Title: 28 Days Later
Release Date: 2003
and Language: English,
Running time: 108 Min
Distributor and Production Company: Fox Searchlight
Director; Writer: Danny Boyle
Cast: Cillian Murphy, Naomi Harris, Christopher Eccleston
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This whirlwind horror thriller comes from Danny Boyle, director of Trainspotting. But what matters to me is the issue of screenwriting an “end-of-the-world” movie. Particularly because I am working with a literary agent on a manuscript called “Tribunal and Rapture,” where the story line is basically the same. There is a novel virus that threatens civilization with “purification” and a road trip by survivors building new personal lives (or, in my case, repairing old ones). My road trip happens before “Armageddon” as a kind of preparation.
however, Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up wired to
IV’s and electrocardiographs, to find his hospital and then all of
This is effective, linear storytelling and pretty riveting, but it lays aside the more political questions of how to deal with bioterrorism or environmental accidents. Stephen King, remember, took this up with his gigantic novel The Stand, (1978, 1990) that became a TV miniseries in 1995.
The movie now offers an alternate ending. It's easy to imagine several catastrophic alternates.
This film should not be confused with the 2000 film "28 Days" directed by Betty Thomas, with Sandra Bullock, to be reviewed later.
28 Weeks Later (2007, Fox Searchlight / Fox Atomic / DNA, dir. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, 99 min, prod. Danny Boyle) is the sequel. 6-1/2 months later, Britain has started its repopulation, under the "protection" of the US Army. There is one protected zone in London. When two kids ("puppies") leave, they encounter their mother, who seems to be a carrier of the rage virus, but has some mysterious genetic protection from symptoms that skips generations. But the virus gets out, and pretty soon it's hard to tell who is the enemy: the infected, or the soldiers. The movie turns into a kind of "Dawn of the Dead" (more so than even "Night of the Living Dead"). The Army firebombs a section of London so it looks like Dresden (bring on "Slaughterhouse Five") and later, as the family escapes, we see helicopter blades shred ghouls into pieces. There is even a line "your life is more valuable than mine" when talking about the genetic jump (the Mendel charts we used to draw on biology tests). The 28 days later (again), at 7-1/2 months, the rage virus has spread at least to Paris, probably everywhere.
The Plague (2006, Screen Gems, dir. Hal Masonberg, story by Clive Barker, 88 min, R, Canada). Imagine if every kid under ten went comatose, and woke up ten years later and started a zombie attack. In the meantime, pregnancy has been forbidden and schools closed down (a premise for "Children of God", below). Then an appealing young man, freed from prison after accidentally killing someone in a bar brawl, Tom Russell (James van der Beck), returns home to his brother (Brad Hunt) and his ex-wife (Ivana Milicevic). They must bond together to fight off "The Kids" who turn the slaughter into a kind of Living Dead Day. Finally, there is a Catholic, religious resolution, somewhat ambiguous, that is not fully shown (it should have been). Steinbeck fits in as a prop. There is some stuff about kids being alienated and needing to drain the spirit out of grownups. Clive Barker has come up with much better ideas than this. Filmed in Manitoba.
The 8th Plague (2006, Anthem, dir. Franklin Geurerro Jr., 90 min, R) Launa (Leslie Ann Valenza) goes into the California woods looking for her missing sister, Nikki, with companions. The encounter an old abandoned prison, the Halcyon Ridge, where the inmates have a kind of "rage virus" that, if on the loose, means the end of the world. Lot's of B-movie gore, gougings, amputations, orgies, chest eating, cannibalism, it's all there. More like "Chainsaw" than the Boyle movies.
Sunshine (2007, Fox Searchlight / DNA, dir. Danny Boyle, 108 min, dir. Danny Boyle, UK, R). This film is a bit like a stageplay, with the two spacecrafts (Icarus I, and then the previous strip abandoned on Mercury) as the stage, giving essentially two acts, and an epilogue. Rather than a simplified "Alien" movie, although the story introduces a similar surprise element toward the end, it is rather like the Hans Werner Henze opera "The Raft of the Medusa." You know the set up -- the payload is a huge nuclear weapon the size of Manhattan, as some sort of prion matter has infected the Sun and started converting its helium to something non fusionable. I wonder if that is possible, in some of these end-of-the-world scenarios we could bring on ourselves by accident. You want to know more about how Earth could cope at all (remember the horrible TV film "Ice"?) At the end, you'll find out at Stonehenge. This is a British art film, of course, and I wish Cilian Murphy spoke in his native accent. Chris Evans (ironically, the firefly in Fantastic Four) I can understand, and he looks as compact and virile as ever. The other nationalities represented could have spoken more idiomatically.
How the crew gradually finds out what it is like to Play God -- with each other, and with the Earth -- and then find out another "power" of sorts plays God with them (and wants to, whatever his hideous transformation -- there is a point to turning into a monster movie). There is some horror -- some arms roll, and Murphy gets ripped up but he still is around to push the final button. There is no spoiler here; this is no Apollo 13, and there is really no chance that they can survive as individuals.
This is unrelated to the 2000 film of the same name from Istvan Szabo.
Cabin Fever, from Lions
Gate Films (2003), directed by Eli Roth (with Rider Strong, Jordan Ladd, Joey
Kern, Cerina Vincent, James DeBello
and Giuseppe Andrews as Deputy Sheriff Winston, filmed mostly in North
Carolina, is a curious combination of comedy, Blair Witch, and 28 Days. A bunch
of young adults go on a warm fall weekend in the Carolina Piedmont and run
into the Ebola virus, I guess. (Oh, maybe its just
War of the Worlds (2005, Paramount/Dreamworks/Amblin/CW, dir. Steven Spielberg, 116 min, PG-13) is a re-adaptation of the famous H.G. Wells novella, which had been filmed before as the 1953 classic directed by Byron Haskin (also Paramount). Of course, in the 1930s Orson Welles created havoc with his famous fictitious radio broadcast about the descent of aliens at Grovers Mill, N.J.
saw this in a National Amusements theater in northern
guess most people know the basic story. Morgan Freeman provides the opening
and closing narration, and we all know that the alien creatures die because
of lack of immunity to earth-bound microbes—we have earned the right to survive
and they haven’t. The beginning of the film is fascinating. Robbie is
catching news reports of lightning storms in the
See more comments by Richard W. Haines on film technology in this movie at
Pulse (“Kairo”) (2001, rel. 2005, Magnolia/Toho, dir. Kiyoshi
Kurosawa, PG-13, 118 min) turns out to be a truly apocalyptic horror film,
even nihilistic. Indeed, it’s the end of life as we know it. Some college
Pulse: (English lang. remake) The Weinstein Company/Dimension Films releases an English language version of this film in August 2006. This appears to be a close remake with Jim Sonzero as the director and some rewriting by Wes Craven, a new cast (Kristen Bell, Ian Somerhalder as Dexter). The idea that someone can be “infected” by a computer seems quite tantalizing. I have toyed with this idea with a screenplay of my 8-minute short "Nightcall" (link to pdf file) where monsters come out of the computer to destroy people on call for abends at work. I can remember joking about the idea of making a movie like this in the 1990s with co-workers when we were on call. The idea became "Pulse."
The new film is in Cinemascope and is faster-paced at 88 min. The idea that a virus could go from computers to people and make them implode into nothing seems less credible when the unfolding is rushed, so the Japanese film is much more effective. The film was actually made in Romania and the city looks the the remnants of an iron curtain collapse. In the end, a technology that was to give people a new space to live in (Cyberspace) has turned on them, and forced people back into simple life with family and community only. The only "safe place" to live seems to be a blind spot to cell phones! Maggie Gallagher would love this message.
Children of Men (2006, Universal/Strike, dir. Alfonso Cuaron, 109 min, novel by P. D. James, R, UK) This film, being staged at the end of the year as a platform release even though it is a major studio release, sits on two axes. On the one hand, it bears comparison to "28 Days Later" as a horrible calamity has overtaken Britain, but if that is so we can also compare it to "V for Vendetta" and, in a different sense, to Mel Gibson's "Apocalypto" because the basic story is similar. It is also like a Nativity story (it was first released on Christmas Day, a Monday this year) in that a child is born, although this time a female--but that is even more appropriate for comparison. And it certain fits into recent political debate about population management: undeveloped countries may be overpopulating, whereas western countries, especially Japan, have a serious problem replacing their people at current fertility rates, as outlined in Philip Longman's book "The Empty Cradle."
It is 2027, and no children have been born in the world since 2009. No one knows why. The world is in shambles, and Britain, the Union Jack, claims to be managing, but it has turned into a shabby Fascist state with "Homeland Security" everywhere. Clive Owen plays Theo Faron, a former activist, who runs with "the Fishes" to find a pregnant woman Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey, who may be in line for an Oscar). Theo's mentor is Jasper Palmer, a very hippy looking Michael Caine, who in one scene tries to speculate on the infertility. Pollution? A gamma burst? As the film unfolds, and the baby Diego (Juan Gabriel Yacuzzi) is born, and black, you wonder about some kind of plot indeed. For the savior will be black. Could there have been a plot that went awry trying to control the populations of the developing world? Sounds like a good political theory. The natural world can surprise us with "inconvenient truths" about biology (we learn that with issues like AIDS and global warming, and maybe even an avian flu pandemic). Maybe a virus really could cause creeping infertility, or maybe some kind of bizarre radioactive isotope toxin could. It sounds far-fetched, but what if it did happen?
The birth scene is graphic, even showing the umbilical afterbirth. Then they have to get out of a war zone worse than anything in today's Iraq. The final scene on the water is masterful visual filmmaking, with subdues metallic hues and soft foggy lighting. The film is shot flat (without full widescreen) but here that is effective, as your eyes really feast on the details of the dilapidated settings. Many of the action scenes are shot in long continuous takes, without editing. The world really is dying everywhere. Everything is covered with grates and burglar bars. The world is aging with tissue death. Even the handsome Clive Owen shows it when he takes a foot bath, exposing balding legs.
The music score is a realistic mixture of rock, disco and classical music appropriate for an adult world. Some of the selections are relevant. For example, the winsome opening of the first song from Kindertotenlieder ("Songs of the Death of Children") by Gustav Mahler appears, as does the crunching march from the Tenth Symphony of Shostakovich (a selection also used to great effect in the horror classic "The Beast with a Million Eyes").
The Painted Veil (2006, Warner Independent Pictures/Yari, dir. John Curran, novel by W. Somerset Maugham, wr. Ron Nyswaner, 125 min, PG-13m UK/China). This time the epidemic is cholera, a horrible GI infection that kills by dehydration in 36 hoursm in Guangxi province in southern China, filled with all the gorgeous knob scenery over the rice paddies.
But it is the social message that works. This is the second major film from Yari Group with Ed Norton as a lead, and this time Mr. Norton is a co-producer. He plays a bacteriologist Walter Fane and physician, more interested in science and lab work than in patients, and than in romance. Kitty is played by Naomi Watts, and in London around 1923 her parents warn her that they won't support her royal lifestyle for ever, and she had better be willing to share her womanhood with the scientist, who says he loves her. They go to China, where she carries on an affair with Charlie Townsend (Liev Schreiber) who just seems more virile and manly, more chest hair and all that. That's all curious, as she herself is a somewhat manipulative woman, whom some see as "second rate." When Walter finds out, he confronts her, claiming that he will sue her for divorce unless she accompanies him into the interior where he will take over controlling the cholera epidemic. She claims that it is his fault that he is not more attractive and manly. Yet, once they reach the town, their marriage really does grow, to the end, when the "until death do us part" will be challenged. She will have child, although it is not certain by whom. But she will be the strongest one.
Walter is, in fact, a real Rosenfelsian psychological feminine, true to the scientist and truth-seeking part, and capable of being a little bit sadistic when he is right. The film, in the end, is pro-marriage in the most positive way: it lets people make their mistakes in an uncertain and dangerous environment (that might cripple a lot of other people) and build real love.
Some critics complain that the film does not engage the Chinese village people very well. The convent is supposed to do that, as the nuns (quite convincingly acted, as in the 50s classic "The Nun's Story") perform child care, provide music lessons, run the overflowing infirmary, and of course try to convert people. The nuns are accused of "abducting" children in order to convert them to Catholicism. The kids sew clothing that make money for the convent.
Yet, it is Norton's character Fane that is the key to the story. He is determined to do what he wants with his life, and fulfill what he thinks is his own individual purpose (to track down an epidemic in a remote part of the world, in the declining days of the British empire); family relationsips and social hierarchy are secondary. The film provides an obvious warning for today, as bird flu (avian influenza) seems to be exacerbated by agricultural and residential patterns in that part of the world, where people are crowed onto level rice paddies by surrounding unclimable mountains.
Love in the Time of Cholera (2007, New Line, dir. Mike Newell, novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 139 min, R) traces as a back story a "gentleman" Florentino (Javier Bardem) over 50 years when he loses the love of his life to a doctor played by Benjamin Bratt. Cholera doesn't play as big a part as in the foregoing film. There is a curious sequence where Florentino takes a job writing letters and takes it as an excuse to write poetry (as a "bill of lading"). There's a phrase about a "poor man with money."
Silk (2007, Picturehouse / Fandango / Alliance Atlantis, dir. Francois Girard, novel by Allessandro Barrico, 109 min, R, France/Japan). Michael Pitt plays Herve Joncour, a silkworm smuggler sent to Japan after disease wipes out a town's supply from Africa. He falls in love with a concubine (Sei Ashina) while maintaining life with a childless wife (Keira Knightley) in France. The story is narrated in first person, and his first journey across Russia is awesome, but then the story moves too quickly to be believed for its era. Eventually he gets caught up in war in Japan "the end of the world."
The Host ("Gwoemul", 2007, Magnolia / Chungeorahn / Showbox / Mediaplex, dir. Joon-ho Bong, R, 119 min, S. Korea, in Korean and English, subtitled, p-3,a-2,t-1, filmed in HD Video/Arri, seems to be 2.0 to 1 aspect). On one level this is a popcorn Monster Movie (a nickname once given to "An American Werewolf in London"), like the great blowouts of the 50s. There is a touch of Godzilla and King Kong in this one. But it is also a delicious political satire on how government overreacts to external threats. And it is a cliffhanger about Asian family values and loyalty (the phrase "infected family" appears). In 2000, an American military scientist encourages a sanitation worker to throw some pollutants into the Han River by Soeul. He says, "The river is wide. Think wide!" In 2006, a monster, that looks like a cross between a crocodile and a cephalopod, with a complicated, insect-like mouth (reminds one of "Alien") dangles from a bridge, jumps in the river, and chases people on the bank. It eats some people up, and vomits some of them back. Others it carries off, sometimes with its prehensile tail, to a secret sewage dump, where it will "nurture" them. Later it vomits back just the bones and skeletons of some victims. A man goes on a quest to save his daughter from this Beowulf-like beast, to prove his manhood. But the other plot concerns the reaction of the United States government. Authorities claim that the Monster carries a deadly virus (it mentions SARS, and presumably brings to mind the current worry over H5N1). The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta is shown as involved, and eventually the U.S. Army spreads Agent Yellow all over people to disinfect them. The US government claims that Yellow is a super-agent capable of eliminating all bio-terror agents, an unlikely proposition. Soon, however, we learn that there is no virus at all, and the governments are covering up their bungling, even giving a prefrontal lobotomy to one man on camera to keep him quiet. The movie has a sizzling orchestral soundtrack (obviously well rehearsed performed with precision, I believe, by the Soeul orchestra) that would be worth playing in a concert. The music, by Byung-woo Lee, has lots of real "European style" thematic development as it accompanies the carnage, with a sound palette that sometimes calls to mind young American composer Tudor Maican.
Titan A.E. (2000, Fox Searchlight / Fox Family, dir. Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, PG) is an animated feature where aliens Drej destroy the earth because of its Titan project, so Korko and Akima go looking for the spaceship that would regenerate a new earth. It's bizarre that you could lose your home planet and survive, but what happens when the Sun becomes a red giant in a few billion years. We have to figure out something. It's interesting, because now if a sci-fi movie has the word "Titan" in the title, it needs to deal with the organic moon of Saturn.
30 Days of Night (2007, Columbia ("Screen Gems"?) / Ghost House, dir. David Slade, wr. comics by Steve Niles and Ben Templeton, 111 min, R, USA/New Zealand). There are so many ways to look at the film. When I first heard about it, I thought it was intended to be a typical Sony Screen Gems B movie, which doesn't make it bad. No, this is a classy horror film, and somewhat of an art experiment, with A-list stars.
One thing is that Barrow, Alaska has been "reconstructed" in New Zealand as it it were a confined stage for a Lars Von Trier film. The movie has somewhat the effect of the Danish school (although there is background music). It is very intimate, sort of post Dogme, and unusual approach to horror. Not all the facts are right. The Alyeska pipe line does not run to Barrow, but starts a few hundred miles east at Prudhoe Bay. It's above the Arctic Circle, so indeed there would be about thirty days, sandwiched around Christmas (not mentioned in the movie) when the Sun does not appear. When it finally rises, it's just barely for a few minutes, then gradually increasing. Hardly enough to fry vampires.
Then there is the mystery of what causes the vampirism. That's not explained, but at the end Sheriff Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnett) gives himself a blood transfusion (from a corpse) to make himself a vampire so he can go out and fight them on the last day. You could think of this as a vaccination (as if a virus causes the vampirism as in a Danny Boyle movie), if he can survive the rising of the Sun himself. In fact, Josh Harnett is an interesting casting choice for this role. The real Hartnett, despite his Minnesota Viking build, does not come across as mean enough to be a cop as people usually expect, and he doesn't here. He isn't supposed to.
The horror is quite graphic, with decapitation the only thing that stops the ghouls. Eben has to wield the ax himself and get used to doing so. For a while, this seems like a northern lights version of Romero's "Night of the Living Dead" but here there is much more high concept. At one point, a little girl has become a vampire and says something like "want to play?" There is also some play on family values. Oleson has an appealing teenage brother Jake (Mark Rendall), who at one point says, "you have a wife (Melissa George) and child" and Eben comes back with "you're just fifteen years old." Eben does have to save his family first (and that doesn't mean just wife and kids).
I visited Alaska myself in early August 1980, on a triangle fare with Hawaii. I rode a private plane over McKinley and then attended a party in a cabin roughly in the country where the "Into the Wild" bus is located. That's as far north as I ever got. The temperature in Barrow then would reach the 40s in the day, and sometimes there was snow even then. With global warming, I wonder now. Is that the source of the vampires?
I Am Legend (2007, Warner Bros. / Village Roadshow, dir. Francis Lawrence, novel by Richard Matheson, 100 min, PG-13). This time, scientist Robert Neville (Will Smith) survives alone in his Greenwich Village apartment three years after the world was practically decimated by a measles virus engineered to wipe out cancer. The effect was to kill most people and turn the remaining survivors into raging zombies, after rendering them hairless. Neville is accompanies by a Labrador Retriever than loves him. Eventually he learns where there are a few other survivors, but the picture is not too hopeful. I don’t know how the filmmakers managed to recreate Manhattan with the streets overgrown with weeds and the Great White Way falling down.
Cloverfield (2008, Paramount / Bad Robot, dir. Matt Reeves, wr. Drew Goddard, 85 min, PG-13). Some yuppies get together for a going away party near the Cooper Union in lower Manhattan, and a monster attacks and destroys New York City, and the kids document their own destruction. Dogme 95 style. The movie does raise some interesting questions about filmmaking. Blogger review here.
Panic Attack! (2009, dir. Fede Alvarez, 5 min, Uruguay USA). Robots attack Montevideo; amateur film bought by Sam Rami. Blogger.
The Signal (2007, Magnolia / Magnet / POP Films, dir. wr. David Bruckner, Dan Bush, Jacob Gentry). Three directors write and direct three segments of a story of people going mad and exchanging identities after being "infected" by a bizarre image and sound on their cable TV and cell phones. A premise the resembled Stephen King's "The Cell." Blogger.
Doomsday (2008, Rogue, dir. Neil Marshall, UK/South Africa, 115 min, R). A super-smallpox wipes out Scotland, which is quarantined, and the Brits go back 25 years later when London is infected to try to develop a vaccine. Actually an action picture that very much blends the genres. Blogger.
The Andromeda Strain (1971, Universal, PG-13, 131 min, dir. Robert Wise, based on a novel by Michael Crichton, wr. Michael Crichton and Nelson Gidding) presents the alien precursor of bio-terrorism: a military satellite (Scoop VII) lands, contaminated with an alien virus. A town is wiped out, except for an old codger and a screaming baby. A group of scientists scramble to save mankind, and they gradually find out that the virus has a nuclear engine. Yes, this would be the ultimate terror weapon if it even existed. But the filmmaking is particularly provocative. The scientists must undergo total body sterilization and “body analysis” before entering the Project Wildfire facility. One scientist is shown being epilated (apart from his scalp hair and pubes) in a photoflash chamber. Will surgeons be required to do this some day as infection control? And there are plenty of before and after pictures of the actor (I believe Arthur Hill) to confirm the erotic suspicions. The most famous line of the picture is, “There are … seconds to self-destruct.” Also with David Wayne, James Olson, Kate Reid, Paula Kelly.
Remake: (2008, A&E Universal, 4 hrs, dir. Mikael Solomon) starring Benjamin Bratt.
The Happening (2008, 20th Century Fox / UTV / Spyglass, dir. M. Nigh Shyamalan). Flowering plants start releasing neurotoxins compelling people to commit epidemic suicide, in waves brought by the winds from the Northeast. Blogger discussion. No releation to the 1967 film of the same name.
Blindness (2008, Miramax / Focus, dir. Fernando Meirelles, book by Jose Saramago, 118 min, R, Canada / Brazil) An epidemic of sudden blindness sweeps a major city, and the victims are quarantined in an asylum and quickly abandoned. Blogger discussion.
Quarantine (2008, Screen Gems, dir. John Erick Dowdle, 89 min, R) This time, an apartment building is closed off with an epidemic of human rabies, apparently created by a resident. A video reporter covering a fire engine company tapes her own demise in Cloverfield style. Blogger.
The Crazies (2010, Overture/Participant, dir. Breck Eisner, remake of George Romero’s 1973 film, R, 109 min). This time a small Iowa town is contaminated with a government-made virus, making people rabid; and the government will nuke it to cover up its mistakes. The government will do what it can get away with. Blogger.
Thirst (“Bakjwi”, 2009, Focus, dir. Chan-wook Park, S Korea, 133 min, R) A priest volunteers for a vaccine for the “Emmanuel virus” and becomes a vampire and gets involved in a love triangle. Won awards at Cannes, and is visually abstract. Blogger.
Related reviews: V for Vendetta, Apocalypto, book: The Empty Cradle King Kong Saw An American Werewolf in London Dawn of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead, Grindhouse (etc); Ice; Fantastic Four Trainspotting Sunshine (Szabo) King: The Cell (book) The Happening (1967)
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