Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
Danny Boyle’s 2002 virus flick was a truly terrifying fright machine, pushing forth scream-and-jump fun. It also offered a human resonance that lingered with the scares and a grim, beautiful blurriness courtesy of its digitally shot picture.
Working with screenwriter Alex Garland, Boyle cut a chilling swath through the “it can’t happen here” notion of pandemic infection — in this case, a “rage virus” transferred, bloodily, from monkeys to humans.
That creates fast-running flesh-cravers (purists might debate terming them “zombies”) who sprint and leap after their prey, but the humans aren’t dumb fodder. Boyle astonishingly mixes shock-tactic scares with introspection about human comforts to which we cling, whether it’s crème de menthe or a cheeseburger.
There are furious attack scenes — including a London-street firebombing and a close call in a dark apartment staircase. But a discovery at one character’s home effects the mood with quietude, and because of the infection’s quick nature — and that there are no big stars — we don’t know who will be killed when in as quick a shock to the viewer as it is to the characters.
Reminiscent of Apocalypse Now as a hallucinatory, bombed-out hell hosting uncertain travels, 28 Days Later … similarly played itself out at a military encampment where lunacy prevails. Whatever steam it lost during this ho-hum spook-house run didn’t completely slow the film. In a film better than Slumdog Millionaire, Boyle envisioned hope, remembrance, sadness and loss — in other words, everything napalmed right out of the lackluster sequel, 28 Weeks Later.