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Visual Films: 28 Days Later

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28 Days Later

(2002) Directed by Danny Boyle

I’m a bit surprised at how much I loved the visuals for 28 Days Later, but in retrospect that makes perfect sense.  The atmosphere of an empty, post-apocalyptic world is really created through images to show that emptiness.  It’s hard to convey it otherwise.  So a shot like the one with the windmills has the big open sky with one lone car.  The sequence at the beginning is Jim (Cillian Murphy) looking around a nearly empty London for people.

Absolutely love how text got used in these visual shots, beginning with the graffiti from the church scene, the heartbreaking letter from Jim’s parents, to the STOP outside the Big Set Piece.  That said, the last third or so of the movie is over-represented in this post, since it is the Big Set Piece.

28 Days Later

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Directed by Danny Boyle (2002) Starring: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Brendan Gleeson, Megan Burns, Christopher Eccleston

Waking up to an abandoned London, Jim (Murphy) walks into the new zombiepocalypse.  Rage, acting as an infection, has become the new impetus for the fast-moving horror monster stand-bys.

Jim would be another infected once he came across them after dark, if he hadn’t run into two survivors Mark (Noah Huntley) and Selena (Harris).  They fill him in on the spread of the disease and the trick to surviving is kill before being killed.  That lesson becomes ingrained when Selena kills Mark after an attack.  When exploring what’s left of London, they meet two more survivors in Frank (Gleeson) and his daughter Hannah (Burns), who have managed to catch a radio broadcast promising safety 26 miles outside of Manchester.  The group decides to go, reasoning that dying on the way is not much different from dying in London.

Boyle has created a terrifying take on the zombie movie, creating monsters out of humans that you just can’t escape from.  The horror is much more psychological, whether from the terror of the infection or how inhuman we can become in order to survive.

I loved the little details included to work within the context of a post-apocalyptic world, like surviving on candy and soda, since nearly everything else is rotting away.  There are a few cheerful scenes included that managed to make the carnage all the more terrifying in contrast, such as “shopping” at a grocery store on the way out of London, which was preceded by an attack in a tunnel.

Rather than plot driven, the movie is more of a series of character sketches within the context of a post-apocalyptic world.  Selena first appears as a cold badass, threatening to kill Jim in a heartbeat if he ever got infected.  She eases into a more relaxed personality along the drive.  Jim adapts to the nightmare of waking up in London, becoming very vicious in order to survive, although he keeps his humanity.  That contrasts nicely with other survivors who have come to their own conclusions on what it means to survive.

The great set piece of the movie is finding the outpost heard about over the radio and it is a wonderful scene which ties together the psychological horror perfectly.

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