Geezer: 4 1/2 stars
Weezer: 4 1/2 stars
We’ve seen the future of horror and its name is Danny Boyle. The director of Trainspotting (1996), A Life Less Ordinary (1997) and other more or less compelling movies made in England has hit the panic-button bull’s eye with 28 Days Later, easily the best horror movie in years. It’s the story of a young Brit who wakes up from a coma to find himself in a deserted London, apparently in the aftermath of catastrophic events that become clearer and starker to him as he wanders the empty streets.
Geezer: First off, there’ll be no spoilers in this review. We need to be very careful not to give away what happens, even in the beginning. Because this film is about suspense, a load of it layered on thick.
Weezer: Oh, yeah, extra helpings. It’s one of the tensest movies I’ve seen recently ... or maybe ever. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. About three-quarters of the way in, I wanted this movie to end, not because I wasn’t enjoying myself, but because I didn’t want to be tense anymore. It’s so gripping that I was, like, “Jesus, when are we going to get a breather?”
Geezer: There’s an interesting little metaphor when the main characters are pulling stuff from supermarket shelves and grab some single-malt Scotch. It’s almost like, to really appreciate this film’s suspense level, you have to be a connoisseur of tension the way some folks are aficionados of single-malts - just to love the pure intensity. I remember feeling that way about Aliens: Toward the end, as much as I was enjoying it, I said to myself, “When is this nightmare going to be over?” Here, I was astounded at how long Boyle could keep the tension going and not break it, not make a mistake to ruin it. 28 Days Later goes out of its way to stay true to its premises, without introducing scientific impossibilities.
Cillian Murphy (who plays Jim, the lead) and Naomie Harris (who plays Selena) are great — they anchor the film. And Brendan Gleeson (the last time we saw him, he was the barber in Gangs of New York) and Megan Burns are also terrific.
Weezer: There’s very strong character development throughout, but the one who steals the screen is Selena. What an amazing role! Naomi Harris can join the female heroine hall of fame with Jamie Lee Curtis, Sigourney Weaver and Linda Hamilton, which is a pretty prestigious club. She’s strong, beautiful, kicks ass and takes names.
Geezer: All we can say without ruining anything is that Jim encounters some of the infected creatures that’ve caused the desolation and then he meets up with some other people. But what I love about 28 Days Later is that it’s got that good old feeling of integrity about it — with a great screenplay, great acting and directing.
Weezer: ... innovative directing. You can tell right away, from the way it’s shot, that it’s not a Hollywood movie. It doesn’t have that polished look. It’s gritty and sometimes looks like it’s in black and white, like a low-budget cult flick, but that’s not a strike against it.
Geezer: It’s what makes it work.
Weezer: That look is on purpose and creates the tone of the film - plus the editing makes the suspense and suspense is what makes this movie. If anything, it gets more suspenseful as it goes, which you can’t even fathom, ‘cause you’re like, “How could it get any more intense?” But it does.
Geezer: As in all great horror films, whenever there’s a lull, you just can’t stand it. This film gets you so tense so soon and consistently that it can do anything and you’re still tense.
Weezer: We always talk about influences from other movies, and though this isn’t technically a zombie flick, if you were to categorize it in a horror subgenre, it would fall in line with other zombie films.
Geezer: The creatures do what zombies do ...
Weezer: ... which brings up the Night of the Living Dead trilogy. What’s really beautiful — and it’s one of my favorite horror films — is the middle part of Dawn of the Dead that most people can’t stand because they say it’s too slow. But that’s where George Romero shows us the loneliness of the survivors.
So by no means does 28 Days Later rip off anything, despite definite influences and a few moments of homage. Romero would be very touched by Jim’s situation in the beginning, the way Boyle changes and amplifies his loneliness and seclusion. What a terrifying feeling, besides there being creatures out there waiting to get you, just waking up and there not being anyone. Being alone is one of our greatest fears. You have enough food to live, but you’ll be alone for the rest of your life. That’s horrifying.
It’s a beautiful shout-out to Romero, but what a great way to start the movie - the initial tension just morphs into this other, wicked tension, then the training wheels come off and it grabs you and won’t let go.
Geezer: Boyle has made a classic that evokes others, like Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, the novel about a guy who’s alone in a world overrun by vampires.
Weezer: Fear is one of the hardest emotions to instill in an audience. You can make them laugh pretty easily - for instance, you can show a naked guy. When Jim wakes up in the hospital, naked, it’s clear that American audiences can’t handle that, ’cause everybody in the screening laughed when they saw his penis and laughed when they saw his ass while he’s taking a shower. You can do really sad shit that’ll always make some people cry. But fear is tough to do, because America (and the rest of the world as well) is so jaded from TV violence and other horror movies. Peoples’ skin is so thick that you can’t just gross them out anymore. But this movie keeps you scared the whole time, without awful gore that you can’t watch (there’s gore, but you don’t have to look away) and Boyle pulls it off for almost two hours, which is phenomenal.
Just one thing, though, and it’s no joke: If you have a young kid and take him or her to see this movie, you should be reported for child abuse.
George Tysh (Geezer) is the Metro Times arts editor. Bruno Tysh (Weezer) is a recent high school graduate. E-mail them at [email protected].