Ever since I first saw Howard Keel wake up in an empty hospital in Day of the Triffids, I have loved movies where the hero walks out into a city strangely devoid of humanity. In my five decades of devotion to ‘zombie’ movies, I have rarely missed anything significant, whether it had zombies in it or not. From Dawn of the Dead to Shaun of the Dead, from Night of the Living Dead to The Stand, an empty world, apart from a handful of plucky survivors and possibly some deadly plants, brain eaters or crazy cult leaders on the loose, has always been my favourite premise for a movie.
Of course, there have been times when it seemed to me I was just watching reruns and updates of Day of the Triffids all the time, and 28 Days Later is no exception. In fact, if you replace the Infected, as this batch of Zombies are called, with maniacal brain eating plants, then you may as well call it Day of the Zombie Triffids and be done with it.
The story is almost identical to John Wyndham’s original book, and the most recent film version– a man (Cillian Murphy this time) wakes up in an empty hospital and goes outside to find London deserted except for the odd dead body and a couple of other survivors. Heading north, the survivors run into a bunch of other survivors who want to make the women communal property, and escape to end up somewhere in a remote part of Scotland.
Technically this may not be regarded as a zombie movie because the Infected aren’t actually dead, just infected with the Rage virus which makes them pretty crabby and sends them on murderous rampages. Otherwise they act like zombies, they only come out at night, they want to eat the uninfected, and they quickly infect anyone they bite or bleed on.
Besides, director Danny Doyle dishes up all the classic zombie moments, such as the church full of dead people, the priest turned foul flesh eater, the nice guy who gets infected by accident, and the zombie chained up in the back yard (well, it was in Shaun of the Dead anyway). He has assembled a decent cast, who manage to carry it all off with flair, notably Brendan Gleeson and Christopher Eccleston.
Gleeson has a great role as a dad taking care of his only daughter – he’s rigged the apartment with Christmas lights so fellow survivors can find their way there. Eccleston, the former Dr Who, is just superb as an army officer. There are also some great scenes, such as when the survivors are driving up the motorway to Manchester and the camera draws back to show the northern city in flames.
The ending is kind of bodgy, but there’s an alternative ending tacked on the end if you don’t like it. You’ve got to hand it to Danny, he’s nothing if not accommodating.
I purchased this DVD with my own funds.