28 Days Later appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Because director Danny Boyle chose to shoot Later totally on digital video (DV) cameras, that made the picture tough to rate. While it seemed to represent the original footage accurately, the movie nonetheless often didn’t look very good by modern standards.
Sharpness caused some of the problems. Most close-ups and medium shots seemed nicely delineated and well defined. However, some medium and the majority of wide images came across as moderately soft and indistinct. Despite the flick’s lower-resolution origins, neither jagged edges nor moiré effects caused concerns. However, some fairly prominent haloes popped up occasionally and created moderate distractions. I couldn’t tell if these resulted from the original footage or they appeared via edge enhancement, but they made the same distractions nonetheless. Few issues related to print flaws appeared, as I saw only a few specks and some grit. Occasional examples of video artifacting appeared at times, especially during low-light shots.
Due to a combination of the DV and the drab palette chosen for the movie, colors looked fairly bland. Most of the time the film featured tones that intentionally were portrayed as pale and restricted. However, even brighter hues came across as somewhat flat and lifeless because of the DV photography. A few shots – like one of a flower field – looked pretty solid, though. Much of the movie took on a somewhat putrid yellow tint. Blacks seemed surprisingly deep and dense, but shadows varied. Some low-light shots were pretty concise and appropriately developed, but others were a bit thick and murky. Ultimately, 28 Days Later appeared to accurately replicate the source material, warts and all.
I can make less equivocal remarks about the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of 28 Days Later. While the soundfield didn’t go nuts throughout the whole movie, it kicked into action well when it mattered. Since the movie varied from many quiet scenes to the occasional frantic one, the latter made the strongest impact. The softer shots were fairly restricted. They added some light environmental audio but not much else. When the track went more active, though, the spectrum opened up nicely. The aggressive rock score blasted impressively, and effects popped up within logical and appropriate spots. The surrounds cranked with assaults, explosives and other elements and added a lot of involving audio to the set.
Overall, audio quality appeared good. Some edginess occasionally interfered with speech, but the lines mostly came across as distinct and well represented. Music presented good dynamics via the loud rock score. The music was tight and accurately displayed. Effects came across as accurate and firm, with clean highs and deep bass. The soundtrack fell short of greatness, but it mostly served the film well.
For this DVD release of 28 Days Later, we get a mix of supplements. These start with an audio commentary from director Danny Boyle and writer Alex Garland. The pair sit together for their running, screen-specific chat. For the most part, they cover a fair amount of useful material. Boyle dominates as he gets into various aspects of the production. He goes over elements like wrangling the chimps for the opening, shutting down parts of London for the shoot, stylistic choices, both fighting and embracing clichés of the genre, paying homage to George Romero, and various storytelling issues among other subjects. Garland chimes in somewhat infrequently, but he adds some nice insight into the story and even criticizes his own work at times. The commentary drags periodically and suffers from a few too many gaps, but it mostly comes across as informative and compelling.
Six Deleted Scenes show up next. Some of these are pedestrian, one’s pretty terrible, and a couple seem fairly exciting. The film doesn’t actively suffer for their omission, but at least we find some decent footage. The package includes commentary from Boyle and Garland. They don’t always – or usually – tell us why the material didn’t make the final cut, but they’re nicely frank about problems related to the scenes. Garland really attacks one of them, which makes his remarks more entertaining.
More unused material appears via the Alternate Endings section. We get two of them: the “alternative theatrical ending”, the “alternative ending”, and the “radical alternative ending”. The first finishes the flick on a darker note, while the second resembles the existing conclusion except it omits one character who dies here but not in the release movie. The “radical” one was never shot, so Garland and Boyle act out the scene from the script along with storyboards. It indeed takes the path farthest from the released film, as it omits many major characters and keeps the focus more constricted on just a few folks. Really, it’s not just an alternate ending – it’s a totally different second half to the film. It doesn’t work, largely for reasons Boyle notes as he goes.
We get more commentary here for the first two, as Boyle and Garland chat briefly about those cut endings. Unfortunately, they don’t tell us much about the clips, though they do get into some perceived problems with the first scene.
After this we get a documentary called Pure Rage: The Making of 28 Days Later. It runs 24 minutes and 25 seconds and mixes movie clips, behind the scenes and archival materials, and interviews. We hear from Boyle, producer Andrew MacDonald, Professor John Stanford, Andy Coghlan of New Science magazine, Professor Brian Duerdlen, military advisor Henry Camilleri, and actors Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Brendan Gleeson, Christopher Eccleston, and Megan Burns. Much more introspective than most programs of its ilk, “Rage” starts with an extended discussion of the worldwide potential for deadly disease. Those components are scarier than anything in the movie itself. The show becomes more typical after that as we get quick discussions of the script, the characters, the use of DV and its benefits, shooting in London and other areas, makeup for the infected, visual design, training for some actors, and other elements. Other than the intriguing and creepy discussion of possible infections in the future, “Rage” follows the usual path for this sort of documentary, but it does so without too much hyperbole and it seems useful.
Next we locate some Galleries. We get a “Production Gallery” and a “Polaroid Gallery”. Both are presented as running pieces with commentary. The former offers a nice roster of shots from the set, with quite a few good moments captured. The latter gives us continuity shots as well as some for costume, makeup, and props. Boyle’s commentary offers good information about both domains. He acts as oral subtitles for the first batch and tosses out useful notes such as the way still photographers work on the set. For the second pack, he lets us know the nature of the shots and provides some additional details about Polaroids and films. These are a couple of good little sections.
In the “Marketing” area we find a few additional components. This presents both the theatrical teaser as well as the theatrical trailer. Both are pretty effective, though the teaser’s superior. However, the trailer deserves mention as the only promo I’ve ever seen that shows male full frontal nudity. We also get Animated Storyboards taken from the film’s original UK website. For the most part, these really just replicate parts of the teaser, though in a cool graphic novel style. Lastly, we locate a music video for a tune by Jacknife Lee. This simply marries snippets from the movie with the song, which makes it less than stimulating.
28 Days Later occasionally musters some scary energy, but it can’t maintain this power consistently. Enough of the movie works well to make it sporadically creepy and entertaining, but it doesn’t go beyond that to turn into anything special. The DVD generally seems to replicate the image acceptably well, and both audio and extras appear strong. While Later didn’t bowl me over, the movie presents enough to at least recommend a rental for those who can stomach this kind of violent and intense material.