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28 Days Later...
(The Soundtrack Album) (2003)

(Release Date: June 17, 2003)

Superbly eerie soundtrack to a great Horror Movie (though not all inclusive)!
Now I'm sounding Zombified!

J.C. Mašek III
The World's Greatest Critic!
28 Days Later... is probably the best literal Horror Film to have come along in quite some time. The skewed visions offered by the digital cameras (in the hand of Trainspotting Director Danny Boyle) add to the overall uneasiness of a London overrun by medically spawned rage-a-holic Zombies. The acting, the scenery, the camera angles and the mood portrayed on screen all add up to a wonderful low-budget horror film that blows away big budget horror films of many an ilk. However, one of the things about 28 Days Later... that made it so memorable was unquestionably the music. From the diverse and fitting score by John Murphy (apparently no relation to the film's star) to the choice of songs to the incorporation of standards (some by no less an authority than J.S. Bach) to the underlying thematic structure of the score mood and substance are added subtly, but liberally, to each scene regardless of feeling. From the frightful to the hilarious to the plight for safety and ultimately the underlying fear one must have in a post-apocalyptic world all were complemented by a great set of music.

In fact, the music is such a great complement to the film that something seems a little lacking when listening to the The Soundtrack Album of 28 Days Later... without the visual accompaniment. This really isn't one of those albums one should pop in while driving alone on a country road or while house sitting your cousin's mansion on a hill (or babysitting a problem child). The piece has a tendency to go from the light and the beautiful to the hard edged and frightening without warning. Take Track 7, an engrossing piece called "Taxi" that features the beautiful voice of Perri Alleyne incanting "Ave Maria" over one of the most peaceful parts of the score just before slamming with the care of a NASCAR Driver into Track 8, an electric guitar driven wall of sound called "The Tunnel" which evokes such fright that one doesn't even need to have seen the film to think of being chased by the infected undead.

To be sure, electric guitars aren't the only welcome oddity in the score that separates this album from most soundtracks. "The Beginning" features some of the opening sounds of the film (after the explanatory opening) which include static and the rapid changing of television or radio channels to various news programs to hint at the end of the world before settling into an eerie vamping of ambient sounds into a slight arpeggio. This shows how fast the medical Zombie world of 28 Days Later... actually ended and how quickly a pensively introspective timeline of Jim alone in London was reached. Again, the relative peace of "The Beginning" is betrayed and murdered by the electronic assault of "Rage" just a track afterward. Beyond using electronic appliances like TVs, Murphy also uses chimes, echoes and various sound effects to enhance and compliment the standard instruments. The use of Stereo as a musical and mood altering tool is handled perfectly by Murphy and Mixer/ Producer Daniel L. Griffiths. The special sound effects heard in such tracks as "The Search for Jim" simply surround and misguide the listener as they travel from one speaker to the next. It's rare in this time that such a notable effect can be produced without the involvement, in some way, of Roger Waters (I kid you here).

Probably the most memorable movement of the soundtrack is the rising repetition of "In the House - In a Heartbeat" which marks some of the more triumphant and exciting moments of the film. Akin to Henryk Gorecki's Symphony Number 3, Murphy builds the feeling and mood with the same repeated string of measures in an ever escalating ascension adding instrument after instrument to a striking climax (though maybe not quite up to Gorecki's lofty perch).

Like the movie, the album mixes some great songs with the superbly handled score. Blue Stars' "Season Song" is an almost choral chant of joy and triumph that still manages to fit well into a horror movie score with its distant tones and low voices. "AM180" by Grandaddy is a silly little song (which accompanies the comical grocery shopping trip our gang of four take on their way out of the city). It's just about the only mismatched puzzle piece on the record. That's not to say it's not a good or fitting song... it is... this is to say that it's a funny piece stuck in a funny moment in a bleak and sourly unfunny world. In short, we're reminded here: "Don't forget to laugh."

Brian Eno even makes an appearance just after Grandaddy with "An Ending (Ascent)" which fits so perfectly with Murphy's music I almost had to check to see if this was a different guy.

There are also two bonus tracks on the American release of the soundtrack. The first is the Rui Da Silva remix of "Season Song", an electronic and beat driven rendition that adds not a better but a different take on the Blue Stars song. The second is the Jacknife Lee Remix of "Taxi (Ave Maria)" equally driven by dance music as the other bonus track, but adding in some of the more static and effects laded aspects of Murphy's music, while also taking advantage of Murphy's use of occasional silence as an instrument all its own. It also features the lovely voice of Perri Alleyne again, the only vocalist to appear on more than one track (see also Track 4 "Jim's Parents" where she performs "Abide with Me") While on occasion this final track is a little too upbeat for its own good, it is just about the best microcosm of the album on the whole with its inclusion of the happy, the scary, the distant, the silent, the electronic and the sonic.

The soundtrack, however, is not all inclusive. Among the more interesting songs of the movie was "East Hastings" by Godspeed You Black Emperor. This track is not included on the album, which is a real shame because it fits perfectly with the zombie mood. However, it would appear that Murphy was sufficiently influenced by that bands moody sonic murkiness to reuse (respectfully) some of their themes. The soundtrack definitely makes one want to watch or re-watch the film, but it also makes me want to go out and buy a Godspeed You Black Emperor album to go with this one. "Que Sera Sera" and "Frosty the Snowman" are likewise excluded, but you'll live.

For the most part though, the songs are good (really great actually) but not the main attraction to the soundtrack, unlike Boyle's other big selling soundtrack, Trainspotting (which probably made more money than the actual film did). For 28 Days Later... (the album at least) Murphy's music is the focus and his score shows that not only did he care about the film, but he understood it very well. Murphy's Bleak, distant and eerie music is as empty as the infected London of the film. He uses silence and emptiness to his advantage before surprising you and grabbing you by the neck with a creepy twist (or three). Naturally it's quite a surprise to uncover such proficiency from the guy possibly best known for scoring the Ice Cube vehicle All About the Benjamins and Guy Ritchie's Snatch. I for one am impressed!

Be warned: In the spoiler category at least one of the track titles gives away what I would consider a pretty major plot point! If you haven't seen the movie, and want to, don't read the track listing. Much like the soundtrack to Star Wars Episode 1 The Phantom Menace, if you want to be surprised, listen to the record without even once glancing at the tracks until you've seen the film. Also, this isn't something you should give to the kids or leave around where they can grab it. One of the films more bleak, yet funny, catch lines is printed on the inside cover. It's the text of the Graffiti in the church... it's great, but not something you want little junior sounding out and repeating to Granny I would be willing to wager!

Even without some of the songs in the film 28 Days Later... The Soundtrack Album is a really good CD worthy of Four Stars! It might not quite be the greatest soundtrack ever recorded, but I know I'm going to be listening to it as much as I can... probably never alone with the sun down. It's a great listen, well worth the purchase price and is an excellent companion piece to the Region 2 DVD I bought of the film online. The Enhanced CD also features some cool footage from the film, the trailer and a still gallery (so the fact that my region 2 DVD doesn't have the bonus features I've been begging for is partially made up for). Like the film did for Danny Boyle, the soundtrack proves that John Murphy cannot be pigeonholed and is as talented and diverse a scorer as they come. Now... back to my brain fortified lunch!

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28 Days Later... Reviewed by J.C. Mašek III who is responsible for his own views, and for his hunger for Brrrraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnnnnnsssssssssssssssssss!
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