28 Days Later

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(2002) ★★★★

Sky Movies Sci-fi/Horror: Saturday 20 June, 11pm

Barely a month after animal activists break into a primate research lab, Britain lays deserted, its population decimated by a devastating plague. Pockets of infected crazies lurk in darkened corners, waiting to prey on the handful of healthy survivors. Among these are Cillian Murphy and Naomie Harris, who team up with London cabbie Brendan Gleeson and his young daughter to head north in search of salvation. Danny Boyle’s digital-video shocker is a daunting celebration of apocalyptic ideas and visions of a range of sci-fi and horror movies from the latter half of the 20th century: animal activists changing history (Twelve Monkeys), man’s inability to control viral epidemics (The Andromeda Strain and Outbreak), a lone protagonist awakening in an eerily evacuated metropolis (The Omega Man and Day of the Triffids), rage distilled in disease form (David Cronenberg’s Rabid, Shivers and The Brood), and military tactics deployed against marauding flesh-eaters (bits of John Carpenter and the complete works of Living Dead legend George A. Romero). Trainspotting director Boyle, ever his own man, insisted his daunting zombie shocker was not a horror film. Funny that, since it paved the way for Brad Pitt’s World War Z. Christopher Eccleston had no such airy-fairy qualms: “You shouldn’t be afraid to call it a zombie movie, there’s no shame in that.” Alex Garland’s straight-forwardly suspenseful script gives us – and the cast – plenty to chew on. Besides the obligatory jumps and jolts, there’s genuine tension in the story’s disturbing development, an urgent momentum to the eye-grabbing images, and powerful emotion in the great swathes of surging music. Despite the definition limitations of digital video, Boyle uses the flexible format to striking and unsettling effect: the newscast-type imagery self-consciously suggests that this is TV, it could really be happening. That was never really the case with the inevitable five-years later sequel, 28 Weeks Later, which follows at 1am. Intense as it is, and despite a terrifying prologue, it loses focus and momentum once we’re in London, which is occupied by American-led Nato forces. Boyle didn’t direct this one, by the way. It was made by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, who went on to direct the Anglo-Spanish Clive Owen film, Intruders.

Certificate: 18
Duration: 109min