Why 17 days? Because 17 is my favorite number.
One such movie that was getting a lot of buzz was 28 Days Later, Danny Boyle’s manic zombie apocalypse flick. One well-known critic (I won’t say who) went so far as to tell me this film was so scary he "almost wet" himself. When I finally saw the film five months later, I knew what he meant.
Of course, 28 Days Later is not really about zombies. It’s about an epidemic of something called a Rage Virus that transforms people into crazed, manic monsters almost instantaneously once infected, thus eliminating the tired plot device of “The hero is infected--can we find a cure in time?” The point is, you can’t find a cure in time. The moment you share even a milliliter of body fluid with any of the infected, you’re a goner. One scene that illustrates this is when a drop of blood from an infected body drips into the eye of one of our intrepid heroes, giving him seconds to beg the others to kill him before he can hurt anybody.
The story follows a group of survivors 28 days after the initial outbreak. These survivors include Jim (Cillian Murphy), a cyclist who has just awakened from a coma to discover a very different world than the one he remembered; Selena (Naomie Harris), a bad-ass warrior type afraid to get close to others; Mark, (Noah Huntley), Selena’s partner in battle; Frank (Brendan Gleeson), a good-natured cab driver holed up atop Balfron Tower; and Frank’s daughter Hannah (Megan Burns), who will discover her youth and innocence are more a curse than a blessing. Our heroes are drawn together out of necessity and soon decide they must escape a decimated London and seek sanctuary in the countryside. Along the way, there are some pretty damned scary set pieces, including my favorite in what has now come to be known as the tunnel scene:
The set-up is pretty simple. The group drives out of London in Frank’s cab, only to suffer a flat tire in one of the major tunnels. As they scurry about to jack up the car and change the tire, a horde or rats scurry past them. Since rats are frightened of the infected monsters and will run at the scent of them, the desperate survivors realize they have only precious minutes to finish the tire-change and get moving. Suddenly, the echo of running footsteps is heard, and the twitching shadows of the infected can be seen on the walls as they sprint into the tunnel. Those precious minutes have turned to seconds …
I’ll admit it: I almost wet myself watching this movie. Part of it had to do with the 20-ounce Diet Coke I drank before going into the amphitheater, and the fact that in the packed house I had no way to escape without being a real pain in the ass. I was in the middle of the aisle in a truly intense movie, and when the bladder started screaming I had to just sit there and take it. In many ways, this made the film even more intense. My misery seemed to amplify the action on the screen, and the film’s many great jump scares made me writhe as I struggled to keep from losing control.
Years later, when I bought the DVD to see if it still held up, I decided to share it with my best friend, who had never seen it. Surprisingly, the film is still plenty scary, even on a bright Sunday afternoon when one should feel safest of all. At last, when the film was over, my best friend jumped up.
“I’ve got to go to the bathroom,” he said. "I've been holding it."
“Why didn’t you just tell me?” I asked. “I could have paused the DVD.”
“I don’t know,” my friend replied. “I was so caught up in the narrative, I was afraid if we paused the film it might lose some of its momentum.”
This is the sign of a great horror film, when you would rather silently suffer than take a break from the proceedings. I guess one could say this movie literally almost scared the piss out of us.
Previous Days of Halloween:
Day 1 – Baby’s Breath
Day 2 – Phantom of the Paradise
Day 3 – The Shining (miniseries)