28 Days Later appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Because director Danny Boyle chose to shoot Later almost totally on standard-def digital video (DV) cameras, that made the picture tough to rate. While it may have offered a fairly accurate representation of the source, the end result didn’t look very good.
And by “not very good”, I mean that this was one of the ugliest images I’ve seen. Sharpness consistently seemed weak, as even close-ups appeared mushy and ill-defined.
Edge haloes became a consistent distraction, and much of the movie suffered from blockiness, jaggies and shimmering. Only a handful of print flaws appeared, but the digital artifacts ran rampant.
Partly due to the problematic video cameras but also related to the chosen palette, colors looked terrible. They consistently seemed mushy and messy, without any form of clarity or vivacity.
Blacks seemed similarly weak, with tones that lacked firmness. Shadows became muddy and tough to discern. I think I have circa 1998 home videos that look better than this.
The nature of the source really did create a conundrum when I needed to give a letter grade to the image. Objectively, Days offered an “F”, but as noted, it looked problematic as shot.
I went with a “C-” mainly because I couldn’t leave the impression it looked appealing at all, but I didn’t feel I comfortable with a lower grade because I recognized the flaws of the original material. Whatever mark it deserves, expect an ugly visual presentation.
Note that the movie’s final three minutes used 35mm film and looked substantially better than the rest of the film – though still not great, as edge haloes created distractions. Even if this footage provided stellar visuals, it wouldn’t make a difference, as the 35mm filled too little of the running time to matter.
I can make less equivocal remarks about the DTS-HD MA 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, so 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.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD? The lossless audio offered a bit more range and dynamic impact.
Visuals presented virtually no upgrade, as the nature of the standard-definition source left little room for improvement. Heck, I doubt that the Blu-ray would bring much of a step up from VHS! The film might be watchable on smaller TVs, but on a 21st century 65-inch TV, it looked awful – DVD or Blu-ray didn’t matter for this mess.
The Blu-ray duplicates the DVD’s extras, and these start with an audio commentary from director Danny Boyle and writer Alex Garland. The pair sit together for a running, screen-specific chat that covers 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 fill a total of nine minutes, 21 seconds. 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 criticizes one of the segments, which makes his remarks more entertaining.
More unused material appears via the Alternate Endings section. We get four clips: “Alternative Theatrical Ending” (4:27), “Alternative Ending” (2:30), “Radical Alternative Ending” (11:24) and “Hospital Dream” (4:30).
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 released 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 featurette called Pure Rage: The Making of 28 Days Later. It runs 24 minutes, 23 seconds and 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. It seems useful and engaging.
Next we locate some Galleries. We get a “Production Gallery” and a “Polaroid Gallery”, both of which come as running pieces with commentary from Boyle.
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.
We also find the film’s teaser and theatrical trailers. Both are pretty effective, though the teaser’s superior. The disc throws in promos for 28 Weeks Later, Alien Vs. Predator, From Hell and Sunshine
Next we locate 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 Blu-ray offers ugly but accurate visuals along with solid audio and a good collection of bonus materials. Expect a sporadically enjoyable but inconsistent action/horror hybrid.
To rate this film, visit the prior review of 28 DAYS LATER