Even one girls horrific acting doesn’t make Danny Boyle’s bleakest work any less nightmarish…
Zombie films had gone seriously out of fashion during the 90’s but Danny Boyle brought the classic genre back with a bang in 2002 with 28 Days Later. Whilst the ‘infected’ in Boyle’s horror masterpiece are not technically zombies as they don’t die and come back to life, in every other sense they are the same as the army of the undead made so popular by George A. Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead franchise. What Danny Boyle did is move away from shuffling, groaning corpses to sprinting and screaming lunatics crashing through your front room window. It is such a simple idea to have the zombies running rather than stumbling but it reinvigorated the genre and paved the way for Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake as well as the Resident Evil franchise, World War Z, Zombieland and many others.
28 Days Later is more than just a zombie film though, taking in isolation and man’s inhumanity or ‘people killing people’ as it is described so succinctly by the always reliable Christopher Ecclestone, there is a haunting quality that lingers long after the final credits. It is Cillian Murphy in the main role who really impresses, seeing his character completely transformed in the third act whilst still maintaining a believable performance. In support Brendan Gleeson and Naomie Harris are both a little over the top and this grates at times but much worse is newcomer Megan Burns as Gleeson’s daughter Hannah. Almost every one of Burns’ lines is delivered so robotically it is hard to watch and it is no surprise she never acted again after 28 Days Later.
In the opening ‘Hello’ sequence and the climactic ‘In a Heartbeat’ conclusion, Danny Boyle has crafted two of the most perfect scenes in the history of horror and it is these bookends that ensure that 28 Days Later will always be considered a horror classic.