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EDITIONS
Friday, 1 November, 2002, 09:22 GMT
Scares aplenty in 28 Days Later
28 Days Later
Christopher Eccleston plays a sinister army major

After being swamped with youth culture films and gangster movies over the past few years, it looks as though horror is the next major trend in British cinema.

This year has brought us, among others, werewolf shocker Dog Soldiers, supernatural thriller The Bunker, and the reality TV inspired My Little Eye.

Still to come is Deathwatch, Jamie Bell's long-awaited follow-up to Billy Elliott, which sees a bunch of First World War soldiers being menaced by unseen forces.

But when the dust has settled on the latest homegrown craze, 28 Days Later is likely to be remembered as the most inventive, the most visually striking - and certainly the scariest of the bunch.

And after the disappointments of A Life Less Ordinary and The Beach, it marks a terrific return to form for director Danny Boyle.

Survivors

The scenario of 28 Days Later is that almost the entire population of the UK has been decimated by a deadly virus, created in a laboratory and accidentally let loose by animal rights activists.

Only a handful of survivors remain, among them Jim (Cillian Murphy), a coma victim who comes round in hospital to discover that London has been completely deserted - apart from, it seems, legions of 'infected' - bloodthirsty, zombie-like people who have yet to die from the virus.
28 Days Later
The population of London is wiped out by a virus

Jim has no idea what has been happening, but he soon finds out when he meets fellow survivors Selena (Naomie Harris), Frank (Brendan Gleeson) and his daughter Hannah (Megan Burns).

After Frank picks up radio messages from Manchester about a "safe haven", the foursome head north.

But when they find the place, a stately home presided over by sinister Major Henry West (Christopher Eccleston), they find themselves in even greater danger, not only from the "infected", but from West's platoon of military men.

This is no film for the squeamish, with several graphically violent set-pieces, red-eyed, gore-happy zombies and some very disturbing content.

But Boyle is clever enough not to rely solely on violence to shock the audience.

Memorable

Many of the film's more powerful scenes - including the death of a major character - are more restrained in their approach, and are all the more effective for it.
Cillian Murphy
Newcomer Cillian Murphy stars as Jim

And the opening sequence, in which Jim wanders round a number of deserted London landmarks, is one of the most impressive, memorable film set-pieces of the year - and one of the most chilling.

The script, by Alex Garland (who wrote the novel of The Beach) is also good, relieving the tension with flashes of dark humour - and the young, largely unknown cast are convincing.

For all its plus points, it is a shame that Boyle is unable to fully sustain the premise - the second half of the film lapses into unpleasant misogyny at times, while an overly sweetened coda feels unnecessarily tacked on.

But flaws aside, this is that rare thing - a horror film which manages to be serious-minded and thought-provoking - after all, what would you do in this situation? - while at the same time scaring its audience stupid.

See also:

01 Nov 02 | Entertainment
28 Mar 01 | Entertainment
03 Feb 00 | Entertainment
28 Feb 00 | Entertainment
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