Great movie. Lousy ending. How the latter doesn't negate the former is a tribute to the other 95 percent of the flick. Yet what its writer and director saw as a liability, namely the film's ferocity and driving doomsday demeanor, stirs the loins of CineSchlockers jonesing for an unapologetic, uncompromising return to gutwrenching cinema, which this George Romero-informed zombie rave nearly does before gingerly easing audiences off the proverbial meat hook. Now, as during its breakaway U.S. theatrical run, this lack of a proper ending has become a marketing hook. "Choose life. Choose a job. Choose any of these other endings we came up with." Three are included on this disc: The multiplex-screened "Rescue 911" version earns its merits by adding to the body count. As does a second version of the existing "Gilligan's Island" finale. Though the wildest stab is the unfilmed "Radical" ending that replaces the entire Day of the Dead quarter of the movie and is represented in riveting Mercury Theatre fashion backed by lively illustrations by Brendan Houghton. Though none of these would've been more appropriately severe, more in lockstep with the genre it so exuberantly reanimates, as the punctuating freeze frame ALREADY PRESENT before Fox financed costly 35mm reshoots. So maybe the greatest bonus feature of 'em all is actually the ability to gracefully punch out of the flick at timecode 1:44:35.
Cillian Murphy is a London bike messenger who gets his brainpan split by a Sunday driver and wakes from a coma, nekkid as a jaybird, in a world gone mad. Literally. Although that's not immediately apparent. In this zombirific misadventure's most arresting moments, Jim wanders from chillingly vacant hospital halls, into vacant streets, past various silent landmarks, gazes into vacant storefronts and vehicles before reaching a not-so-vacant church. (Fortunately, Jimbo DID remember to put some clothes on before setting out on this doomsday walking tour.) It all started, well, 28 days prior with a bunch of lab monkeys strung up wide-eyed like Malcolm McDowell and forced to watch old tapes of grisly melees from "The Morton Downey Jr. Show." This coupled with someone's ill-advised scientific tinkering naturally leads to a rapidly proliferating outbreak of "rage" in the unlikely form of virulent cooties passed from one victim to another within 10-to-20 seconds of exposure. Soon the entire tea-sipping population of England is projectile puking plasma and mighty CRANKY about it! It's at that church where Jim first encounters a ragged congregation of these hyper-homicidal "infecteds" -- that's zombies to the rest of us -- who surely would've dined on his leaky melon if not for the pyrotechnic skills of fellow survivors. Enter Naomie Harris as Selena and her porcupine hairdo. She talks tough. She is tough. Best of all, she's got mad machete skills that'd even earn an undead nod from Jason Voorhees himself. Truly a horror heroine for the post-Scream era. No wonder Jimbo's sweet on her. But she ain't got time to bleed or get it on. No, the two head off on a perilous journey with a bear of a taxi driver (Brendan Gleeson) and his daughter (Megan Burns) in hopes that a mysterious radio message will indeed yield the salvation it promises. Although, thankfully, there's not much chance of any ruby slippers at the end of this rainbow. CineSchlockers who'd previously seen Chuck Heston tool around Los Angeles all by his lonesome in The Omega Man, while impressed, won't find themselves nearly so gap-jaw'd by 28's sobering, yet familiar opening scenes. In fact, both flicks owe deep thematic debts to Vincent Price's underappreciated turn as The Last Man on Earth.
Two zombie breasts. 1,008 corpses (give or take 58 million to 6.2 billion). Untethered wangdoodle. Rampant product placement. Multiple firesuit stunts. Ol' flat tire at the worse possible moment gag. Thumbs to the eye sockets. Gratuitous shopping spree. Gas station fireball. Oodles of civil unrest footage. Gratuitous dream sequence. Self-medicating. Flaming Michelin necktie. Angry amputation. Point-blank execution. Head crushing. Bloody kisses. Gratuitous skip-frame fast mo. Selena gets grim: "It started as rioting and from the beginning you knew this was different. It was happening in small villages. Market towns. Then it wasn't on TV anymore. It was in the street outside. It was coming through your windows. It was a virus. An infection. You didn't need a doctor to tell you that. It was the BLOOD!" Jim turns on, tunes in and drops out: "Oh grand! Valium! Not only will we be able to get to sleep, but if we're attacked in the middle of the night, we won't even care!" Stuart McQuarrie's Sgt. Farrell is an apocalyptic philosopher: "If you look at the whole life of the planet ... man has only been around for a few blinks of an eye. So, if the infection wipes us all out, that is a return to normality."
Director Danny Boyle and writer Alex Garland offer a breezy commentary that's equal parts confessional and instructional. How do you make London look abandoned? Well, it's easier than you'd think at the dawn of rapid, multi-camera, digital photography and the cooperation of a pre-9/11 police force. (Seasoned with CGI shenanigans as needed.) To his credit, Mr. Garland is first to admit and seems the most uneasy about the flick's Romero homages. Meanwhile, the 30-minute "Pure Rage" featurette purports to be a "making of," but actually dwells more on the legitimacy of a mankind-eliminating pandemic. Hang in toward the end for some actual behind-the-scenes footage mixed among the requisite "greatest movie ever" soundbites from cast and crew. Beyond the aforementioned alternate endings, of particular interest to CineSchlockers will be the inclusion of gobs of Polaroids, shot for continuity purposes, that offer a better look at various blood-soaked characters. (2003, 113 mins, 1.85:1 anam, DD 5.1, Commentary, Alternate endings and deleted scenes, Featurette, Photo gallery, Music video, Trailers.)
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G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.