Smith 1 Allison Smith ENGL 1065 – 101 10/9/2007 Scene Analysis Paper: 28 Days Later Horror films can

be satisfyingly formulaic sometimes, particularly the zombie genre. The plot may be slightly different but similarities in story and technique give the audience what they really want. Psychological tension and a fair amount of gore are two known crowd pleasers and 28 Days Later delivers both with a modern twist on the classic zombie genre (although “the infected” are not technically zombies, they do have the same desire to kill). The twist comes from director Danny Boyle’s clever hand in creating feelings of extreme desolation, apprehension, and fear through impressive mise en scene, well composed cinematography, editing that is graphically and rhythmically interesting, and levels of sound that only heighten the experience. A segment that showcases all of these expressive techniques well follows Jim, the story’s protagonist, through London after infection, evacuation, and devastation. It occurs early in the film and does a great job of giving viewers a different way of looking at a subject that could easily turn into a cliché. One of director Danny Boyle’s most widely renowned films, 28 Days Later was originally released in the UK November 1st, 2002. It was later released in the US on June 27th, 2003. The plot unfolds when an attempt to free lab apes by activists accidentally turns them into raging zombie-like killers through an infectious bite. Cillian Murphy, a relatively unknown actor at the time, plays the lead role of Jim. Jim wakes up in alone in a hospital twenty-eight days after the outbreak. Emerging into the empty streets of London, he realizes that there has been a catastrophe while he was unconscious. He is not totally alone though. After stumbling upon a nest of “infected” in a church, he finds protection from Selena (played by Naomie Harris) and Mark (played by Noah Huntley). They begin a trek to find other survivors, finally stumbling

the entire segment builds an enormous amount of emotion in the viewer. Ultimately. Then the world is basically eaten alive by infection and frenzy. The film then picks up twenty-eight days later after the infection begins with Jim. Finding the army base seems like it will conclude the movie. The film uses the circumstances to examine the psychological effects that these life-or-death conflicts have on a person. Frank (played by Brenden Gleeson) and Hannah (played by Megan Burns) join them in locating an army base. Mise en scene creates a complete feeling of solitude. finding himself alone in a deserted London. portrayed very precisely by Cillian Murphy. but instead the greatest conflict arises as leaders reveal their intention to rape Selena and Hannah so civilization can begin anew. sometimes morphing them so dramatically they begin to resemble the very thing they feared in the first place. This begins a long segment that lasts almost nine minutes depicting his awakening and then his understanding of what has happened. That is just in the first five minutes. While the segment’s second half is the focus of the analysis. the editing’s pace increases as the score gets louder. The second half of the segment begins after Jim leaves the hospital and begins an eerie journey through the empty streets of London.Smith 2 upon a father and daughter living in a hotel. Audiences see these horrific images of psychotic monkeys infecting people with what amounts to pure and bloody rage. Jim eventually finds a paper exclaiming “EVACUATION” and then a memorial covered in missing person’s posters. The only other life is a bird here and there. Trash is everywhere but there are no people or cars. escaping to later find help as the “infected” die from starvation. The four main . Jims saves both Hannah and Selena from the soldiers. One of the most striking things about this film is the intense impact and pace of the first twenty minutes. the shots of empty London create heavy disorientation. As the scene unfolds.

it has had its soul drawn out of it. and busy intersections that make up the four minute long London segment. and fear as viewers while advancing the narrative. Jim is walking around it to the right.Smith 3 expressive techniques all work together to build a way of anticipation. the angel on top is centered in the frame with the memorial filling the bottom. In the eleventh shot. Behind the memorial . The setting in this segment creates a one-two punch: it creates an intense feeling of being alone and at a simpler level creates visually awe-inspiring and disorienting shots of a London without cars or any human life. famous memorials. It has been covered with missing person’s posters. the composition creates some very attractive and powerful visuals. Jim has at this point reached a large cylindrical memorial with an angel on top. MISE EN SCENE: The mise en scene of 28 Days Later does a great job of setting up the foundation for visually understanding the film. Jim’s silhouette is seen approaching the Guards Memorial. The frame is filmed with Cillian Murphy’s silhouette walking away from the camera on the left so his dark figure is adjacent to the row of soldiers on the right for just a moment. London gives Boyle a lot to work with in filling the frame with interesting things to look at and juxtapose with Jim. Parliament. dread. It is particularly important in the second half of the segment as there is no dialogue aside from Jim’s desperate yelling. Symmetry is also used to fill the screen artfully. which is made up of five black statues of soldiers in a row. Another example of thoughtful composition occurs toward the end of the segment in the thirty-seventh shot. It is incredible to think of the work put in to arranging and filming the forty-three shots that view Big Ben. This impressive setting is only enhanced by some very interesting and thoughtful composition. In the shot. Much like “the infected”. The loosely framed shots that pan across a motionless London enhance the feeling of desolation.

but he does so in an artful way that gives the viewer just the right amount of visual information. The film’s subject revolves around mystical aspects of sunlight and the sun’s energy. This creates a very different image and style than if it took place at night. it is contrasted by an unexpected amount of sunshine. like watching a lonely ant in an empty ant farm. The angle alone has the visual impact of being at the hanging at the apex of a rollercoaster. 1 It is interesting to note that Boyle would later direct a film titled Sunshine starring Cillian Murphy.Smith 4 are two square buildings on the left and right. However. but instead Boyle puts him in the bright sunshine1. Boyle uses this composition to create a feeling in the viewer of watching this all unfold. or in some kind of low light. . While the lighting in the first half has the realistically dull pallor of a hospital. This is very atypical for the horror genre when low light and shadows are often used as a primary way to increase mood. Jim has been walking in the bright streets for the last few shots when there is a straight cut to an extremely high long shot from what appears to be a church tower looking down on a desolate intersection. CINEMATOGRAPHY: 28 Days Later uses an interesting choice for lighting and thoughtful camera positioning and movement to add another layer to the second half of the segment. an angel in shadows to the left side of the centered intersection makes the frame’s composition even more interesting and adds a note of symbolism. The end result is a genuinely disturbing segment that retains fear that despite its unusually bright lighting. during a storm. Another angel appears again in one of the most interesting shots in the entire film. It would have been completely reasonable for Jim’s search to be through the infamous grey English rain. The frame is beautifully symmetrical and eyepleasing. the effect focuses the light coming between the two buildings on the angel.

EDITING: The visual energy of this film would not be effective without thoughtful and well-paced editing. but the eighth shot uses a high Dutch angle to view Jim walking by an overturned bus. Then there is a straight cut that begins panning to the left at the same angle and distance on his other side as he looks down. However. The frame first shows a deserted street but quickly pans to Jim picking up paper on the sidewalk. Until this point in the film. This use of camera position. The shot is effectively disorienting and emphasized by being preceded by the long and level shots. It creates an intense visual movement which is emphasized by drums kicking in at the exact moment of the pan. the most effective (and surprisingly traditional) use of camera movement is a sudden extreme swish pan in shot twelve. angling. such as Jim picking up papers on the stairs. and movement build upon the mise en scene to create an intense visual experience for audiences. There is also an excellent shot/reverse shot at the very end of the segment. High angles coupled with extreme long shots are used more as the segment intensifies. There are several match cuts that copy movement.Smith 5 The variation of position and movement are really the highlights of cinematography in the segment because they add to a feeling of desolation and paranoia. The second half of the segment employs a variety of match cuts to create continuity and add an artful flair. The camera begins in the fortieth shot at a low angle close up over Jim’s right side as he reads a piece of paper. There is a particularly interesting cut from shot six to seven as Jim walks then yells “Hello” as he turns around. movement has been restricted to simple pans around Jim or up and down as he walks. The first seven shots are all level. It is another use of a disorienting shot that creates a lot of energy. Graphic matches are also employed to create smooth . This kind of movement is jarring and creates a feeling of energy. Only the sudden change in camera distance makes the cut detectable but the effect is slightly jarring.

It is an important segment because we see a Jim’s reality shift 100% in about five minutes and by experiencing it with him. It is the series of zoom in/zoom out shots at the end of the scene that create the most drama.Smith 6 transitions. and excitement. dramatic. anticipation. the melody itself is very emotionally engaging and tightly wound as violin strings. The pacing’s rhythm goes from longer shots to increasingly shorter with very quick cutting. SOUND: In this segment. An alarm is also used to in a jump-worthy shot of Jim touching an abandoned silver Mercedes. complimenting its rhythm and speed. its use of expressive technique make the scene different. it is . Shot nineteen and shot twenty are graphically matched because both are deserted intersections composed similarly in the frame. and very engaging. sound is expressed most effectively though a score that increases dynamically as Jim finds out there is no one to answer and a startling unexpected car alarm. Instead it moves at the same pace as the editing. shots thirty-five through forty all zoom in and out very fast going from Jim to the missing person’s posters. viewers become emotionally involved in not only the story but in his fate. there is not much ambient noise other than Jim’s foot steps. continuing to grate on the viewer’s already stressed nerves. These intense sounds work well in this scene to compliment the editing and entice the audience to keep viewing. The screeching car alarm is very startling and continues to ring offscreen in several shots. The score plays a big role in this segment but the film does not rely on it to give it substance. While all the expressive techniques work together to make the segment so important. Viewing this segment in the theatre for the first time was the most memorable piece of the film. Composed primarily of drums and high pitched guitar. While the drums have kicked in. It is a technique used by most horror movies or thrillers because it undeniably creates tension.

.Smith 7 the mise en scene that makes it so breathtaking. disorienting. Attention to graphically appealing composition of these settings only adds richness to the visual foundation that mise en scene gives viewer Views of great cities as desolate wastelands are a frightening concept for modern individuals living in privileged countries. . The shots shift reality for the viewer just as Jim’s reality is shifted. and horrifying. Boyle makes 28 Days Later a richer and visually stimulating film that can be appreciated on many levels instead of being one-note like many of its torture and gore infested contemporaries. Through these sophisticated techniques.

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