Thursday, July 14, 2005

Review: 28 Days Later

I actually started to review Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources, but I couldn’t get my words together so I thought I would try something a little less intelligent…

Tuesday was a day for apocalyptic horror. Well, it was a Tuesday. In the morning I watched 28 Days Later, a British made film directed by Danny Boyle (Transpotting chappy) about a young man who wakes up from a coma to find that the world has been overrun by a virus called Rage, spread by fluid transfer, which turns its victims within a matter of seconds into brainless yet murderous creatures. Our chap wanders the empty streets of London, meets some fellow survivors before trundling off to the North in search of some soldiers who are transmitting the only remaining radio signal. However, the soldiers’ idea of protection isn’t necessarily what the survivors expected…

I’m not a great horror fan, mostly because I find it most horror films (a) not very scary (b) very annoying. If I watch a horror movie, I want to be frightened. Personally, I find this helpful. In the same way some people hire ‘weepy’ movies so they can have a good cry in a controlled and socially acceptable way, I want to be frightened for a short while so that the world is a less frightening place. If I didn’t ever get scared through the books and films, I would probably become afraid of crime, terrorism, Avian flu, meteors and the like – and not having any predetermined narrative conclusion, these things could keep me awake all night. Horror films never follow me into the real world.

But if I am subjected to loads of violence, gore and other disturbing imagery and not actually frightened, then I am left feeling really annoyed or even offended. I am not in the least squeamish, but I am human and I do need some emotional payback for being exposed to distressing material. Violence is okay within entertainment, as part of a narrative, but violence is not okay as entertainment; not even in the context of when in Rome.

Another somewhat contradictory parameter is that it can’t be too believable. Everything has to be believable within a context, but that context has to be ever so slightly fantastic. The monsters can’t be the sort of monsters that I could read about in the news, for example. 28 days later worked well in this respect; I didn’t believe that such a virus could be produced let alone successfully spread, but I did buy the human drama it produced.

28 Days Later also had loads of violence, gore and other disturbing imagery but it was very frightening. It was well-paced such that you never felt easy, but you weren’t left on the edge of your seat so long that you fell off and broke the spell. The horror did change in nature as the film went on, which is something other people have complained about, but I thought this worked pretty well to bring the whole thing to a climax; ultimately human minds are far scarier than mindless zombies.

Once or twice the script seemed to lack cohesion and there was one inexplicable narrative turn involving ball gowns I don’t know why they left in. At the end of the day it was a science-fiction horror movie with its fair share of anomalies and irrational behaviour and Chekov certainly wasn’t on the credits. But the acting was superb, the music (as always with Danny Boyle) was great and I was carried along from start to finish.

At last the British are getting film-making right (I apologise on behalf of my motherland for every Romantic Comedy that we’ve reeled out in the last decade. I just hope that this Renaissance of British Horror doesn’t leave the likes of such actors as Hugh Grant behind – I’m sure he could play a socially-awkward upper-middle-class ape-creature or something).

But don’t watch it if you faint at the sight of blood or Christopher Eccleston.


Damon said...

28 Days Later didn't work for me. There was very little dialogue and, as I understand it, the best bits were visual. The bits people usually rave about from my experience are the empty London street scenes ... and how eery they looked which kind of passes me by anyway ;)

Yesterday I watched The Aviator. I thought it was crap, 4 out of 10.

I also watched Closer ... which I thought was OK, 7 minus. There were some big gaps in the narrative / leaps of logic that annoyed me. Why and how did Dan know that Anna wanted to go back with Larry even though she had bought a copy of the signed divorce paper to show him and also seriously appealed to Dan to remember who he was talking to? (this'll mean nothing if you haven't seen it) And how come as a viewer I got no incling anything was going on here? It saw the film manoeuvre into non reality. And why was 'stranger' such an important theme - or rather just an accentuated word from time to time, not a great theme at all? And why did Alice do what she did (I had to rewrite this sentence because I realised I was giving away a significant part of the plot).

hey ho

Anonymous said...

Hi Goldfish :)
Grae (the nub) was similar with the nitpicking. He commented about the fact that the motoways weren't labelled correctly, as well as the usual stuff. Kind of spoils any film lol.

I myself am being totally boring in that I haven't seen a movie of any kind for a long while. I find it hard to sit in one position and fear the confines of the cinema (a new phobia??) and at home I just don't fancy it