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Fox Home Entertainment presents
Jim: I was thinking...
DVD Review28 Days Later does what all great horror films should do, in that it avoids all that unnecessary time-filling character introduction stuff (that comes later, in wonderfully slow moments) in favor of hammering home the start of the creepy storyline right from the first frame. The setup is simple: a group of animal activists make mankind's biggest mistake ever by attempting to liberate some chimpanzees from a radical primate research lab in London. The problem, unbeknownst to them until it is too late—which for them isn't very long—is that the monkeys have been given a genetically-enhanced and easily transmittable virus known as Rage, which causes unrelenting and unstoppable murderous, violent aggression. The story then cuts to the titular 28 days later, when Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up in a hospital bed, only to find not just the hospital, but all of London, completely vacant.
After wandering the empty streets of London, Jim comes across Selena (Naomie Harris) and Mark (Noah Huntley), who rescue him from a pack of Rage-infected humans, and they supply the required backstory on what has occurred in the preceding 28 days. It's here where we learn the often brutal details about infection and protection, a point that is really emphasized during a particularly unexpected and vicious attack sequence a few scenes later. Like The Omega Man before it, 28 Days Later is a film about those who must survive in some sort of post-apocalyptic world (in this case, a viral pandemic), and one where you often have better luck with "the infected" than you do with good old "normal" humans.
In 12 Monkeys, Terry Gilliam painted a comparatively beautiful, dreamlike human-less post-virus world, with lions and giraffes running free on the streets. Here, instead, we have roving packs of "the infected" lurking in the shadows, and rotting corpses at every turn. Definitely not pretty. And unlike the flesh-eating undead of a George Romero film, the Rage-infected and still very much living humans in 28 Days Later kill simply to kill, and their infected blood can turn someone into a twitchy, spasmodic monster in just ten to twenty seconds. When the film settles into its more traditional second-half, involving the small group of survivors meeting up with a band of well-armed soldiers led by Christopher Eccleston, the narrative shift from the broader view of the apocalypse to a narrower tale of individual survival.
28 Days Later marks the return of director Danny Boyle to the realm of edgy, violent filmmaking, which he has somehow sidestepped since the days of Shallow Grave and Trainspotting, here teamed with the writing of Alex Garland (who wrote the novel The Beach, which Boyle later made for the screen with Leonardo DiCaprio). Garland's story isn't remarkably deep; in fact it is almost downright barebones in its simplicity, but the fuzziness of the information only helps to sell the "end of the world" scenario. Still, the post-Rage virus world in this film is ugly, explosive, and dangerous, and of course has the usual amount of genre-required jump scares and frenetic camera work.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A
Image Transfer Review: Boyle shot this one on digital video, and by making use of excessive color-tinting (most of it either exceptionally drab or coldy metallic), it really suits the material admirably. Released in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, the transfer does have a few instances of compression artifacts and edge enhancement, but overall the presentation is quite good. Colors, as I mentioned, have an often artificial hue to them, and fleshtones likewise have a necessarily pale tint to them, but within the context of the film it is effective, and the transfer captures that intent. Boyle does boost colors when needed, and blood is a deep, dark red and in one beautiful moment he shows a rooftop adorned with hundreds of multi-colored buckets, set amidst a dreary, almost monochromatic London.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 English track is one of those perfectly manipulative horror mixes that lulls you with simple passages of clear, discernible but quiet dialogue before bursting loudly with some sort of manic activity. It's a cheap effect, to be sure, but without a doubt, this one will have you more jumpy than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rockers. The core of the action is spread across the front channels, with nice, pronounced directional imaging that creates a broad, full soundstage. Ambient sound cues move across the speakers properly, and enhance the jittery action, balanced by more than few substantial bass rumbles.
Spanish and French 2.0 surround tracks are also included.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
6 Deleted Scenes
3 Alternate Endings
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Danny Boyle, Alex Garland
Six brief Deleted Scenes, with optional commentary from Boyle and Garland, are the usual batch of sequences that were cut for a variety of reasons, some better than others. A couple present completely different takes on key moments (such as The Infected in the House), and one (Taxi/Sweden) was chopped because its light tone didn't match the rest of the finished product. The scenes are:
London Walk (01m:10s)
Abandon Train (01m:47s)
Motorway Carnage (01m:10s)
The Infected in the House (02m:20s)
The three Alternative Endings included here, according to the back cover, are promised to "haunt you for days." While that may not be entirely true, it is true that they provide very different climaxes. Two of the endings, the Alternative Theatrical (04m:23s) and the Alternative Ending (02m:27s), are really linked together, and don't vary too much from the original with the exception of one dramatically major point. The third, the so-called Radical Alternative Ending (11m:50s), is presented in storyboard format, with narration and reading by Boyle and Garland. This one is the most interesting of the bunch, and presents an entirely different storyline from about midway through, and in hindsight, seems to be the one that I prefer out of them all.
Pure Rage: The Making of 28 Days Later (24m:21s) is a slightly different making-of, because the first half centers on the realities of viral pandemics, and in that regard is creepy and grim. The second half has the cast and crew chatting up the production, and covers some of the challenges in shooting and creating the "abandoned London" footage. All in all, a better than average promo piece.
There are two fairly extensive photo galleries (Production and Polaroids), and each one features commentary by Danny Boyle. The photo gallery option is generally a time-waster on most discs, but with Boyle's input it becomes like an addendum to the feature commentary track. Nicely done.
The Jacknife Lee music video (06m:20s) is a piece of tolerably anonymous pseudo-techno intercut with virtually every pivotal scene in the film, so don't watch this until after you've seen the feature. Also included are a pair of theatrical trailers and some animated storyboards that originally appeared on the 28 Days Later website.
The disc is cut into 32 chapters, and includes subtitles in English and Spanish.
Extras Grade: A-
Final CommentsIn some circles, Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later is considered a key revivalist entry in the whole "battling the nearly dead" genre, and I just might have to agree. Maybe not "the most frightening film since The Exorcist" (as the back cover touts), but it is certainly a wildly fun horror film, and though it delivers less outright carnage than you might expect, it has a solid us-vs-them-vs-us storyline that is suitably downbeat.
Plenty of worthwhile extras (including a trio of alternate endings and commentaries on the photo galleries, no less) only make this release all the more impressive.
For horror fans, this one comes highly recommended.
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