Wednesday, May 16, 2007

REVIEW: 28 Weeks Later

The original "28 Days Later" was, initially, one of those movies that the target audience was already in love with before any of them had seen it. For months leading up to it's release, film geeks of the horror-phile set gorged on a steady diet of legend and hype about the film's myriad fresh, new qualities: It's shaky-cam verite (not yet done to irritating death by the "Bourne" movies,) it's bleak vision of apocalypse and, most importantly of all: It was a NEW ZOMBIE MOVIE! Hard to remember, but pre-"28DL," zombie movies were, you'll pardon the pun, a dead genre. And though the featured creatures of Danny Boyle's mini-epic weren't technically "zombies," they operated under most of the same basic rules and the tone, setup and style drew clear and unashamed influence from all things Romero and Fulci; and it can be easily argued that this was the point-of-origin for the Zombie Renaissance. We can also BLAME it for introducing the loathsome concept of "super-speed zombies," but you know what they say about omletes...

And yet, there's still no zombies in this new sequel from newbie "Intacto" helmer Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. Well, c'est la vie. Instead, we're once again up against "The Infected" (priority one for "28 MONTHS Later": give the monsters a better name,) aka ordinary humans who've contracted "Rage," a kind of jacked-up rabbies that near-instantaneously turns infectees into psychotic, feral flesh-eaters. As mentioned, "The Infected" play by zombie rules despite their functioning nervous systems and Barry Allen legwork - a bite or blood-contact will turn you into one of "them" instantly, they travel in packs and vary in intelligence depending on what will cause maximum tension from scene to scene.

As the sequel opens, we learn that The Rage never spread beyond it's original British outbreak site due to England being an island; and that by evacuating and sealing-off the entire country The Infected have been effectively starved into extinction. 28 Weeks Later (hence the title) a U.S. led NATO force has begun the task of re-introducing humanity into a small secure "green zone" (nudge-nudge-wink-wink) on the Isle of Dogs. Early focus falls on a civilian official (Robert Carlyle) who's just been re-united with his out-of-the-country-during-this-whole-thing children... and who has a bit of explaining to do about what exactly happened to Mum. The military personel seem to have a decent handle on the situation, though there's concern as to how soon is "too soon" to begin reconstruction. And, of course, should The Rage turn out to not be quite as wiped-out as we thought...

To be honest, it wouldn't be fair to go any further than that, as 28WL manages to pack a startling number of "whoa!" surprises into it's plot before the first act is even up, but suffice it to say that the shit does, in fact, hit the fan and pretty soon everyone is knee-deep in Infected again - leaving the NATO team in a difficult position: Keep fighting and hope it's winnable, or accept that you can't always save the world and bust out the Napalm in the name of the greater good.

"Zombie" movies, by nature, lend themselves easily to social commentary - featuring as they do antagonists who exist as grotesque parodies of "normal" life. So it's tempting (and at this point kind of unavoidable) to want to see these installments as a kind of political metaphor. But the original film defied simplistic political analysis: It's big (human) baddies were a squad of nasty BSAF recruits perhaps a little TOO welcoming of Armageddon, yes... but it also set up that this localized-apocalypse came about because of overzealous animal rights activists.

This sequel remains equally defiant of simple "red vs. blue" filtration: It's easy to read a form of Iraq analogy into the overall situation of soldiers trying to introduce civilization to a population with a nasty habit of turning into bloodthirsty subhumanoids out of the blue (Infectees= Iraqis? The Rage= religious fundamentalism?) but the film doesn't seem to take a "side" as to what should be done - it sympathizes equally with the soldiers and their terribly limited options AND with the innocent people who're likely to get the short end either way.

This is one HELL of a great horror film, an equal to it's predecessor and a genuinely good ride. I reccomend it.

FINAL RATING: 8/10

1 comment:

edgeshat said...

I just saw this last night and really enjoyed it, probably more so than I expected since Danny Boyle was barely involved in it (I think he took a producer credit). Still the story was entertaining and the director kept a similar grainy style to the original. I also liked the behind the Rage victim camera shot.

The only thing that bothered me was the that there wasn't any security around the wife, who of course was infected. You'd think the husband would have had a bit more difficult a time going to see her, even with all his access. Nice to see Robert Carlyle playing an asshole again (he was of course the asshole in Danny Boyle's Trainspotting).