Published May 11, 200728 Weeks Later is a bloody, terrifying mess, in both the good and bad connotations of the phrase. The follow-up to 28 Days Later, a little film by Trainspotting director Danny Boyle with few expectations that helped reanimate the horror genres putrefying corpse with its apocalyptic, "infected (but not zombie) end-time scenario, 28 Weeks Later has a great deal to live up to. And while it occasionally reaches (and surpasses) the levels of horror and gore of its predecessor (as it should, with its bigger budget), and admirably recaptures the frantic look, the film stumbles, at times. And theres no sign of Cillian Murphy. However, Boyle did resurface to direct some second unit footage and produce.
28 Weeks Later opens with its strongest segment, which takes place roughly in the same time frame as the original, with a group of disparate people barricaded in a farm house, trying to enjoy a cold meal and pretend everything is still normal while hoping to wait out the horrors outside (it is also a not so subtle nod to the work of Romero, specifically Night of the Living Dead, which is a heavy influence on this series, obviously). Of course, its going to end badly, and anyone who saw the first film (and 28 Weeks Later makes the assumption you have, a couple of times, and recently) knows the infected (humans driven mad by an accidentally released "rage virus, transmitted by blood, saliva, etc.) will soon make monster chow out of everyone, but not before Don (Robert Carlyle) is forced to make a terrible choice to escape, one that comes back to haunt him, and everyone else.
After its incredible opening, which is as strong as any horror movie beginning in recent memory, the film slows things down, jumping ahead (the titular 28 weeks) to a decimated but slowly rebuilding Britain. The infected have starved to death and the survivors, led and "protected by U.S. forces (start the Iraq/Britain/U.S. metaphors here), are being allowed back into a secure area. Everything seems fine at first, with testing sites everywhere, a heavy military presence and people reuniting with their families and loved ones (Don is reunited with his two children, who survived by being out of the country on a field trip), until a thought dead survivor is discovered with the ability to transmit the rage virus without becoming consumed by it (i.e., Typhoid Mary). At this point, its only a matter of time before the virus rages out of control, creating infected that run amok, the military turns on everyone and a desperate group of survivors, including Dons children (who may or may not be the key to curing the rage virus), led by a renegade U.S. sniper and doctor, attempt to escape and survive.
28 Weeks Later is relentless in its gruesome momentum once it gets rolling; it has an end (the end?) in sight and it doesnt let up until it careens into it, which is admirable and compelling but during this mad rush sometimes plot points, common sense and character development get brushed aside. The film relies on coincidences and confusing choices to advance its plot, and while this is nothing new in horror, and must be accepted, to a certain point, some things just clang. For instance, the military assembling everyone in a basement then not protecting them, making them easy monster chow, or not guarding the last known infected survivor. Sure, we know we dont have a movie if the virus doesnt get released and the infected dont start killing everyone, but it seems too easy here, something a little smarter writing and ten more minutes of film could cure.
However, while there is some head scratching, and the film never feels as barren or hopeless as the first, 28 Weeks Later looks awesome (the firebombing of parts of the city by the U.S. Air force, for instance). As well, the actors are generally strong (including Jeremy Renner as the renegade U.S. sniper, and The Wire fans will easily pick out Stringer Bell, um, Idris Elba, as the leader of the American forces), the infected sufficiently rampaging and its difficult not to get pulled along once the film ramps up.
With its Dawn of the Dead-like ending (the remake, not the original), the door is left wide-open for the franchise to continue. However, while Fresnadillo has done an acceptable job, heres hoping Boyle returns to the directing chair and that the next doesnt venture into Day of the Dead or Resident Evil territory. (Fox Atomic)