28 Days Later

By Rob Scherf

In my mind, few more than three exceptional zombie movies have ever been made. It’s odd, the Italian horror explosion in the ’70s opened the door for about 100 hack directors to ply their trade with countless “cinematic” offerings featuring torrents of blood and legions of undead. These features were often only capable of supporting themselves under their own weight by stringing together plotless sequences containing monumentally bad special effects with the liberal application of titillatory shower scenes, and, even on the “so bad it’s good” level, things were hit and miss. In fact, the only moment in the entire era that doesn’t cause my gag reflex to violently revolt might just be the cult-favourite fight in Lucio Fulci’s Zombie between a zombie and a shark. Yes, you read that right.

The latest decent zombie movie is not really a zombie movie at all: 28 Days Later is the apocalyptic yarn of Charlton Heston’s The Omega Man, switching vampires for the walking dead and mixing in the geyserous bloodletting of those awful, schlocky "horror" pictures from so many years ago. Early in the movie, one of the protagonists hacks a live man to pieces with a machete, graphically. If that’s not film making, I don’t know what is.

There’s even more to enjoy than the gratuitous amount of gore: see director Danny Boyle’s (Trainspotting, Shallow Grave) impossibly desolate vision of abandoned London in the film’s first act, the heartbreakingly verisimilar cast of characters, the amazing sense of adventure screenwriter Alex Garland can impart on a simple trek through a transit tunnel, even the unavoidable love story.

If every film had even half the heart, wit and absolute sense of awe 28 Days Later does, we wouldn’t even need year-end retrospective lists.

City of God
Lost In Translation