Managing to both offload an extra double pass that came into my possession and wolf down a foot long meatball sub in thirteen minutes there was an anxious wait. Suddenly, as if someone had decided to take a line, a queue formed and filing was under way. A short usher named Vincent was adamant on taking the passes and as I tried to reason with him I knocked the still closed door of cinema 8 to which a guy thought would be a good time to utter, "watch yer step mate." An extremely limited comical situation to him and his partner.
Still largely unoccupied, the seats were slowly filling up with people. Wanting a buffer of at least a seat I drifted between faked sleepiness and saving them for those who would not come as eyes and eyes climbed the steps and darted back and forth looking for an empty seat in the mid section. For those who came in after the initial flood, they were coming in holding a card of UNDEAD. "Two for one offer" one of them said to another, fanning the card. No idea on what they meant. Screening crept as slow as a man whose legs had been blown off.
The lights went dark and three seats were mine. The film starts off unexpectedly at the end of the trailers with the frantic news images of people in a panic shaken into mass hysteria. Racing the heartbeat continues to the titular prelude of short-sighted activists who only snowball proceedings.
Then silence. And 28 Days Later, we're given Jim (Cillian Murphy).
A desolate and eerily quiet London shouts out The Omega Man and drowns out any lingering notion that Sandra Bullock might walk around the corner dressed in a hangover having fallen off the wagon. Instead we're introduced to some actual characters in what could have otherwise been simple movements of the plot.
The world is ravaged by a virus known as rage. The infected turn into demonic monsters complete with a gargling larynx, the result perhaps of an overproduction in phlegm or the pooling of blood in their lungs. Their skin is vividly scarred and eyes are lost among the dried scabs of blood covering them from scalp to sole. Once the blood of the infected touches an uninfected it takes only 10 to 20 seconds before the rage is spread. Keeping together is as important as keeping clean and staying out of the reach of the wretch.
The premise of a deadened world was unsettling for some, such as the guy on my right who coped by disrupting the empty streets with massively loud bites of popcorn. Funny when it needs to be, the scant periods of humour serve as a relief for both the audience and the players onscreen having to exist through a horrific nightmare.
Earlier in the night an announcement was made of the alternate ending that would follow the credits. An ending that wasn't attached until four weeks after the initial release in the States. Some either didn't want to entertain the thought of sitting in the cinema watching the credits roll by for another Street Fighter M. Bison moment, or were too exhausted to bear anymore.
Then, realising that they weren't able to exit with something still playing on the screen the mob left disorientated and pooled in the lobby hoping for a discussion. They might have debated on just when they thought Cillian Murphy started to look like Jim Caviezel and how Megan Burns (Hannah) at times looked like a slightly younger version of Anna Paquin.
Getting back one of the passes as a souvenir proved to be a time in waiting as they radioed down the pile. When they arrived one of the girls asked the other if they needed to be counted to which she replied no. Walking away with three in hand, the question arose, why would they keep them?
If there is a lesson to learn from the bewitching medium of product placement of 28 Days Later, it is that Pepsi is the choice of a disease free population.
Reviewed on Wednesday, 3 September 2003