In my last post I talked a little bit about some of my thoughts on zombie movies. It brought back a lot of memories of the year that my friends and I spent putting the few issues of Right Turn Clyde that ever saw the light of day (or the glow of a monitor). Those were fun times figuring out what would be the next snarky comment about Hollywood. I might have put together the website but MNKE was the driving force behind that effort. And without the four of us who wrote most of the articles and tracked down the photos and got the interviews, I don’t think it can exist again. At least not like it did.
But it doesn’t mean that I can’t write my reviews of TV and movies. It’s just not as easy to be satirical without hiding behind the persona of Shorty LaBrea. So I’m starting up this Movies & TV section so that I can post my thoughts and reviews. And since I first started with that post about running zombies and I resolved to watch some more recent movies, why don’t a start with the movie I watched last night:
28 Days Later. Directed by Danny Boyle.
This is the zombie movie with a twist. Animal rights activists unwittingly unleash infected chimps on the population at large spreading a disease called Rage. This genetically engineered virus is transmitted by blood and saliva and is so contagious that a single drop in the mouth, eye, or an open cut will turn a person in about 30 seconds into a blood-thirsty insane maniac who will run around tearing any living thing it finds to shreds. Our protagonist, Jim, wakes up 28 days after the start of the outbreak from a coma to a nearly deserted London, and tries to figure out how to survive.
This movie was damn scary. Thankfully Danny Boyle didn’t fill it with the “gotcha” surprises that you often find in cheap horror films. You know when things suddenly jump out at you complete with a huge music sting. The first time it’s just the cat that was startled in the dark room but the next time it’s the killer. Those moments are cheap thrills that always make me jump out of my skin but then it’s over. Danny did a great job of sustaining the “what’s going to happen next” tension for long periods of time and I often found myself with a stranglehold on the remote.
The difference with this movie is that these are not traditional zombies. These are not the reanimated corpses of dead single-minded bent on eating the flesh of the living. These are people driven mad by a disease. They still want to eat people but since they are not already dead, they can die of “natural” causes. The proper way to dispatch a zombie according to the mythology that has built up in films is to either burn them up, dissolve them in acid, or destroy their head. Anything less and they’ll keep coming after you. Danny’s Rage-zombies are still people. There’s nothing supernatural about them. They are not the undead. If you fill them with enough bullets, they’ll die. Since the disease seems to effect them to the point that they are unable to comprehend that they can walk into the nearest 7-11 for six pack and a bag of chips, they eventually starve to death.
Over the years zombie movies have been used as a method of social commentary. Dan O’Bannon looked at disenfranchised youth railing against the “let’s just nuke the commies” attitude of the Reagen era in Return of the Living Dead. Probably most famously, George Romero used zombies wandering around in a mall in Dawn of the Dead to comment on America’s mindless consumerism. Danny Boyle uses 28 Days Later to answer the question, What makes us human? When watching this movie it is important to think about who has truly lost their soul: the infected people who no longer have the free will to do anything but feast the rest of man, or the soldiers who exploit their strength with guns and a fortified base to get whatever they want.
Mr. Boyle’s apocalyptic tale brought to mind a few of of other great science fiction movies: The excellent Australian film, The Quiet Earth, where a man wakes up one day to find that he is the only human alive and he must deal with the loneliness. And the Charlton Heston’s 1971 classic, The Omega Man. Instead of informing the world of the contents of Soylent Green or leading the humans in an uprising against their ape masters, this time Chuck as the sole survivor of humanity has to fight off an army of plague-created vampires. (The original novel is I Am Legend, and has spawned a few movie versions including a great Italian one from 1964 starring Vincent Price called The Last Man On Earth.) And who could forget the valley girls and Commander Chakotay menaced by comet-produced zombies in Night of the Comet.
All in all, 28 Days Later is a exciting, thought-provoking movie to watch. The DVD has three alternate endings which are interesting, if only to find out, what if…