28 Days Later was a surprise critical and box office hit. 28 Weeks Later, however, skirted in under the radar with mixed reviews and poor revenues. It's sad no one went to go see this puppy in theaters, however, as it is superior to its predecessor and one of the best zombie movies ever made.
28 Weeks Later introduces us to an all-new cast (with an all-new director), but returns us to Great Britain, the site of a massive infection that has killed most of the population. The American military has moved in to secure the country and has determined that all infected have died. While the threat appears to be over, only a small district in London - the so-called Green Zone - remains completely clean, as dead bodies and disease lay rampant everywhere else. Civilians are returning under heavy security and quarantine, but things are not safe. A woman long thought dead has been found and appears to be a carrier of the virus. Before the military has the chance to implement a proper plan, the virus is unleashed within the Green Zone, and havoc breaks out as civilians are turned into killers and the military is forced to exterminate everything moving.
To be honest, the movie appeared to be a disaster in the making. The original, a product of rising director Danny Boyle, was tense, well done and a bit deeper than your ordinary zombie flick. It had a good cast, a good story and excellent results. When I heard of a sequel with a new cast and a new director, it seemed as though the studio, Fox Atomic, was just looking to cash in on a potential franchise while eliminating all the constants that made the first film so good. Surprised I was to see that Spanish director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, in his English-language debut, has followed Boyle's footsteps closely while making a movie that exceeds the original in excitement, tension and creepiness.
28 Weeks Later works well on many levels. For starters, the beginning is downright perfect. A scene that starts out peacefully turns into a creepy, daytime chase scene with zombies descending from everywhere on a single, frightened man (Robert Carlyle), who has been forced to abandon his wife to death. Snap ahead 28 weeks later, and the movie spends the next half an hour setting up for what is to come. Still, even when the zombies aren't on screen, Fresnadillo maintains a high degree of suspense, as everything from the camera work to pacing keeps you on the edge of the seat. Even though you're pretty sure a zombie isn't going to shoot out of the darkness, you're still not completely sure.
And when Hell is unleashed, Fresnadillo takes hold of you and doesn't let go until the last second. Like the last movie, 28 Weeks Later turns into a three-way conflict, as the protagonists find themselves on the run from two relentless enemies: the zombies, and the military. There are some spectacular and memorable moments that contain both, including a sequence where parts of downtown London are firebombed to oblivion, or where zombies scare the crap out of you. Most zombie movies are not especially scary, and opt more for gore and humor to entertain, but Fresnadillo has made one of the scariest zombie movies I've ever seen, if not the scariest. The sequence at the end is especially good, as part of it is filmed in near pitch blackness, other than a frightening glimpse through a green infrared gun scope. The shot of a zombie passing by in the darkness takes your breath away.
28 Weeks Later does suffer from a few minor plot holes, none of which are especially important but worth pointing out anyway. It's a little odd that the man responsible for unleashing the contagion once again has access to everything, including the medical ward where the infected woman is being held. Or, even if it does make sense that he could access this area, shouldn't there be guards on the woman 24/7? After that, the military locks a bunch of civilians in one of many containment areas, yet the containment area is hardly secure, and the zombies get in by simply opening the door. And what happens to all of the civilians in the other containment areas? And why does the military resort to unquestionable extermination so quickly? And why do they turn off all the lights in the Green Zone - wouldn't that just make their job harder? And when there are a few remaining survivors left, wouldn't the military back track on their order to kill all things moving? In the scheme of things, these questions and concerns are hardly relevant as 28 Weeks Later is a high-paced thrill ride that still makes sense for the most part, but a couple more minutes could have been added to flesh things out, no pun intended.
Despite a few very minor flaws, 28 Weeks Later is an incredibly exciting and well-done zombie movie that transcends the genre. It is undeniably going to be one of the best action/horror movies of the year. Highly recommended.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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