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28 Days Later review

No, not a sequel to Sandy Bullock's lame-ass rehab flick but a zombie movie by the director of Trainspotting. Now there's a thought. Only Danny Boyle's not calling it a zombie movie - or even a horror film, come to that. And let's not forget that this talented helmer has churned out - whisper it - A Life Less Ordinary and The Beach since Renton and pals gave Brit cinema a shot in the arm.

Things start off promisingly. After a brief prologue shows a killer virus being released from a monkey research lab, we skip forward four weeks to see Jim (Cillian Murphy), a London bike courier, awaking from a coma. The hospital's deserted. Westminster Bridge is deserted. Trafalgar Square is deserted. In fact, the whole of bloody London is deserted. Empty, silent, dead.

Windblown newspapers alert Jim to the terrifying virus that's swept Britain and, it appears, the world. But there's good news, too: other "survivors" live among the dust, and Jim teams up with a handful of them (Naomie Harris, Brendan Gleeson, Megan Burns) to head for Manchester and the promise of a secure sanctuary. It's getting there that'll be the problem, for these healthy few are eclipsed by hundreds of the "infected", ghoulish packs driven by an insatiable urge to kill...

Based on an "original" screenplay by Alex Garland, author of The Beach, this buzzard of an apocalyptic movie picks at the cinematic corpses of The Stand, The Omega Man, Romero's Trilogy Of The Dead and, bizarrely, Apocalypse Now. Making the zombies/infected fleet of foot instead of stumbling, grappling idiots is as resourceful as it gets - yes, it's been done before, but only in frighteningly obscure schlockfests - while the dialogue's clunky, the plot holes ragged and the DV camerawork downright ugly.

What Boyle's horror film does have, however, is scares. Admittedly they're not scares of the purest variety, composed of tantalising tension and shivery suspense, but, as knee-jerk jumps go, they're damn well precise. And that's not all. Urgent camerawork, frantic editing and a simple but insistent score give 28 Days Later... a furious, if occasionally spurious energy, and several shots ice the spine. Rats fleeing before the infected? Zombies puking blood? It's the stuff dreams are plagued of.

None of which would make Boyle's apoca-shocker anything more than an effective straight-to-DVD chiller were it not for the last 20 minutes. It's here that the helmer spreads his stylistic wings, ditching grimy realism for Grand Guignol excess to dish up a succession of Dario Argento-esque chase sequences. Surrealism clashes with lyricism, and it's all pasted together with claret. Lots of claret.

Not gourmet stuff, then, but well worth sinking your teeth into.

A crude but sometimes startling serving of schlock, the velocity and ferocity compensating for leaden conversation and smudge-o-vision photography. Give it a go.

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