28 Weeks Later

by Jen Spencer

Jen Spencer reviews 28 Weeks Later
Spoiler free summary:

The Infected have all died of starvation. The Americans have moved in and started reconstructing. Civilians are being moved back in. They find a survivor who carries the rage virus. Everything goes to shit. The end. A fun-packed blood-fest, with some lovely touches of humour, violence, and fear, but marred by overly-shaky camera work, and overuse of their "OH MY GOD IT'S SO DRAMATIC AND HOPELESS!" music.

Spoiler full review:

The Infected are back in a big way. The opening scenes are wonderful and tense. A lonely house of survivors, which is boarded up to the point that, even in the bright sunlight of day, the inside is in total darkness, is set upon by infected and we get our first heart-wrenching scene of the movie as a man chooses to save himself over helping his wife and a young boy. He escapes in a fantastic scene full of Infected in a river as he scrambles to operate a tiny motor boat, mincing several of them in the process, and escapes to begin life anew several months later as the Americans come forth and begin re-building Britain. We are led to assume the wife succumbs to the Infected. This is of course, wrong, and terribly important to the plot and everything else that follows.

The main crux of the film is the efforts by a group of survivors to get two children to safety out of the country, because one of them, a young boy, holds a genetic immunity to the Rage virus, and thus could be the answer to a vaccine and the end of it once and for all. The other main characters are his older sister, the medical officer who discovered the immunity, the marine who helps protect them, and finally the Dad, who doesn't stay very not-infected for very long.

The film is, if I recall the first film correctly, gorier and more violent than its predecessor. A full-on eye-gouging, buckets of vomited blood, and a fantastic scene of using a helicopter to mince a crowd of Infected in Regent's Park, are just some of the moments that stand out for the gore quotient. The film does not have, for my money, anyway, the creeping menace of the first film. In 28 Days Later, the deserted city and desperate road journey right into the hands of lunatic soldiers led a creeping feeling about the film, because we had so few people to clasp onto and invest our emotions in. In 28 Weeks Later, while the main party of characters is equally small, we also have constant mass crowds of people, either alive or infected, and lots of subsidiary characters on screen at all times, and it kind of feels more like what we were shown in the first five minutes of 28 Days Later. The desolation of 28 Days Later came from the fact that in five minutes we saw a population wiped out, in quick inescapable and gruesome fashion, and it was very memorable to go from all that condensed panic, to the total emptiness of deserted London. In 28 weeks Later, it feels like they're taking a step backward because they're stretching that five minutes out into an entire film, and adding some bits on to make it a bit different and more interesting. Don't get me wrong, the extra bits are great, and I'll expand on them shortly, but I guess it makes 28 Weeks Later a different kind of "outbreak" film to it's predecessor. The first film was what I would call the post-apocalypse film, whereas the second film is the during-apolcalypse film, and thus has more people, more action, and more blood, but less desolation and feelings of epic lonely hopelessness - so I guess it depends on what you prefer in these type of films.

All of this is not to say that 28 Weeks Later is not terribly menacing (albeit in a more immediate and crowd-effect kind of way) and exciting, because it is. The tension and excitement of the film mostly resulted, I found, from the twin dilemma of the survivors. Once the outbreak begins, the Americans decide the most rational course of action is to kill anything that moves. Thus survivors now have to dodge rabid Infected, and the buckets loads of American snipers on the roof-tops, and the roaming gangs of sinister soldiers in full haz-mat suits, who gas whole streets and then come along with flame-throwers to finish off and destroy anything caught in the aftermath. The consequence of this seems to be that the survivors are running from the Infected, and the Infected, in turn, are running from the American military. Desperate times indeed.

The twin enemy situation makes for a lot of excitement, and also one of the more pleasingly refreshing deaths I've seen in a horror film for a while. The cornerstone of the '28 [insert time unit] Later' series has always been the very satisfying miniscule time it takes for anyone who gets near infected to become one of them. The disease is nigh on instantaneous in how it turns people, and so people having little chance to escape has always been held true to (although they do dick around with that a bit in the film by having the dad Infected turn up, look at his kid, and then vanish again, which is not how the Infected have really worked to date). But yes, the twin enemies mean that the big lug marine with a heart of gold, who's sacrificed a lot to get the kids and the medical officer as far as they have, ends up saving them from his own men, by giving their car a push start as the gas and flame-thrower team close in, and then as they drive away they get to see him flame-throwed to death. It's a very touching and refreshing death because it shows how the Code-Red is indeed being strictly and very sensibly adhered to. Notably the reason the marine with the heart of gold turned away from the military in the first place is because he wasn't happy with the order to shoot indiscriminately when they could no longer pick out the infected in the crowd of fleeing people. So he's a nice positive moral character, with bucketloads of competence in what he does, and then dies a heroic and tragic death, this is such a glorious rarity in horror films, I was sad to see it happen in a way - an excellent sign he was a genuinely sympathetic character.

As with every horror film excepting perhaps Calvaire and Severance, 28 Weeks Later finds its character suffering from momentary catastrophic lacks in judgement. These are often both head-slappingly frustrating, and hilarious. My personal favourite moments of humour include, with all the incredible American security around the place (and there are literally soldiers on every roof top, and huge guns and patrols roaming on the bridge out of the big secure zone that they're keeping all the civilians in), two British children merrily sneak past it all, on a wonderfully mad quest to fetch stuff back from their house, cause, you know, that's a sensible thing to do. Obviously the American soldiers were too busy slapping their cocks together and barking like seals to notice the two kiddies running along a metal bridge support just behind them. Such is life.

The other moment of total insanity comes when, having been reunited with the wife he abandoned to a grisly fate, and discovering she's alive, the dad of the family uses his Access All Areas pass to go right into her room, and apologises for leaving her. Obviously ignoring the facts that, a)she's not quite all there, b)is heavily strapped down to a table, like, I don't know she could be dangerous or something, c) she has a dirty great bite-mark on her arm that is decidedly human, and d)that her eyes are swimming with weird purple blood-like fluid, something one hopes someone who's survived a blood and saliva-driven infection might be wary of, he gets in there and gives her a good slobbery kiss. Cue him having a bit of a funny turn and going onto destroy the world.

Once these irritations have been passed to advance the plot to where we can have infected back again (yay!) cue the biggest load of strobe lighting and shaky camera work you will ever see in your life. It's like one of those consumer rights programs, with the angry Infected consumers chasing down the evil head of Rober Carlisle corp to demand a refund on their obviously-defective valium. The shaky camera work and single piece of tense dramatic music (which while very cool to listen to is slighly over-used and intrusive) do convey the madness of the situation nicely, and in some instances it works really really well, but it still costs the audience a lot in terms of being able to follow the action, which detracts from the fear and overall impetus of the scenes. When you can follow enough of the mayhem it drags you in really well, and your heart pounds with the poor bastards fleeing for their lives, but when it's been going on for five solid minutes and you just can't work out what shape is what and what's happening, you tend to drift back a bit and wait till it calms down before getting into it again.

For all the shaky camera work, however, the film takes more cinematographic experiments than the first film, and some of them work really well. For instance the oft-used nightscope vision plays a wonderful role here, as the medical officer tries to guide the two kids through a pitch black, dead-body ridden tube station, and then we get to see her beaten to death through the scope as it pounds into her face courtesy of the ever-present daddy-infected.

This is another convention of horror series that 28 Weeks Later succumbs too. As a horror series progresses, if the series concerns a mass of what should be indistinguishable monsters, the later films will find a way to single out one monster and make it "the main one". For example, in Aliens versus Predator, an alien was given a criss-cross scar on its head so we could spot it a mile off. In 28 Weeks Later, Robert Carlisle's dad character is one of the first one we're introduced to, and he becomes the 'chosen monster'. The Dad Infected begins the infection, and escapes the total fire-bombing of the secure zone (a very pretty scene as streets are flooded with fire) and then pursues the survivors all the way across London until being the last infected we see when his daughter shoots him after he's gotten his teeth into his son.

The final scene of the movie, is the crowning glory of British attitudes shown in film. After surviving a full outbreak of the Infected, the sister has a chance to save the world by letting them take the natural anti-bodies from her brother and making a vaccine. Maybe this is indeed what she did after the camera left them, we don't know. However, surely it would have been more sensible to leave the infected kid somewhere safe, like an island off the coast of Scotland, and then ferry a team of scientists back to him just in case something goes wrong, LIKE IT JUST DID FOR THE ENTIRE FILM! But no, even after surviving all that horror, she decides that they're going to escape England and go to the people-filled land-mass of Europe with her infected brother. The only reason I can fathom, is that it's because she just hates the French that much. And lo, the final shots of the film reveal the helicopter they escaped in has been trashed, and a bunch of Infected are taking a jog towards the Eiffel Tower. Woot! Bring on the sequel!

So, by the end of the film, we have learned:
Sacrifice yourself for the good of your loved ones.
Sacrifice your loved ones for the good of the world.
Kill cowards before they have a chance to fuck you over.

Overal I found it to be a nice schlocky infestation film, with some lovely touches, and generally very entertaining. 7/10

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Comments (go to latest)
Dan H at 18:27 on 2007-05-17
I really don't understand the compulsion to individualize monsters whose primary shctick is having no individual identity. They did it with the Borg, they did it with the Cylons (even with the damned raiders). You'd think they'd realise.
Wardog at 16:38 on 2007-05-18
You're not dissing Hugh the Borg are you?!
Or for that matter, Seven of Nine who is the hottest thing to ever strut in a skin-tight catsuit?
Where's your SOUL man!
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