If only "28 Days Later" didn't wimp out in its final shots with a syrupy ending, the film may have gone down as a true masterpiece of zombie horror. But the first 95 percent of this British action-horror film stack up as the best Britain has offered in the realm of horror in decades. Way better than "Resident Evil."
After a rousing opening where animal rights activists unleash a deadly plague contained in caged monkeys, Danny Boyle's film carries on in a style very reminiscent of the British sci-fi film "Day of the Triffids," with a man awakening in an abandoned hospital, stumbling outside to find that the world has ended.
The virus unleashed by the animal rights activists has infected mankind. London is now a wasteland. Most of the human race has become snarling, rabid, grotesque zombies eager to infect anyone that doesn’t share the virus already. Our hero is rescued by a small group of uninfected humans. Eventually, however, the group dwindles down to just him and one mistrusting woman, who threatens to leave him at the first sign of weakness.
Although marketed as a zombie horror film, "28 Days Later" isn't a zombie film, because its world has been taken over by the infected living, not the walking dead. But the movie plays like a nonstop tribute to Romero all the same. There's a free-for-all at a supermarket very reminiscent of "Dawn of the Dead," a Bub-like zombie captured by the military a la "Day of the Dead," a viral outbreak that seems straight out of Stephen King's "The Stand" and an army of crazed killers not unlike the ones we saw in George Romero's "The Crazies" or David Cronenberg's "Rabid."
Boyle amps up the anxiety and intensity greater than all those movies were able to accomplish, and the first half of "28 Days Later" stacks up as a real nail biter. Things slow down a bit toward the end when the group of survivors hooks up with a small military outpost, and most of the actions revolves conflicts with people, not with "infected's."
Where "28 Days Later" really does disappoint is in its closing moments. Happy endings always disappoint in apocalyptic films. Here, Boyle really should have taken another page from Romero and ended the film "Dawn of the Dead"-style. The film also takes itself a tad too seriously. There's no camp value to the proceedings -- another minus. But all in all, it stacks up as a solid and outstanding film.