One of the most exhilarating and touching movies I’ve rented this year has also been one of the films I just rented for my month of horror movie madness, Danny Boyle’s zombie movie 28 Days Later (2002). Set in London, the insidious emotion rage has manifested from something felt to something physically passed from person to person, and once someone is infected, they turn into a hate-filled zombie, capable of speeding after their meal of uninfected people, unlike zombies past, who dazedly dragged their feet in a lazy moaning amble towards their victims. Jim wakes up from a coma in a completely abandoned hospital, unaware of the zombie invasion and the eradication of most of the population until some zombies chase after him and he’s clued in by two other uninfected people who save him from the undead rabble and tell him what’s been going on while he’s been unconscious. Jim is a sympathetic character from the start, risking his own safety more than once for the sake of sentimental attachments to the dead, and later, for the living father and daughter he and his only living acquaintance, the toughened up Selena, come across. The father and daughter, Frank and Hannah, have set up their wrecked apartment as a beacon for other possible survivors, by lighting their sole window with beautiful old fashioned Christmas lights that play tinkly Christmas songs when plugged in. This scene, with the characters sitting in a post-apocolyptic little hovel lit only by Christmas lights, has the visual feel of the kind of art my friends made in high school, when Christmas lights seemed to connote an early-blooming sense of nostalgia for their childhoods and, there was also something vaguely punk about Christmas lights – often when I went to parties thrown at cool people’s houses I noticed their bedrooms and houses were often lit by Christmas lights. It kind of surprised me that Danny Boyle, a grown man, had the same sort of aesthetic as these teenagers of my past, and the scene was incredibly charming and melancholic, the way my old teenaged friends’ nostalgia was tinged with melancholy. I felt a similar surprised enjoyment of a scene in which the main characters are awed by the sight of running, living horses amongst the carnage of the city (a lot of my wild artist college girl acquaintances were drawn to horse-related imagery, because of the wild power of horses). This is a very autobiographical reaction to these parts in the movie, but I really am surprised that a grown man and the cuckoo female friends of my youth have the same artistic sensibility, and it really impresses me that he so successfully mixed these pretty scenes within the gross zombie-related gore of the rest of the film.
The plot was just generally strong and full of twists, especially the main twist of the protagonists escaping the rage-filled zombies only to become hostages of the much worse non-infected soldiers they’d imagined would be their protectors. These soldiers are warped potential rapists who actually make us feel sorry for the zombies, with the way the soldiers relish killing them. Ha!, how true, these living people who’ve accepted violence as an institutional norm are supposed to still contain some humanity, since they’re still humans, but instead they’re scarier than the disgusting undead predators that are after them all.
2 other great things about this movie:
Feminism-wise, the female protagonists are on completely equal footing, kiss-ass wise, as the male protagonist – all 4 of them are good and true friends despite the fact that 2 of them are father and daughter (not a combination known for its equal footing) and the other 2 are a man and woman with a sexual tension between them (also not a combination that often exudes equality!).
The revenge justice in this movie is very gratifying.
I give it 3 million thumbs up, both as a zombie movie and a testament to film as an art form.