28 Days Later was a full-blown Halloween flick, a scary story complete with drooling angry zombies that so unnerved my P.M.C. (Preferred Movie Companion) that we had to go see Finding Nemo immediately afterwards to settle her jangled nerves. Five years on the sequel, 28 Weeks Later, doesn’t offer much that’s different or better than the original, but will likely inspire the same kind of nightmares that only Nemo can soothe.
We pick up the story you guessed it, 28 weeks after the outbreak of the rage virus which turned the citizenry of Britain into red-eyed brain chompers. Don (Robert Carlyle) who survived the zombie holocaust, and his two children who were vacationing outside the country at the time of the outbreak, are among the first survivors to be relocated in a safe zone run by the US Army.
Don stayed alive after cowardly abandoning his wife, leaving her to become zombie food while he ran to freedom. When she returns he is remorseful and contrite, and doesn’t notice that her eyes carry the tell-tale sign of the virus—they’re bloodshot. She either has the illness or was drinking with George Clooney the night before. Soon it is determined that she carries a dormant form of the deadly Rage virus, and before you can say, “Run for the hills!” hordes of newly infected bloodthirsty creeps are roaming the streets.
28 Weeks Later is written like a big American action film—loads of clichéd dialogue, cute kids in peril—but is shot like a European art film. Taking a note from the original, director goes handheld for most of the film, shooting on grainy film stock which gives the movie a documentary feel. His frenetic editing builds tension, but since the movie mostly takes place at night, or in darkened settings it’s sometimes difficult to figure out what exactly is happening on screen. More than once I found myself wondering, “Who’s eating who?”
Stylistic quibbles aside, 28 Weeks Later tries hard to unnerve the audience. When the going gets “wet” (as they call it in the horror biz) it’s gory enough to keep the hardcore zombie fans happy, while those looking for something more will find some social commentary tucked in amongst the blood and guts as they draw parallels to the very real US presence in Iraq and their fictional, heavy-handed efforts to rebuild London.
28 Weeks Later is an effective, but given the success of the original, slightly redundant, piece of speculative fiction that pushes the zombie myth to the next level. Although in the wake of the American government’s lame attempts to rebuild both New Orleans and Bagdad, the idea that they could be instrumental in rejuvenating the British Empire in just 28 weeks is perhaps the most far-fetched thing about this movie.