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28 Days Later (Blu-ray)

Review by: 
Head Cheeze
Release Date: 
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
Danny Boyle
Cillian Murphy
Christopher Eccleston
Bottom Line: 

Jim (Murphy) wakes to an empty hospital, ventures outside, and finds an equally empty London. What he's not realized is that during his recovery from a road accident, a plague of dubious origin has claimed the lives of most of his countrymen. The plague doesn't necessarily kill, however. Instead, it infuses it's victim with pure rage, and a thirst for blood. Jim sees this first hand when he stumbles upon a church full of "the infected", is chased through the London night, and rescued by two survivors, Mark and Selena (Harris). The pair explain the rules of survival to Jim, who begs to check in on his family. While they are all but certain that they are dead, Mark and Selena agree to go to Jim's parents home, where Jim finds that they've taken their own lives rather than succumb to the plague. When the infected attack again, Mark's bitten, and Selena makes short work of him with a machete, and she and Jim flee into the night where they discover another pair of survivor's; Frank (Gleeson) and his daughter, Hannah (Burns). Frank plays a military radio broadcast that promises salvation north of the city, and the group flee London in Frank's cab, seeking other survivors and the "answer to infection".
28 Days Later is a really good horror flick, but it's also quite an important film. It's importance is not due to any particular message or impact the film may have, but in how it was made. Shot on relatively inexpensive digital video cameras (Canon ZR-1's, which retail for around $3,000.00!), the film shows what can be done with video technology when it's in the right hands. Boyle hired an established cinematographer, Anthony Dod Mantle, who basically applied his film sensibilities to video, and the results are outstanding, lending 28 Days Later a "documentary realism" that makes it all the more horrific.
Of course, 28 Days Later still had a relatively large budget ($8 million) which afforded Boyle the luxury of some clever CGI (used to create the illusion of an abandoned London, amongst other things), and a solid cast and crew! Still, while it won't cause filmmakers to suddenly toss their Panavisions into the trash, it's definitely a cause for celebration amongst the low-budget auteurs.
As for the film, itself, I had a great time with it. Alex Garland's screenplay is bittersweet without being preachy, and, while some dialogue is a bit trite, the characters seem to react in a remarkably believable way to their calamity. The film is as original as any "zombie flick" could hope to be, but still has some obviously borrowed moments that could either be looked upon as rips or homage depending on who you ask. For instance, the scene in which the survivors raid a grocery store with glee seems lifted straight out of Dawn of the Dead, while the film's entire opening sequence is a nod to Richard Matheson's iconic I Am Legend. 28 Days Later's biggest detriment - the survivors long, and somewhat anti-climactic encounter with the military - is, in my mind, the film's only major flaw.

I didn’t expect 28 Days Later to look "great" on Blu-ray, so I wasn’t let down by this transfer. The image quality is as good as it can be, given the source, so one really can’t complain about things like the excess grain, wildly varying lighting, and soft image, as these are all things Boyle and Mantle intended upon. Save for the movie's final scene (which was shot on film), the image quality of 28 Days Later on Blu-ray is only a marginal improvement over its DVD incarnation.
The PCM audio track is fantastic, however, with crisp, well-mixed dialogue, score, and sound effects, and the immersive audio experience heightens the film’s already realistic nature.
The BD release of 28 Days Later carries over the supplemental features from the DVD, all presented in standard definition, including commentary by director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Alex Garland; Deleted scenes and alternate endings with optional commentary; "Pure Rage: The Making of 28 Days Later" featurette; Jackknife Lee music video; Still photo galleries; Animated storyboards; Theatrical teaser and trailer.
Danny Boyle's groundbreaking horror classic gets a Blu-ray makeover that only gives fans a slight visual upgrade over their DVD versions, but is saved by its great uncompressed audio track. Worth picking up if you don't already own the DVD, or are upgrading your library.

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