28 Days Later Needed 28 More Bulbs, and Maybe $28,000 More in Budget
Written: Mar 31, 2004
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Interesting premise. A few good screams.
Cons:Bad lighting, too fast movements on camera, and the ending stunk
The Bottom Line: Save your money until this one's in the OLD releases at "Blockbuster." Even then, rent it only if you're really bored and if there's NOTHING else in the store.
This review reveals major plot details about the film but does not give away the ending. Italicized paragraph headings are provided to help the reader locate and peruse specific points within the review.
"Epinions" suggests comparing the film you're reviewing with others like it. Normally, I don't do that in my reviews, other than a brief sentence here and there comparing the movie in question with other works. However, this time I cannot resist a more extended comparison-contrast, for the premise and certain other elements of 28 Days Later are quite like those of the mid-90's film Outbreak (Dustin Hoffman, Morgan Freeman).
First, the similarities: As in Outbreak, in 28 Days Later, lab monkeys carrying a highly contagious and dangerous virus are released from containment and consequently spread the virus to humans. The virus is transmitted through the mixing of blood or bodily fluids. The end of the world and mankind are threatened.
The differences between 28 Days Later and Outbreak are as follows:
1) 28 Days Later occurs in Britain rather than America.
2) Rather than becoming incapacitated and dying, "the infected" turn into zombie-like creatures. Similar to rabid dogs, the infected cannot listen to reason or recognize loved ones but are mad and hungry for living, uninfected flesh. They will deliberately spread the virus they carry to anyone who gets in their way. To me, this was a plus that made the film's premise much more intriguing and frightening than that of Outbreak, particularly in certain scenes.
3) The effects of the virus in 28 Days Later occur much faster than in Outbreak, consuming the victims with flesh-eating madness within 15-20 seconds after contact. Again, this made it much scarier than Outbreak.
4) From what I've read and heard, Outbreak was based on an actual virus, a virus which was specified by name in the film. No virus is specified in 28 Days Later; we are merely told the monkeys and their victims are infected with "rage." I thought this was a detraction in that it made the horror more vague and less realistic in 28 Days Later than Outbreak.
5) 28 Days Later's actors, characters, filmography, and story (particularly the ending) lacked all of the quality that made its predecessor Outbreak an outstanding and memorable film.
I feel I have already covered elements 1-4 extensively enough. Therefore, I'll shift focus and explain how the elements listed in #5 are much weaker in 28 Days Later than they are in Outbreak:
Actors (parts a thru b): Renee Russo, Dustin Hoffman, Morgan Freeman...as always, these names speak for themselves in Outbreak, and the actors all live up to their reputations, making us laugh, cry, cheer, and care what happens to the characters whom they portray. Despite the fact that child actors often don't have the experience to deliver stellar performances, the 8-10 year-old girl who befriends the monkey in Outbreak is believable, charming, and sweet, never wasting a single moment of her brief appearance on camera.
a) The main actors in 28 Days Later, a white male and black female, were unknowns who will likely remain so judging from their performances in this film. First, I understand the film was set in Britain, but the actors' accents are just so heavily exaggerated that I had trouble understanding what the main actor and actress were saying. These two contagonists are totally bland in their acting, flat in every aspect, from gestures to facial expression, and especially in voice and line delivery.
b) The worst of the bunch is the girl who plays "Hannah," a 12-year-old who, at her point of introduction in the movie, has lost everyone except her father to the "rage" infection. As an older actress than the eight-year-old in Outbreak, I expected her to be a better actress due to having more acting experience, life experience, and maturity in general...not to mention that the script gives her more to work with in terms of character than the Outbreak child was given. Yet the Outbreak child actress shows much more depth and emotion when asked to turn her monkey over to the military than Hannah does during the much more intense event of witnessing her father's death. Her father gets attacked by infected birds and stumbles onto the scene before his daughter, bleeding and yelling at her to stay away from him. She witnesses him starting to change into one of "the infected" and thus starting to turn on her. Then some soldiers trying to ward off the infection shoot him before her. Watching the her father, the last member of her family, the last person who loves her, the last symbol of security in her life drop, dead in a brutal and violent manner before her...what is her reaction?: "Father." That's it. That's right. No explanation point. No vocal variation. No tears. Not even a change in her facial expression. She exhibits facial and vocal expression quite similar to those most people use when asking one another to pass the salt at dinner.
Characters (parts c thru d) : Well, a character isn't much better than his or her actor on the screen, so 28 Days's characters didn't have too much going for them to start with. But I guess maybe the actors had trouble getting into the characters because they weren't given too much to get into. In Outbreak, tons of character and subplots were given to the characters outside their battling the disease, making them seem more real to us as people: Hoffman's heartbreak over the loss of Russo's love; the anger and tension between them; and of course the military tension between Hoffman and Donald Sutherland due to their vast moral differences, with Morgan Freeman as Sutherland's unwilling puppet in thwarting Hoffman's efforts to do the right thing.
c) Such elements of character development are lacking in 28 Days. We pretty much just see bloodshed and the characters fighting the infected, making them more like faceless soldiers rather than real people. There is one scene in which the white male lead protagonist goes back to his ransacked home and remembers a moment before the infection spread, when he was in the kitchen talking with his family. Other than that brief, one-or-two-minute flashback, nothing else is revealed in the characters backgrounds or personalities to give them any substance or make us care about them. The black female protagonist is rough and tough and mean as a result of her experiences following the infection, but we never see or hear the details of the experiences that make her that way. There's supposedly sexual tension between the black female and white male. However, since they pretty much go from scoffing at it (when the black female says to the white male, "Now what are we going to do? Fall in love and f*ck?") to a prolonged smooch 45 minutes later, with no building of emotional depth between....well, it's just hard to believe it, or really even give a crap about it.
d) Hannahs father talks about how he's all that Hannah has left, but we don't see much else about their relationship or what they are like as people in general, things that might make us care about them. Oh, and there's also a scene in which the protagonists, Hannah, and the father find an abandoned super market and gather a bunch of junk food. Though this was probably supposed to be a character-establishing scene, still, not enough is done with it to make us care. It sort of just falls flat and comes across as slowing down the plot...if you see this movie as having one anyway.
Filmography (parts e thru f)Simply put, in Outbreak, I can't think of one single scene I had trouble seeing.
e) As for 28 Days..."In the beginning, there was darkness." Most of the details of the film's initial scene, in which we "see" how the infection is first spread, are lost to us due to lack of sufficient lighting. Unlike "Fear Dot Com" (see my review titled "Fear Dot Crap"), the lighting does at least improve in some scenes throughout the movie. But scenes filmed in interior areas, which are where most of the action scenes occur, lack sufficient enough lighting for us to see what's going on. This is particularly true when the male protagonist has his first encounter with the infected in a church; when the protagonists, Hannah, and her father have car trouble in a tunnel when the infected are after them; and when a house the same four characters and some military soldiers are later staying in comes under siege by the infected.
f) In addition, the movements during some of the action scenes on camera were so jumpy and rapid that it was impossible to tell what was going on, especially when such movements occurred in the final confrontation between the infected and uninfected and the escape attempt that follows.
Story (parts g thru i): In addition to the other poorly-developed areas mentioned thus far, 28 Days lacked the finer plot points needed to make it a memorable movie.
g) Simply put, there was a lot of action, but not much substance or story behind it. After awhile, it was like "ho-hum, time for them to run from/shoot some more infected people again, whoop-de-do."
h) Several parts are just flat boring and undeveloped. For instance, at one point two surviving, uninfected women are captured by male military soldiers, who claim they must impregnate them quickly to renew the depleted world population. They are supposedly sex-starved from the absence of women but take the time to make the girls get dressed up in all of these old, antebellum dresses to provide a greater turn-on. Um...: How is it that these things just HAPPENED to be lying around in their sanctuary? How is it that they just happen to fit each woman perfectly? If the men are so desperate and sex-hungry, why do they need to be turned on instead of just going right at, pun intended, "the business" (plot hole! plot hole!)? And mostly, since nothing even comes remotely close to happening in the soldiers carrying out their plan, who gives a crawling crap one way or the other?! I think they just put this whole scene in just to take up time and try to add something to the movie since, clearly, there wasn't much to start with.
i) One of the worst parts of the entire movie is the ending. Again, I won't give it away, but I will say that it is reached with little logical transition, and the props used in the end sort of just appear from out of nowhere, with no explanation given as to how the characters could have gotten their hands on them within the movie's established setting of chaos, fear, and scarce energy and resources.
And in my ending, all I can say is, I surely hope that there is soon an "outbreak" of movies that are better than 28 Days Later .
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