CRITIC DOCTOR EXAMINES: Ann Hornaday (washingtonpost.com), Claudi Puig (usatoday.com), Alex Sandell (juicycerebellum), Peter Travers (rollingstone.com), Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times), Rick Kisonak (filmthreat.com), Maitland McDonagh (tvguide.com), Rob Blackwelder (splicedwire.com)
**** (Out of 5 stars)
Remember a time when you stayed up late watching TV and stumbled on a strange horror movie only to find yourself glued to the screen after the first ten minutes? You really wanted to go to bed, but now you can’t? “28 Days Later” is like one of those films.
The movie begins with mindless animal activists who break into a lab to free monkeys being used as experimental subjects. Unaware these hairy creatures carry a highly contagious virus that causes humans to become raging lunatics (after 20 seconds of infection), the thieving activists are attacked themselves. The peaceful animal lovers turn into red eyed, rage-filled beings who want to do nothing but kill and eat you! 28 days later, a coma victim awakes and walks through deserted London streets – and evil lurks all around.
Director Danny Boyle shot “28 Days Later” on all digital and some critics were less than pleased. Ann Hornaday (washingtonpost.com), who found the movie “detestable,” said, “It’s incomprehensible that he would choose to make it on digital video, resulting in images that are bereft of tonal range, detail or beauty.”
Hornaday’s review is a horn-of-plenty – filled with lots of brown stuff. Ok, I’ll admit I was a bit perplexed initially by the digital effect, but as the film progressed – it worked! Claudi Puig (usatoday.com) nailed it: “The look of the film, shot on digital video, is haunting and gritty. The cleaner, prettier look of 35mm would have detracted from the immediacy and sense of foreboding created in this artful blend of sci-fi and pseudo-realism.”
Alex Sandell (juicycerebellum) said, “’28 Days Later’ will be hailed by many critics, for the same reasons that ‘The Blair Witch Project’ received undue praise, when it was released in 1999. Like ‘The Blair Witch Project,’ ’28 Days Later’ is a sub par horror movie wrapped up in ‘arthouse’ trappings.”
Your comparison here, Alex, is horrifying! There is a huge difference between the movies. “The Blair Witch Project” had a brilliant marketing campaign, but the movie itself is substandard fair – and the characters are often irritating. “28 Days Later” offers an involving plot and real creepy moments, but does not have a creative marketing gimmick. In the end, there is no comparison.
The zombies alone are more terrifying than any witch. Their glowing red eyes, growls and appetite to eat humans by capturing them at great speed are literally frightening. Peter Travers (rollingstone.com) said, “These buggers snap to at the scent of human flesh and take you down like a stealth bomber.”
Though these raging zombies are effective, they do raise some valid questions. Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) logically asks, “Since they run in packs, why don’t they attack one another? That one, the movie doesn’t have an answer for.”
The answer is simple, Roger. The packs do attack each other, but the movie just doesn’t show it. See? I’m brilliant! Actually, it’s the director who is smart by not showing too much. This keeps us thinking and allows us to get involved in a story about an epidemic that has caused total chaos. The humans end up becoming scarier than the zombies as their animal instincts take over without law or government to keep them in order.
Rick Kisonak (filmthreat.com) said, “Boyle knows that, in the age of bioterror, what you don’t see can make for the scariest movies.”
The only major disappointment in this movie is its ending. I hate bad endings, and yet I was able to forgive in this case. Maitland McDonagh (tvguide.com) said it best: “The thematic underpinnings never disrupt the story’s stripped-down momentum, and the ray-of-hope ending in no way undercuts the horror of the 100 minutes that precede it.”
Ebert had a good idea for a better ending: He said, “My imagination is just diabolical enough that when that jet fighter appears toward the end, I wish it had appeared, circled back–and opened fire.”
Perfect! In fact, those of you who already saw the movie could easily picture the theater audience following up by imitating Veggie Tales’ cucumber character, Larryboy, by shouting, “Hellooo?!”
Rob Blackwelder (splicedwire.com) summed the movie up best: “Scary, satisfying, ironic, uncanny and exponentially smarter than 99 percent of over-produced Hollywood horror, ’28 Days Later’ breathes credibly contemporary new life into the laughably clichéd concept of the walking dead.”
“28 Days Later” is a movie worth seeing sooner. Preferably now.
— CRITIC DOCTOR