Splatter Time Fun Fest 2010 takes another trek to jolly old England! I think the tourism board lied though, it didn’t seem all that jolly to me!
Written By: Alex Garland
Directed By: Danny Boyle
Change, adapting to your surroundings, learning to live in the world that surrounds us. These are but a few of the themes that Danny Boyle uses horror to explore in his 2002 hit, 28 Days Later…. Boyle refuses to adhere to the schlock typecasting of the horror genre (don’t get me wrong I love good schlock horror as well but it is a genre that can say just as much as the most well crafted drama, people seem to forget that) opting instead to present a stark and startling look at the stagnation of humanity and at our unwillingness to meet in the middle. If we truly do believe that the world is built on cooperation and the fact that we as humans need one another to survive, then how come we don’t cooperate anymore and why is it that we live such isolated existences, myself included?
As I said 28 Days Later… uses its horror veneer to explore many themes, but none are more important than the ones I listed above, in fact without the exploration of the need for change in humanity, of the need to meet in the middle to survive, 28 Days Later… wouldn’t be a film worth spending any time with. The characters are, of course, the physical manifestations of the films themes, they guide us through the ups and downs of humanity.
First, you have Jim, a man who cares too much. He hasn’t learned that society has changed, he refuses to adapt to his new surroundings. He wanders the empty streets of London, and for some reason he adheres to the directions of the streets, he picks up money he knows is useless, he is still attracted to expensive cars, and so on. He knows the world has changed, but he won’t change with it. This follows him throughout the film, he refuses to kill, or when he does it wrecks him because in a civilized society you don’t kill and not suffer for it.
Next is the woman of steel, Selena. She has changed, but she has gone too far in her change, she isn’t willing to compromise, not an inch. She recognizes that the world is different, she accepts this and she will do whatever is necessary to survive in it. She cuts down a friend within seconds of him possibly becoming infected, any time Jim gets her to open up she shrinks away and yells about how the world is all fucked. From moment to moment to moment Selena remains constant, she is the hard ass because that is what she believes she needs to be to survive, she is fighting a battle to shut off her humanity to live, because in this world humanity and human emotions have no place.
Then Hannah and Frank enter the picture and they offer an entirely different perspective. They are the best of humanity, they are what is needed in order for humanity to ever stand a chance, in this world or the world prior to infection. In short, they see that the world has changed and they have changed with it, but they have kept their humanity. They realize that sacrifices must be made and that action must be taken, but they also know that if they lose what makes them human then all the sacrifices will be for naught and they will be no different than the Ragers.
Finally, you have the existence of the soldiers. For the sake of our argument we’re not going to include Mitchell with the soldiers, he is more of a Hannah/Frank type of character. The rest of the soldiers are scared, they know better than anyone else how much the world has changed. But, instead of meeting this new world and attempting to make something of it they have given up. They revert to their most base selves, it’s the only way they know to deal with the fear, and it helps them cope very well. There are no consequences for their actions, their humanity can be forgotten, they don’t need it. They have an extensive set of barriers in between themselves and the Ragers, but in reality they are useless because the Ragers already exist inside each and every one of them.
This brings us to the culmination of the picture, and perhaps the most hotly debated aspect of 28 Days Later…. Jim needs to live, if he dies the myriad of themes that Boyle and writer Alex Garland have offered up will fall in on themselves like a house of cards. If Jim dies then no lessons have been learned, Selena will remain hard, Jim’s attempt to find the balance between still caring and adapting to the new world will have been for naught ad the soldiers would have won a victory in postmortem. Boyle and Garland don’t want to damn humanity, 28 Days Later… isn’t a film about the end of the world, it is a film about the world beginning anew and in a better way. 28 Days Later… is a film about learning from one another and becoming the best amalgamation of a person we can become even in the harshest of times. If Jim dies then none of this is accomplished and you are left with an incomplete film, so Jim lives and the themes stay true and powerful.
Wow, I didn’t expect my breakdown of the themes of 28 Days Later… to get that in-depth, but sometimes it happens. Here I am almost a thousand words into this review and I have yet to even touch on the amazing cinematography, Boyle’s tight direction, the good acting all around, or the sheer awesomeness of the world that the cast and crew create. But, I think all of that is obvious to the eye and to be honest I don’t need to talk about it at all. The people who watch the film will pick up on things such as the score, the attention to detail, the way that Cillian Murphy’s face guides us through the emotional gamut of the film, and so on. And while I do believe plenty of people have picked up on, and will pick up on, the themes I discussed they needed to be gone into in-depth, it just felt right. So, long review short, 28 Days Later… remains a brilliant film, a wonderful expose on the true heights humanity can reach and easily the best film from Boyle. Oh yeah, and 28 Days Later… is a cracking horror film to boot, imagine that.