28 Days Later

28 Days Later (2002)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Extras: Commentary Track, Alternate Endings, Deleted Scenes, Featurette, Galleries, Music Video, Trailers and more

With "28 Days Later" British director Danny Boyle tried his hands at the zombie genre and created a movie that is superbly thrilling and horrifying. Borrowing liberally from every zombie film conceivable, such as "Day of the Dead," "Dawn of the Dead," "Resident Evil," as well as the classic science fiction thriller "The Omega Man", "28 Days Later" is a post-apocalyptic horror film that will have you on the edge of your seat.

A virus is spreading across the world wiping out mankind as we know it, turning everyone who is infected into a raging monster with only one thing on their mind, to kill and maim! 28 days after the initial unleashing of the virus by animal activists, bicycle courier Jim (Cilian Murphy) awakes from a coma and finds that the hospital is absolutely empty. Even the streets of London he is wandering are desolate and devoid of any life. But soon he learns that raging creatures are lurking and with a small group of other survivors, his fight for survival begins.

The story isn’t really original but I have to admit that Danny Boyle’s cinematic style does add quite a bit of edge to the material. It is highly kinetic and creates quite a few incredibly suspenseful moments. The film may not be logical at times and dwells in many clichés, and especially the first 15 minutes of the movie are full of moments where it is hard to suspend your disbelief, but once you get over that you will be rewarded with an infectiously terrifying trip.

"28 Days Later" was originally shot on digital video to create a particular realistic look that is different from the look of tradition celluloid. However, I feel the attempt has backfired – even more so on DVD. The image is simply a mess. Blurry and out of focus at many times, the image lacks definition and oftentimes degrades into a washed out mess with strokes the size of lamp posts. Edge-enhancement is excessive throughout – a result of shooting the film using cheap digital video equipment – creating massive halos around every contrasting line on the screen. Banding is also prevalent, and black levels are washed out, never allowing the image to create deep shadows with any sort of definition. While much of this was done deliberately to create a certain look for the film, I found it utterly distracting. There were too many cases were my eyes unconsciously locked onto an artifact or where I tried to figure out what it is that I am seeing. It destroys much of the suspense of the film, I’m sorry to say, and makes the film look like an inept film school attempt despite its other merits.

The audio on the DVD is the exact opposite, making the clash maybe even more evident. Presented as an aggressive <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> track, the pounding audio will surely give your equipment a workout. Aggressive surrounds, a wide frequency response with thunderous bass extension and a remarkable dynamic range, add enormously to the adrenaline flow created by the movie. From the most subtle moments to the most pounding and aggressive moments of the film, the audio is always on top of things, to drive the message home.

"28 Days Later" also contains a number of supplements, including a <$commentary,commentary track> featuring director Danny Boyle and writer Alex Garland. The track is engaging and entertaining at all times and the two manage to convey a good amount of information without ever appearing contrived.

Three alternate endings can also be found on the DVD with optional commentary by the director. One of them is available only in storyboard form, though, while the others have actually been shot. Six deleted scenes with optional commentary are also included, ranging wildly in quality.

"Pure Rage" is an almost 30-minute making of featurette full of interviews and clips fomr the movie. It is a promo featurette, though, focusing more on selling the film rather than giving you an actual look at the making of the film.

Image galleries are also included on the release. Self-running for over 20-minutes you get a large number of images from the set as well as Polaroid pre-production photos. The photos are accompanied by a commentary by the director who manages to not only comment on each picture, but the story behind them.

Animated storyboards, a Jacknife music video and trailers for the film are also included and round out the release nicely.

"28 Days Later" is certainly a cool film to watch. It is not as revolutionary as the studio would like to make you believe as Boyle has clearly studied his fellow genre directors extensively, but it does have a strong visual style that sets it apart form the crowd and it has been woven together so masterfully that the result is a truly scary film with plenty of terrifying moments. The extras are also nicely put together, adding to the experience without spoiling the scariness of the actual film. Too bad only that the filmmakers decided to give the film such a shoddy look which I found extremely distracting and counter-productive. Other than that, "28 Days Later" is clearly a film horror fans should sink their teeth into. I know the haunting images of London’s desolate, empty street will stay with me for some time.