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Arts & Culture

28 Weeks Later

28 Days Later's innovation to the genre was to create zombie-like creatures that could move fast. They still fed on human flesh but unlike their cinematic ancestors who dully lumbered about, these guys could rundown their human prey with lightening quickness. That changed the whole dynamic of the horror and made it more breathlessly exciting. The first film, conceived by director Danny Boyle and writer Alex Garland, laid out the premise that a mysterious virus -- possibly caused by rage-infected monkeys -- had infected the United Kingdom and that only a handful of survivors remain four weeks after the initial outbreak. 28 Days Later ended with a guardedly hopeful resolution that the infection might have been contained.

28 Weeks Later begins where the first film left off and quickly dispenses with the notion of hope. The opening scene finds the infection in full swing and a small group of survivors holed up in a country house. The house is attacked and only Don (Robert Carlyle) survives. The film then jumps forward the titular 28 weeks to find the infection eradicated and the U.S. military stepping in to oversee the reconstruction of Britain and the return of normal life as evacuated citizens return.


28 Weeks Later (Fox Atomic)

We find Don in the central rebuilt district where hes reunited with his two children, Tammy (Imogen Poots) and Andy (Macintosh Muggleton). He reveals that their mother was attacked and killed by the infected. But we discover that this is a lie and the way their family drama plays out leads to a new outbreak. Now the populace faces the terror of a new infected horde and a U.S. military willing to do anything to contain the infection.

A telegram summary of 28 Weeks Later would read: Carnage good; story bad; people stupid. Spanish writer-director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo takes over from Danny Boyle and he invests the film with some visceral terror. There are scenes of healthy people confined in a space that's invaded by a single infected creature with mass slaughter ensuing. There's also the terror of a military force employing extreme measures to fight the enemy. But Fresnadillo (in collaboration with a trio of writers) can't fashion a story that makes any sense. There are some interesting elements at play, especially in the way family emotions end up determining the course of the infection, and in the military's response to the outbreak. But in order to put these elements into play, Fresnadillo has to have characters behave like idiots and requires that viewers turn a blind eye to the massive plot holes and improbabilities.

To begin with, the two kids easily slip out of the supposedly quarantined section of the city and then blithely ride around the outlying devastated region in order to head to their old house to grab a photo of mum and some cool leopard sneakers. It's difficult to buy that they could slip by the military so easily and that they would be so unafraid of any consequences. I won't even get in to how stupid and improbable it is for Don, a kind of building super, to have an all access key to everything including the highest level security medical labs, and for the doctors to let a woman whose blood might be the key to creating a vaccine go unguarded. To stay with the film, you are constantly asked to ignore logic.

In 28 Days Later, Danny Boyle was smart enough to give us just enough information to make us buy into the infection and then to move on to the more human aspects of the story about people struggling to survive. Boyle focused on the characters so that we weren't thinking about the logistics of what was going on. But 28 Weeks Later doesn't take the time to create compelling characters or a compelling story. It just tries to run on fear as the characters end up on the run from the infected and the military. (Just a note, Boyle, who is not credited with any writing, did do some second unit filming, too bad his influence was greater.)


28 Weeks Later (Fox Atomic)

Fresnadillo has fun with the gore and even finds an occasional scare amidst the carnage. Theres' a nice helicopter versus infected scene but a similar scene is on view in theaters with Grindhouse's Planet Terror. But Fresnadillo's film has neither the over the top fun factor of Rodriguez' Planet Terror nor the terror of the original 28 Days Later. Plus Fresnadillo employs such excessively jerky handheld camerawork and fast editing that you frequently lose track of the action and what's happening.

28 Weeks Later (rated R for strong violence and gore, language and some sexuality and nudity) suffers in comparison to all the zombie/infected films that have come before it. It's a mindless, occasionally entertaining entry into the genre but it brings nothing fresh or innovative to the table. It's too bad because the first film was so good and Fresnadillo looked like a promising choice to take over. He made a nifty sci-fi thriller in Spain called Intacto , which revealed creepy stylistic skill. So if this sequel fails to satisfy, try the Steven Niles graphic novel follow up to 28 Days Later . It may prove a better a follow up to the original film than 28 Weeks Later. And I don't think Im giving anything away if I mention that the sequel ends with a definite plug for what will probably be 28 Months Later.

TRIVIA NOTE: Okay here's a loony observation: In Shaun of the Dead , Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg made a joke about its zombie infestation NOT being caused by rage-infected monkeys -- a reference to 28 Days Later . Now 28 Weeks Later has the evacuees being taken to a place called Sandford (same name as in the new Edgar Wright-Simon Pegg film Hot Fuzz ) and the first thing you see once you arrive is a swan (a prominent creature in Hot Fuzz ) crossing the bridge. Do you think the filmmakers are having a little inside joke?

Companion viewing: 28 Days Later , Shaun of the Dead , Lucio Fulci's Zombie, George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, Intacto