I just watched 28 Days Later on DVD last night. It’s a good movie. Unlike most in this genre, the characters are believable and sympathetically portrayed. The infected (effectively zombies or monsters, plot-wise) are also more believable than usual, and are used sparingly instead of appearing in vast hordes. The thing that really stands out, though, is the atmosphere of the film. The scenes of Jim (the main protagonist) walking around first the hospital where he woke up and then around downtown London struggling to comprehend the enormity of whatever as-yet-unknown disaster has apparently occurred while he was asleep are extremely well done, and the music (by Godspeed You Black Emperor in this case) fits the mood just perfectly.

This is a very disturbing movie. It’s not because of the gore and carnage, which are actually not very prominent but are nonetheless unpleasantly realistic (as opposed to the cartoonish violence of most genre material). It’s not because of the global-catastrophe premise. It’s more because of the little ways in which rational – or at least mostly rational – survivors respond, in the way they interact with each other at a personal and psychological level. It’s all too easy for me to imagine people I know making exactly the decisions and saying or doing exactly the things as people in the movie, even though those things turn out to be grotesquely wrong. I can even imagine myself following some of the less pleasant characters’ lines of thought, and that can be the creepiest experience of all.