28 Days Later... [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (28th October 2007).
The Film

28 Days Later was one of my favorite films of 2002 so you can imagine my excitement when the Blu-ray release was announced; I had recently looked at its sequel 28 Weeks Later (2007) and was anticipating going back to the one that started it all.

Danny Boyle is certainly one of the most interesting British filmmakers to come out in a long time with diverse work ranging from his drug-induced hit Trainspotting (1996) all the way to his most recent Sunshine (2007) an homage to psychological sci-fi and in-between he made a little horror film that would prove massively successful among genre fans. 28 Days Later takes elements established by classic zombie films and viral-infection films and rolls them into one ravaging package.

28 Days Later follows Jim (Cillian Murphy) who has recently awoken from injuries sustained after an accident only to find that he’s alone in an evacuated London 28 Days after a viral outbreak that has caused mass devastation and contaminated many people. Now begins his struggle to get out of London with some survivors Selena (Naomi Harris), Hannah (Megan Burns), Mark (Noah Huntley), and Frank (Brendan Gleeson) as they attempt to make their way to a Military control area, but just when they think they’re safe all hell breaks loose as they continue their struggle to stay alive and avoid infection.

Longtime collaborator and screenwriter Alex Garland has taken influence from such notable classics as George A. Romero’s Dead Trilogy as well as films such as The Day of the Triffids (1962) and The Omega Man (1971), keen observers may spot scenes that are direct homage’s to scenes from those films. Although there’s a lot of influence there’s also plenty of originality that has taken these tried and true horror concepts and upgraded then, the most notable difference are the zombies, which are never referred to as such but are more like ‘infected’ people that have a hunger for flesh and can’t spot their inner rage as they pack hunt throughout the British landscape. They move quickly, viciously and as a result are ten times scarier than the traditional slow-moving Zombies of cinema that troll through the landscape in search of ‘brains!’ Additionally both Garland and Boyle tried to create a realistic infection film and conducted a considerable amount of research on how catastrophic events impact society as they drew ideas from tragic events that occurred in Rwanda and Sierra Leone. The use of a virus is also terrifying considering the outbreaks of Ebola in Africa, SARS and the Avian Flu in Asia as well as the Foot and Mouth Disease that crippled the British Beef Industry still fresh in a lot of people’s minds (At least more fresh back in 2002 than perhaps now). Furthermore, the portrayal of a post-apocalyptic London looked realistic and haunting as the filmmaker’s were given access to famous landmarks and normally busy areas of the city which were shut down for the them for a short time. This is one reason the filmmakers chose to shoot the film on DV, this allowed them flexibility and a means to shoot quickly. This decision also lent the film a gritty documentary look at added to the realism they were hoping to achieve.

The film also manages to keep you on the edge with its often graphic and intense violence, the infected hordes are truly scary and unnerving a feat that’s usually very difficult to achieve considering the vast majority of desensitized horror fans such as me. The film’s structure also adds to the suspense as the character hardly stop and they keep moving in an effort for survival so the pace moves quickly at times.

There’s hardly a thing I don’t like about this film 28 Days Later is pure horror brilliance and it’s made even better knowing that the sequel is just as good if not better, if you haven’t seen it and you’re a fan of these types of films then I can’t recommend this highly enough - you won’t be disappointed.

Video

Presented in the film’s original 1.85:1 theatrical ratio this transfer is presented in 1080p 24/fps high-definition and has been created using AVC MPEG-4 compression. Before I get into the nitty-gritty of this release note that the film was shot on miniDV using the Canon XL-1 digital camera, this camera shoots only in standard definition and in order to achieve this 1080p high-definition transfer the image was in a sense boosted to that resolution. The results are not promising, the image is occasionally soft and lacking in detail in fact a lot of background detail is lost and appears a bit hazy. Additionally the image is plagued by artefacts; the noise is quite distracting especially amid the blacks. Color balance is all over the place and also suffers from edge-enhancement so harsh the lines of which are pixilated. The only positive thing I can say about this transfer is that it’s only slightly sharper than the DVD version.

Audio

Three audio tracks are included for this release in English DTS-HD 5.1 Lossless Master Audio as well as standard Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in both French and Spanish. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its DTS-HD soundtrack and thankfully unlike the image the soundtrack is top notch. Dialogue is clear and distortion free but the track’s strengths is its aggressive nature that displays a broad range. The film’s more action oriented scenes comes across effectively making use of the sound space and featuring all manner of creepy sounds that never feel out of place and are totally immersive. The film’s score also makes use of the sound space effectively blaring out adding yet another layer. The depth is excellent as you feel like you’re along for the ride with these characters.
Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired, Cantonese, Korean and Spanish.

Extras

Fox has released this film with all the extras from the DVD release ported over and includes an audio commentary, some deleted scenes and alternate endings, a featurette, music video, galleries, animated storyboards, trailers for the film as well as some bonus trailers. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

First up is a feature-length audio commentary by the film’s director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Alex Garland. From the start I got the feeling that this was going to be a track filled with silent gaps but it soon becomes apparent that Boyle is a talkative sort and takes control of the track as Garland occasionally chimes in adding to whatever Boyle has just said. They talk about the script and ideas for certain scenes and set ups, Boyle takes us through the shooting process including the challenge of shooting a film such as this on a small budget considering he had to shoot on location and make London look as if deserted. He talks about the speed and efficiency of shooting on digital, the creative decisions and on keeping a heightened sense of atmosphere and an aesthetic surrealism which includes the use of music among other production experience in which these two share. The track is great and provides the viewer with plenty of information on the production and is most certainly worth listening to.

Following that are a series of 6 deleted scenes that can be viewed with optional audio commentary by the film’s director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Alex Garland as they comment on the scenes providing some background on theme and on why they were not used. These scenes can be viewed individually or with a ‘play all’ function and include:

- "London Walk" runs for 1 minute 19 seconds and is additional footage of Jim walking through a deserted London.
- "Abandoned Train" runs for 1 minute 48 seconds, Jim and the survivors find a train that has been used as a Red Cross hospital.
- "Motorway Carnage" runs for 1 minute 19 seconds, the streets are full of abandoned cars making it difficult to leave London by car.
- "Taxi/Sweden" runs for 1 minute 44 seconds, Jim and Selena banter like taxi drivers as they drive through the country trying to reach Manchester.
- "The Infected in the House" runs for 2 minutes 26 seconds, a bunch of infected soldiers run rampage through the house.
- "Floorboards" runs for 51 seconds, Jim hides on the floorboards trying to avoid the infected.

Next up are 4 alternative endings that can be viewed with optional audio commentary by the film’s director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Alex Garland as they comment on the endings and on why they were not used. These endings can be viewed individually or with a ‘play all’ function and include:

- "Alternative Theatrical Ending" runs for 4 minutes 27 seconds, Selena and Hannah take Jim to an abandoned hospital and try to revive him.
- "Alternative Ending" runs for 2 minutes 29 seconds is essentially the same ending as featured in the film only without Jim present.
- "Radical Alternative Ending" runs for 11 minutes 23 seconds and is a storyboarded ending that was created if the characters had not encountered the soldiers in what would have been an alternate cut of the film.
- "Hospital Dream" runs for 4 minutes 30 seconds, as Selena tries to revive Jim he dreams of the accident that landed him in the hospital at the start of the film.

The featurette on this release is entitled "Pure Rage: The Making Of 28 Days Later" and runs for 24 minutes 23 seconds, the first half concentrates on infectious diseases, the reality of a pandemic and the mutation and evolution of diseases such as foot and mouth. While the second half focuses on the film’s production including the themes and tone of the film, shooting on DV as well as the challenges of shooting on location in London and having to shut down streets, make-up effects and the production process. This clip is not you’re typical EPK and is worth a look.

A Jacknife Lee music video follows and runs for 6 minutes 22 seconds, this clip features some electronica music from the film’s soundtrack cut to footage from the film.

One of two galleries is next entitled Production Still Gallery which features forced commentary by director Danny Boyle and runs for 18 minutes 22 seconds. This clip includes photos taken during the production for publicity purposes and are used to help market the film.

A second gallery is also featured entitled Polaroid Gallery which also features forced commentary by director Danny Boyle and runs for 4 minutes 13 seconds, these Polaroid’s are taken by various crew including make-up, costume and continuity in order to track the progression of the character’s look over the course of the film. This is particularity handy considering most films are shot out of continuity.

Some animated storyboards are also included and run for 1 minute 32 seconds, these are taken from the official website and feature the various stages of the infection over the 28 day period.

Also featured on the disc are the film’s original theatrical teaser which runs for 1 minute 25 seconds as well as the theatrical trailer which runs for 2 minutes 14 seconds.

Rounding out the extras are a collection of bonus trailers for:

- "28 Weeks Later" which runs for 2 minutes 14 seconds.
- "Alien Vs. Predator" which runs for 2 minutes 17 seconds.
- "From Hell" which runs for 2 minutes 21 seconds.
- "Sunshine" which runs for 1 minute 58 seconds.

Overall

The Film: B+ Video: C- Audio: A+ Extras: A Overall: B-

 


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