let you watch the film and decide for yourself. If you can handle some (al) gore (vidal), and can understand British dialects you should be mesmerized. And I'm not just referring to the full frontal when the guy wakes up in the hospital.

I see it will appear on HBO soon, but you won't get subtitles, so you might consider the DVD. There are some interesting extras on the DVD: Three alternative endings, one that is so extensive that they have to show it with storyboards and dialog read by the director and the writer. The documentary about the making of the film is scarier than the film because it discusses the factual risk of viral pandemics faced by the world today. They talk about the huge outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the UK which lead to the destruction of 5 million head of livestock, and how viruses are morphing such that they can be transmitted from animal to human, like the virus in 28 Days Later.

Calling this a horror movie is actually debatable. Oh, it is definitely horrifying, but there's more to it than yikes and screams. This flick gives you a lot to think about.

Posted by Wayne at April 27, 2004 05:46 PM

Why don't Americans want to make the effort to understand the rest of the world? Why does everyone have to sound like Tom Cruise?

It would be a very boring place if we all sounded the same.

Posted by: Andrew at April 28, 2004 01:28 PM

I don't expect Englishmen to sound like Americans -- I just can't pick up on the British dialect. If I lived in London I'm sure I would grow to understand the locals out of necessity. The problem is I just don't get enough practice listening to such language. Don't take it personal.

Parts of Trainspotting actually had subtitles. Danny Boyle must've had a reason to do that.

Posted by: Wayne at April 28, 2004 05:00 PM

I think Boyle was exploring how close to animals we are and that like any animal who is constantly exposed to violence and rageful behavior, we will eventually lose our civilized composure. It's a scary notion.

I don't agree that "28 Days Later" is a higher grade film than George Romero's zombie films. In fact, Romero dealt with such issues as racism ("Night of Living Dead") and consumerism ("Dawn of the Dead"). I think the major difference between them is a sense of hope at the end of Boyle's film. Maybe because I was raised on Romero's movies I prefer my zombie flicks to end in cynical despair. Boyle was apparently leaning that way at one point based on the alternate endings on the DVD.

And yeah, it is sometimes hard to make out what the Brits are saying in their movies. I didn't have too much problem with "28 Days Later", except for the last line the girl says. I played it over three times and I still don't know what she said.

Anyway, enjoyed reading your reviews. Keep it up!

Posted by: Ken at May 1, 2004 03:33 AM

One does tend to forget the chimps in the beginning of this film, and the symbolism must begin there too. I wondered if it wasn't a big slash on PETA. :-)

Posted by: Wayne at May 1, 2004 10:28 AM
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