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Tuesday, October 28, 2003

28 Days Later -- I've been negligent in praising Sean Collins and his excellent, ongoing and timely look at Halloween and horror.

The fact of the matter is that horror is not a genre that I am generally attracted to, although when it's extraordinarily well-done I enjoy it a great deal. Recent comics examples would be just about everything Steve Niles has done, including 30 Days of Night and its sequel Dark Days, all his Cal McDonald novels and comics, and most recently Wake the Dead. In movies, I quite agree with Sean that The Silence of the Lambs is an exceptionally good horror film. The best horror, in my opinion, reaches into the very core of your being and reveals to you that which you fear the most. In The Silence of the Lambs, we're shown behaviour so twisted and evil that it cannot possibly be human, and yet, it is not only human, it is mundane, in a way. And in there somewhere is the key to its success as a horror film.

Last night I watched 28 Days Later, which I'm not sure classifies as a horror film by my definition. A good horror film should shock and repulse you every time you watch it, and I suspect that the many shocks of 28 Days Later will be diminished greatly in repeat viewings, although I highly recommend it if you haven't seen it.

Utilizing a brilliant, at times washed out colour scheme, 28 Days Later follows a small group of people battling "the infected" (read: zombies) in post-apocalyptic London. A recorded radio broadcast promises a cure for the infection (which stems from an animal-rights group freeing some experimented-on chimps who have been "infected with rage"), so the group follows the broadcast's directions only to find a horror more deep and untenable than the infection itself.

That's where 28 Days Later succeeds -- it stems from one of the cliches of the genre (Zombies! Run!), but it treats its characters with respect and the plot follows its own logical path, leading to the greater horror of flawed humanity. The deleted scenes on the DVD even go to demonstrate that the filmmakers thought out the story much more than the average Hollywood production, as seen in the rightly-rejected "radical alternative ending" that is a sort of Easter Egg following the second alternate ending. That "radical" ending suggested that a total blood transfusion could cure the infection, but the filmmakers realize how unworkable that would be and make good fun of their own rejected sophistry.

I liked just about everything this film had to offer, from the unique look of the cinematography to the strange, jerky motion of the infected, to the compelling interplay between the characters. As I said earlier, horror is not my genre of choice, but when it's well done I really can get into it. 28 Days Later is terrific and a great choice if you're looking for a horror movie in the spirit of the season.


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