28 Days Later... (Octoberfest Horrorthon)

Octoberfest Horrorthon: Day 6 – 28 Days Later... (2002)

Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later used to be one of my all-time favorite zombie movies, but whether I've finally seen it too many times or my tastes have shifted since the last time I saw it, I find myself falling out of love. Boyle's story about a man who wakes up in the middle of the apocalypse still has its merits, but on this viewing I felt its strengths almost—almost—overwhelmed by the weaknesses in between them.

There are three scenes I still love:

1. The whole opening sequence with Cillian Murphy walking the empty streets of London. It's wonderfully atmospheric, and the wide angle presentation of the vacant city even surpasses 1971's The Omega Man in terms of depicting an urban environment which life has deserted. Even the blatant Pepsi product placement isn't enough to deprive these scenes of their powerful impact.

2. The scene where the group goes grocery shopping at an abandoned supermarket. Grandaddy's "A.M. 180" plays in the background of a quick little light-hearted montage, and it's a joyful segue which functions as a break from the chaos for both the characters and the audience.

3. The shot where Cillian Murphy kills a guy by pushing his thumbs through the dude's eyeballs and into his brain. So badass. I'm basically waiting the entire movie for this one moment.

The material between these scenes occasionally feels bland, uninspired, or even dull. It's a smorgasbord of offerings from Danny Boyle's usual bag of tricks (lateral tracks and pans to establish realism/objectivity; low, jaunty angles to disrupt it) with a few contrived running-zombie chase scenes to attempt to give the ambling narrative some forward momentum (could they at least give some more substantial reasoning why they want to go through the tunnel?). It never feels clear whether Boyle wants to focus on the characters (who all have arcs but not enough personality), the atmosphere (which is palpable but too intermittent), or the action (which for my money is the weakest of the three). It tries to say something about how humanity is its own worst enemy, but the contradictions between the welcoming protagonists and the violent antagonists never successfully combine into a coherent message.

It's still a solid entry in the horror genre's collection of zombie movies, but it's one undead creation which I may have finally killed (for myself, at least).

Of course it was never going to be easy to follow up my experience with Suspiria.

Octoberfest Horrorthon | Danny Boyle
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