The film 28 Days Later is intriguing for several reasons, not the least of which is because it’s one of the best pure horror films of the modern era. Sure, it’s got its gore and blood and gotcha moments, but above all else, it plays with viewers’ emotions in ways that few horror films can. That ability alone — to elicit emotion amid blood and guts — is indicative of the film’s genre-busting power. As a Blu-ray Disc release, however, 28 Days Later doesn’t hold up quite as well.
The film itself is completely intact, so no fault can be found in that regard. In fact, this story about the United Kingdom (if not all the world) being overrun by a blood- and saliva-borne “zombiefication” disease is just as intense as ever, and the psychological power of the scenes involving parental memories and women trying to cope with their imminent rape are just as emotionally disturbing as you remember. It’s just that the multimedia aspects and bonus features of 28 Days Later on Blu-ray Disc just can’t quite stand up to the quality of the feature-length movie itself.
In most circles, “modest-budget horror film” doesn’t exactly scream “killer visuals and special effects,” and with 28 Days Later, that certainly holds true. The movie has an almost indie feel to its cinematography, complete with seemingly over-exposed shots and occasional film grain. Although this is both intentional and artistic, it doesn’t exactly showcase the capabilities and wow factor of a 1080p display. Several instances exist in which PhotoShop-like effects have been applied to the landscape or objects in the foreground, and those definitely do a more effective job conveying a sharp, artistic feel. But frankly, they’re too infrequent to really make you think “dang, this movie looks great.”
To the film’s credit, the uncompressed audio is a different story. Whereas audio has a tendency to “wander” in the theater, cranking the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound in the privacy of your own home really makes you appreciate how audio can set a mood and build tension. For instance, when victims turn into The Infected or certain characters are hacked to pieces, the sounds are so detailed that several scenes are actually somewhat disturbing. I can’t say I’d ever want to be in a room while someone took a machete to the arm, but I can safely say it must surely sound like the scenes in 28 Days Later on Blu-ray.
When it comes to the bonus features, however, 28 Days Later was clearly counting on the film itself getting most of the attention. The Blu-ray Disc version of 28 Days Later includes the usual bonus-feature suspects, but all of them are in a disappointing 480p display: Pure Rage: The Making of 28 Days Later (24:23), Production Stills with Commentary by Danny Boyle (18:12), a Running Polaroid Gallery with Intro by Danny Boyle (4:14), Animated Storyboards (1:32), a Jacknife Lee Music Video (6:22) and a Feature-length Commentary by Director Danny Boyle and Screenwriter Alex Garland. In fact, the two most compelling bonus features are the six Deleted Scenes (9:21) and Alternate Endings (22:51).
The six deleted scenes all have the option of including commentary by Danny Boyle, and in true “deleted scenes” form, the commentaries generally divulge why the scene ended up on the cutting-room floor. Although it’s clear why most of them got the proverbial axe, deleting one scene in particular actually proved to be a very wise decision, as it resulted in a more-powerful “plot revelation” scene much later in the narrative.
The alternate endings segment, meanwhile, actually includes four different endings, one for the theater version and three presumably just for this home release. The alternative theatrical ending while intense, shows Jim (the main character) dying in the end, an appropriate ending but one that wouldâ€™ve undermined the entire “quarantine” concept. The “normal” alternative ending, meanwhile, builds on the theatrical alternative, as it doesn’t include Jim and in fact makes one wonder how the ladies would’ve determined that there would eventually be signs of rescue.
“Radical alternative ending,” on the other hand, was conceived during post-production and is in fact so radical that it presumes there were never any soldiers involved in the story at all. Presented in storyboard format, this 11-plus-minute vignette fleshes out the story effectively for a last-minute concept, but it definitely would have made for an odd, lonely and arguably short film. The fourth and final ending, “Hospital Dream,” is a series of Jim-driven hallucinations that certainly would’ve brought Jimâ€™s bike-courier story full circle but really wouldn’t have fit the rest of the movie in tone.
Unfortunately, alternate endings alone, even when they are the second-longest bonus feature on a disc, can’t carry a full Blu-ray presentation by themselves. Granted, 28 Days Later the film is a masterpiece in the modern horror genre, and for many film buffs that alone will warrant the purchase. But casual horror fans who are looking for great visuals and a 50GB Blu-ray Disc full of bonus content should best look elsewhere, perhaps at one of the many other horror-film BD releases that have hit stores during the past month.
- Score: 7
— Jonas Allen