28 Days Later: the Non-Zombie Zombie Movie
Dan Graney
6/29/2003 9:22:30 PM

I was talking the other day about "malternatives" -- that's what the booze biz calls those pseudo-cocktails in six-packs: Smirnoff Ice, Skyy Blue, Bacardi Silver, Captain Morgan's Crappy-Ass Rum & Coke Drink are all malternatives. Actually, I made up the name of the last one because I can't remember what it was called, but it doesn't matter because it was so sucktacular, they pulled it. Anyway, these beverages carry middle-shelf monikers, but they are all missing one thing: the booze.

But I digress. All the time. Malternatives might look, sound, feel, taste or pretend to be the real thing, but they are not. They are sheep in wolve's clothing.

28 Days Later is a malternative zombie movie. Sometimes it looks like one. Sometimes it sounds like one. But it's not. Ironically, the worse thing going for 28 Days Later is the advertising. The trailer jumps out at you, saying that the movie has been called "scary as hell" and that director Danny Boyle has "reinvented zombie-horror". Well, not really. It's not scary as hell, but it does have some good scares. About 4 of them. And the only way Danny Boyle has reinvented zombie horror is that this movie will most likely play to the art-house crowd; it's more like a French New Wave zombie movie. Or a non-zombie zombie movie. But "reinvented"? Nah. (Besides, nothing can top The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed-Up Zombies, the world's first monster musical.)

The movie starts with some people liberating some monkeys in a lab. 28 days later, Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up to find himself in The Omega Man, er, I mean in a desolated land with no sign of life, also known as England. Soon Jim finds some people. But they're zombies, so he runs. And so do they. Quickly. Then Jim finds some more people. And then a couple others. And they go off on a shopping spree because, well, they also saw the movie Night of the Comet. And on and on.

There's more, but you get the idea. There are parts that work in the movie, and parts that don't. There is definitely that element of coolness that Danny Boyle has had in all of his movies, from Shallow Grave to Trainspotting to A Life Less Ordinary and even the dopey The Beach. Where 28 Days Later ultimately falters is the promises it makes in its advertising. If I hadn't known anything about zombies, or the zombie-survival-horror genre or whatever they called it, or how the film was "scary as hell" (which has been a favorite quote pulled by the studios since The Blair Witch Project), then I would have seen an offbeat movie that suddenly had some really fast zombies in it, and that would have been cool. But no, instead, I have a mediocre zombie movie with some offbeat parts-- and really fast zombies.

28 Days Later is the malternative of zombie movies. Look, if you want a rum and coke, drink a rum and coke. If you want a zombie movie, check out Romero's trilogy or even Return of the Living Dead.

3 out of 5 ? I'm giving an extra star because the movie looks really good. And it has fast zombies. Fast zombies=good. Zima=bad.

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