Clan 404

...spiffing

28 Weeks Later - It gets better

21 May 2007 by ShogZ

Once more unto the breach of reviewing films I shall tread, because there's nobody here so it matters not if my efforts are well received.

28 Weeks later is a worthy sequal to the popular and small budget 28 days later. A zombie / survival horror flick it's hard to imagine how they'd push a sequal further than the complete annihilation of the UK and it's population which occured in number one.
The plot centres around a survivor of the first outbreak, living in the NATO established quarantine zone in Canary Wharf, London. Similar to Land of the Dead, Canary Wharf and it's environs are the 'green tower' or militarised sanctuary against the outside.

However, the infected have long since starved to death and the military are 'clearing out' the suburbs of London before returning more refugees en masse. This could be where the film goes wrong, focussing on the military and its role in fighting zombies, but it doesnt do an Aliens. Instead the plot remains focussed on the reunion of the family and the key characters.

I dont want to give too much away but you'll know from the trailers that Robert Carlyle (Star of trainspotting) is our lead man, he also turns into our lead zombie fairly sharpish and runs amok inside the 'green zone'. The ensuing carnage amongst military and civilian population is good to watch and the 'scorched earth' policy of the US general in charge is also a painul reminder that outbreak's really can be handled by just culling the civilian population.

I love this movie for several reasons, some of which are like the first. I'm a fan of the horror genre, and this is the type done to its best. Some critics have accused the film of lacking direction, not knowing whether its a mass zombie killing spree (Flying a helicopter into a field of the undead was pretty heavy) or Blair Witch style survival horror (Navigating the London underground using a single night vision scope). For my part I'd say it was neither too much of one or the other. The movie retained a good balance of 'shlok horror' and believable tension throughout.

Certainly the opening and later scenes were good stuff. Watching a helpless victim tied to a gurney having their throat ripped out and their eyes pushed in (A homage to the finale of the first film) were seriously horrific, in that close camera, all spit and bile, non beautified London film making style.

The movie doesn't go for effects over quality, with the zombies being the most outlandish of effects other than the napalm. The use of sound and music is very well balanced and I was pleased that my favourite guitar piece theme made it back from the first film. Even the pregnant pauses are used well, with the 'jump' cycle being exploited by the filmmakers to the full, including messing with the the 'third times the charm' approach.

The film does have its downsides, probably casting, being the biggest groan. The two lead children are fairly annoying but remain fairly unpretentious throughout, with the girl being marginally more annoying than the boy. She looks like an advert for heroin sheek in topshop most of the time, which doesnt help but she's a believable enough heroine. Robert Carlyle is a star, really bringing life to the undead. His zombie manages to stand out despite having no dialogue and being amongst hundreds of others. It goes to show that movement and body language are still worth a lot when it comes to acting.

Further moans on casting however include the male and female adult 'hero' leads. These two US Forces personel are pretty much non entities, she's the smart capable doctor type who's identified a cure for the rage virus and he's a sniper with a conscience. Pretty 2d as far as characterisation goes, but watchable nonetheless.
There are other holes too, notably in the plot. The initial outbreak occurs because the military sheppard everyone into some kind of carpark and then fail to guard the fire exit. This seems a little lame, its kind of excused in that Robert Carlyle is able to move about the compound freely, but then how does he use his pass and pin when he cant even remember to stand upright?

The film has a few light moments, which act as good relief to the unrelenting horror and tension of the duration. I didn't find myself fidgeting at all and never worried about the pacing too much. Additionally it made a few points without having to labor the issue or be overly political. Watching US Marines patroling Londons streets and shepparding the residents was somewhat uncomfortable, despite being a benign occupation. A subtle point well made.

I should also explain my positive bias on this before summarising. The movie is set very near to my residence, in an area I know well. Seeing your own neighbourhood destroyed onscreen and overrun with zombies is fantastic and adds to the personal realism of the scene. The fact that you can see my house in one scene is really cool. Indeed a friend of mine worked in the production crew. But all that aside, I dont like this movie because it's local or because it's good horror done better, I like it because it's damned good.

All in all well worth waiting twenty eight weeks for, see it at the movies if you can and snag the directors cut on DVD when you get the chance. Good stuff.