28 Days Later opens with a rather deliciously ironic scenario of a bunch of well-meaning activists breaking into an experimental lab in Cambridge to free a bunch of test animals. “But wait!” the hapless scientist screams, “These monkeys are infected!!!” With what? Simply put (in movie terms), these monkeys have full-blown cases of RAGE. Dewey-eyed, animal-lovin’ activist ignores the warnings, opens up a cage, and promptly pretty much gets her neck bitten in half by one pissed off monkey. Thus begins the instant and merciless spread of the Rage virus, which is passed by blood, and infects the victim within seconds, turning them into pissed-off zombie-like versions of their former selves.
But poor Jim (Cillian Murphy) doesn’t know this. 28 days after the monkey scene, a gaunt naked fellow wakes up in a hospital, alarmingly alone. Jim is a courier, and, we assume, has been out of commission for the month that it took for the virus to wreak havoc on London, literally leaving it a ghost town. Jim staggers around in empty streets (in front of the required famous landmarks like Big Ben and Piccadilly) with nary a soul in sight. When he finally stumbles upon his first group of people, well, they ain’t in good shape, needless to say.
Jim hooks up with a tough as nails woman named Selena (Naomie Harris), and others along the way, as he and the other few survivors try to stay alive in a world where, for all they know, they are the last vestiges of humanity. In a world where diseases like SARS, AIDS, and even freakin’ Ebola make headlines, this is truly a shudder-worthy scenario. And having a virus that germinates in seconds and has no known cure (except for the victim to be hacked to pieces, or killed in another ultra-violent way), well, you’ve got a tension packed plot. As the tiny handful of survivors pick their way along to try to meet up with folks who are sending out a weak, repeating radio signal, the viewer, like the characters, have no idea if they will find salvation or doom.
For all the blood-vomiting, red-eyed infected humans (they are not technically zombies, because they are actually still alive), what I found to be a bit more horrifying was the dilemma faced by the two female survivors. What would your future be if you were the only remaining women, with a bunch of men who feel it is your duty to repopulate humanity? YIKES.
Despite some glaring plot holes (which become more readily apparent upon reflection), 28 Days Later is a straight-on, fascinating horror film which refreshingly doesn’t lean on irony like so many modern horror flicks do these days. The gore will gross you out, but it is the bigger picture of humanity’s destiny that will more likely give you the heebie-jeebies.