The grisly 28 Weeks Later… jettisons the director, cast, and recurring characters from the original film — Danny Boyle’s 2003 nightmare vision 28 Days Later — and keeps only the franchise’s dynamic plot device: a rage virus that, in seconds, turns unsuspecting citizens into violent zombies. It’s an effective way to wipe the slate clean before more blood is splattered across it.
Spanish filmmaker Juan Carlos Fresnadillo structures his picture less like a conventional sequel and more like a ‘next chapter’ in the horror saga, which might explain why this fresh, energized, and clever installment works better than it should.
If you can’t recall the details of Days, don’t fear. Title cards re-educate us on the first film’s happenings, which shadowed a coma patient waking up to an apocalyptic London decimated by the aforementioned disease. Seven months after those actions, portions of the evacuated city have been decontaminated and prepped for reconstruction. People who ran for the hills are returning, slowly.
Among the survivors is Don (Robert Carlyle), the submissive father of Tammy (Imogen Poots) and Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton), who reunites with his children in the safe zone after narrowly escaping an attack. The kids ask what happened to Mom, and Don says she was claimed by The Infected — a catchy moniker for the stalking creatures. The family settles into the green zone, a virus free area shared by fretful scientist Scarlet (Rose Byrne), soldier-with-a-conscience Doyle (Jeremy Renner), and a platoon of U.S.- and NATO-sponsored snipers ready to respond if the zombies were to worm their way back to Britain.
Fresnadillo improves on the grave new world of Days, building on the already impossible shots of a deserted, dilapidated London that Boyle first conjured. Weeks would provide audiences with a vibrant tour of the city’s monumental landmarks — Big Ben, Parliament, Wembley Stadium — if not for the omnipresent corpses littering the cobblestone streets. Fresnadillo’s production team creates a triumph of apocalyptic neglect that logically extends the death and destruction from the initial film.
Stability can’t last for long, though, and screenwriter Rowan Joffe (assisted by Fresnadillo) comes up with a sharp method for reintroducing the virus, allowing all hell to break loose. The Infected storm the safe zone, creating some genuinely creepy scenes and ample amounts of gore. Buried deep in the chaos, though, Weeks finds a storyline worth exploring. Scarlet’s research suggests that a cure might be found in Tammy and Andy’s genes, so she commits to shuttling them out of London — a task made harder by the presence of the marauding zombies and the military, now on ‘Code Red,’ ordered to kill anything that moves.
Carnage lures crowds to zombie pictures such as these, but Weeks excels when it explores deeper human reactions to the constricting situations created by the deadly infections. Fresnadillo slips twisted ideas into his script — Don’s conundrum regarding his wife establishes a great hook for what could have been a mindless monster movie, and obstacles preventing Scarlet’s exit from London’s safe zone are credible (at least, as credible as a zombie flick can be). Unfortunately, Fresnadillo loses his grip when he has to stage extreme chaos, and too many attack scenes are directed as if the cameras were mounted on the backs of running dogs. Why stage such action if you won’t allow your audience to enjoy it?
Weeks recoups from these minor mistakes by making bold choices in the middle and third acts. The movie improves as the survival prognosis of the main characters worsens. And the way it’s currently structured, the 28 franchise could last forever: The ending of this segment teases a potential location shift for the inevitable 28 Months installment.
The DVD includes a commentary track, two deleted scenes, and a handful of making-of featurettes.
One more day ’til garbage day.