28 days later, London was reduced to a shamble of itself. 28 weeks later, the U.S. arrived to save the day. London has begun to repopulate, believing the danger was past. Then a survivor is found who is not infected, but still carries the virus. Soon, the horror begins again.
28 Days Later was a movie that pretty much came out of nowhere and gave us something completely different in the horror genre. It mixed the zombie genre of Romero with the horror virus genre (Romero’s Crazies is a great example) and then turned the entire movie on its head when the British military soldiers assigned to protect its people turned out to be almost more evil than the monsters. It came in under the radar and might have been so successful because it exceeded the low expectations that horror fans had grown accustomed to.
28 Weeks Later is another movie that might have slipped under that radar as well. Outgaining its predecessor at the box office, this movie proved that sequels need not always be considered less than their parent film.
The movie begins with one of the most exciting and unpredictable openings I can remember in a long time in a horror film. Taking place sometime during the first film, a husband and wife sit in a house having dinner with an older couple and three other individuals. These people have been hiding since the outbreak of the first film from the infected. Knowledge of the first film is needed at this time, as no explanation is given to what they are hiding from. A young boy begs to be let in and explains that he was running from the infected. Without warning, the infected attacks. The movie proves at this time to be daring and unpredictable as the man that we expect to be a hero leaves his wife begging him for help and runs away in fear as the infected slaughter everyone in the house.
Then we are given information that since the first movie, all the infected have starved and died. The U.S. Military has arrived to save the day, as they always seem to do. 24 weeks after the original outbreak, the U.S. decides it is safe to move everyone back into London. We immediately meet up with the husband from the opening scene, who is waiting for his children to arrive in the city, so he can partially reunite his family. He explains to his kids that his wife was killed and there was nothing he could do about it and they plan to move into a new home and begin their lives anew. This is all well and good, except kids will be kids.
The two kids sneak past the guards and head to their old house, which is out of the safe zone. Their reasons are simple enough. Andy wants a picture of his mother so he won’t forget what she looks like. Tammy wants to help her brother get this, plus grab some of her more familiar belongings. What they find is their mother, still alive – yet not one of the infected.
We meet Major Scarlet (Rose Byrne) who is a medical doctor and wants to find the cure to the disease so she can use it help people. We meet Sgt. Doyle (Jeremy Renner) and Flynn (Harold Perrineau), military men who seem to actually care about the people instead of just looking down on them. The movie moves slowly, but deliberately, to the eventual outbreak which sends the nation into turmoil again.
It is at this point that the U.S. does what it has proven to be best at. In 28 Weeks Later, it is called Code Red and it means contain the outbreak or exterminate every living being in the area. Just as in the first movie, it once again creates a villain that is more dangerous than the infected themselves. While the infected were blood thirsty, rage filled maniacs, the U.S. military is cool, calculated and extremely deadly. This is why the movie works so well. We get the monsters, but the real dangers are all too real threats.
There are problems with the movie, and that is basically the coincidences that occur during the movie. For rage filled monsters, there is one infected being that always seems to end up face-to-face with the kids. How he always seems to find them is not explained in the movie and just seems to occur to add tension to the story and make things more dangerous to the kids. There are so many things that seem to happen because the script says it needs to happen to move the story to the next impact point.
However, for horror fans, there are so many things that are great about this movie. No one is safe from death in this movie. Anyone, no matter who they are, or how important they seem to the story, is fodder for both the infected and the military to kill off. There is an awesome death scene where Flynn takes out dozens of the infected just using his helicopter. It was an amazing kill scene that had me sitting up and cheering. There is also a more personal kill where an infected man kills his wife and it is just in your face and gut wrenching. It is so brutal and relentless that I found myself cringing and felt my stomach knot up. That, to me, means a horror scene works. This movie is filled with those scenes. The movie also ends with a more satisfying moment than the tacked on happy ending of the first movie. There should never be a happy ending in this type of movie and 28 Weeks Later does not make the same mistake.
The music also adds so much to the movie. John Murphy put together a score that really heightens the tension and the mood of the film. It almost has a Trent Reznor feel and I really felt the music was one of the best scores I have heard in a horror movie in a long time. I have problems with some of the camera work, as the quick cuts and music video feel seemed to make things extremely confusing at points, but I understand that it is used to put you in the shoes of the survivors as they run. It just feels overused at times.
28 Weeks Later may be rewarded for the same reasons as the first movie. Just as 28 Days Later surprised audiences as an unexpected hit, 28 Weeks Later definitely surprised me as a great sequel. In a year when so many sequels failed to match the level of their previous incarnations (Spider-Man, Pirates of the Caribbean), 28 Weeks Later took the original’s ideas and moved them one step further. 28 Weeks Later is a movie made for horror fans and does not disappoint.
I did not receive the DVD in the case that it was sold, therefore I cannot comment on the packaging. I can however comment on the look of the picture. The movie was shot in video and there are so many parts where this is obvious. I have a great TV and because of that I notice so many problems with this movie. There are many moments where the picture is very pixilated. It just fails at so many points to deliver a good, clear picture. When the camera moves at breakneck speed, which is does whenever the infected attacks, the picture is simply crap. There is no reason that they should not have cleaned up this DVD. I don’t know how the High Def presentation will look, but I honestly believe that the imperfections will be made that much worse. On the other hand, the sound is spectacular and sounded really good on my surround sound system.
There are two deleted scenes, both including an optional director’s commentary. The first is a throw away scene but the second is a brilliant scene that really might have worked in the movie, but the director had good reasons for removing it. There is a nice three part making-of where some of the players explain some of my concerns listed above, but I would still argue that you need to be told these things in the film, not in the making-of. It was interesting to hear that Danny Boyle showed up and did some second unit photography. Jeremy Renner actually made a comment in the making-of that explains my thoughts on the movie. “It is everything the first one is, but on crack.” There is also a commentary track with director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and writer Enrique Lopez Lavigne. It is a nice track as the two are able to play off each other and when one has nothing to say, the other usually speaks up with useful information. The two seem to be fans of horror movies and they are very knowledgeable as they talk about their movie and reasons for the decisions they make in the movie.
There are two experimental shorts included as well. 28 Days Later: The Aftermath is a mixture of comic book style frames and surreal photography. The first part, Stage 1 “Development”, tells the story of how the virus was developed, as it tells the story of two scientists trying to create a cure for rage and end up with the opposite. It ends about where the first movie began. The second part, Stage 3: “Decimation”, takes place after the first movie’s conclusion and is more typical 2D animation with a hallucinatory twist. It follows a man who had taken it on himself to rid the town of the infected and his battle with a rival hunter in a type of turf war. Both shorts are quite interesting.