When I found out that Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Sunshine) would shift his control down from director to production status for 28 Weeks Later, I was a bit skeptical. It's a shame I doubted Juan Carlos Fresnadillo at the helm, because he delivers an equally riveting continuation to the original narrative that I didn't expect. Though 28 Weeks Later doesn't carry the same consistent flow of disturbing sociological dialogues as its predecessor, this high octane flick can really unnerve you with vicious grotesqueries and spine-tingling tension.
28 Weeks Later takes place in Britain around seven months after the vile outbreak that plagued the city of London with a wrathful disease. This pestilence sent its victims into a dizzying, unquenchable bloodlust merely seconds after a bite, scratch, or light contact with projectile vomit. Military control has gutted and closed off the core of the city, paving out a resemblance of society filled with the dire necessities a civilization needs. That happens to includes sniper protection in the rooftops ready to suppress any reemerging threat. The area outside these boundaries, however, still sits quarantined as a dilapidated wasteland. Inside this inner bubble, precursors of order begin to form as medical military personnel like Major Scarlet Ross (Rose Byrne) work to fight off the potential threat. London is now a safe zone primed for any potential return of the disease. It's grown so safe that even two children (Imogen Poots and Mackintosh Muggleton) are let back into its confines - after extensive testing is conducted to ensure there is no infection within their bodies.
These children belong to Donald (Robert Carlyle), a survivor who escaped certain death from a swarm of infecteds that stormed a communal hideaway house. When he and his wife Alice (Catherine McCormick) got separated in this struggle, he assumed her to be food for the creatures and tried to go about living whatever existence he could muster. Now, twenty-eight weeks after the outbreak, he welcomes his children back into this new life from a refugee camp outside the city. Despite their father's explanation, his children fail to believe that their mother is dead. The only way for them to find out for certain is to see it with their own eyes in the quarantined sector. His children seem to forget that whatever taints them and follows back into the London "bubble" will spread and, potentially, contaminate. But what happens if a cure for this pestilence slips within this bubble, closer than we'd expect?
Once air-tight London seeps in that imminent speckle of malignance, the dominos begin to fall within 28 Weeks Later. After we've had our nerves simmered a bit with a strong build-up and grown adept to London's cause, then we really begin to see chaos ensue once the quarantined area starts to crumble. Difficult decisions must be made within this militant society to ensure some survival through this hysteria. To say the least, London takes a turn for the worst during a "Code Red" situation, and we're shaken and rattled along every grating second.
28 Weeks Later crafts a seamless shift from terse anarchistic sketch to a stomach-churning thriller with the blink of an eye and the splattering of blood. Much like its predecessor, it grasps a gritty style that relies on aggressive filth to soak us into the situation's madness. Fresnadillo's film is more crisply shot, but it's still dirty as hell. If you liked the first film's style, then you'll feel right at home with 28 Weeks Later. You'll have to watch out for some really sporadic editing, however, that pumps the film full of convulsive choppiness. Lots of jittery handheld camera work takes us into the action, exasperating our breath as we run with our characters through towns and winding tunnels littered with the infection's afterthoughts.
Strength of character isn't running rampant here, but we care enough about the children and their protectors (including Jeremy Renner as an enlisted sniper) to give us some spine-tingling moments as we follow alongside. Tammy, our young "heroine" stands out as the strongest of our characters, purely based on her demeanor and piercing looks. Plus, the smarmy presence of Robert Carlyle as a derelict father kept things very tricky and transfixing. Most of the characters aren't written with a heap of substance, instead relying on formulaic demeanor and natural presence. We get enough kicks out of the support to get a jolt or two out of it if, you know, something were to happen to them. And, of course, it's always great to see Harrold Perrineau surface, even in a smaller supporting role as a helicopter pilot.
What stands out well is how stringently the "infected" are portrayed here once again. As with the original film's no-holds-barred aggression, these aren't lumbering, brainless sloths coming to chomp the flesh slowly from your bones. No, these are ravenous, thirsty transformations that bolt at their victims with ridiculous fervor. These things invoke legit fear, something akin to a sickly discomfort in your gut at the thought of being their prey. Within that stands the core power of this horrific "zombie"-esque flick, much like with 28 Days Later. Even though they're not in vision nearly as long as we'd like, these infecteds are a truly alarming menace.
This threat is omnipresent, even though these predators and their grueling hunger aren't always thrashing on screen. 28 Weeks Later doesn't just run at you with the intent to tear out your insides in every waking moment; it lets the menace soak in, gives a blast of intensity, then retreats to allow pondering for the next moments while alternate chaos erupts. Little scenes, like the usage of night vision through a hallway littered with unsavory ornaments adorning the floor, really slam home tension without throwing gore in our face. Conversely, there's also one gloriously bloody scene in the film that'll really widen the eyes and probably drop a jaw or two. Lots of gory action and physical displays also seep into 28 Weeks Later that teeters the film along genre lines.
Alas, we'd be missing something without the first film's compelling interchanges regarding humanity's desperation. 28 Weeks Later musters up similarly gripping developments, but not quite to the caliber of the first. Boyle's film played with several themes later in the film: repopulation, exploitative gender differences, as well as containment of a beast that was once human. Some of the same sociological play surfaces, but it's not quite as satisfying or gripping. We get a bit at the start and again once anarchy floods the clean area, but it doesn't challenge us quite to the same degree. However, the relentless action and tersely fleshed gore fill that gap nicely.
But listen to me desiring more brains, and not in a physical sense. That's a true sign of how immersed I was with the film: I wanted even more from 28 Weeks Later. It's a wholly satisfying piece of action-filled horror that fumes with terrifying vigor. Though it weighs heavily on the bombast action side instead of the more terrifying option, the film imposes a similar grinding pulse on you that Boyle's flick offered. Fresnadillo's venture into the "infected" world gave me some unexpected jolts and, thankfully, a bloodcurdling blast of a time.
As this is a special screening copy from Fox, you can't really make out much more beyond the use of color in the visual department at most times. That, and the fact that the disc is anamorphic. It's an acidic film with many grating greys, lush tans, and stony blues. Of course, heavy pixelation, aliasing, and the dreaded Fox logo stink up the screener presentation. Once the final gloss gets tossed over 28 Weeks Later, I'm sure it'll be represented solidly with its lower-budget roots in full force.
This Dolby 5.1 track, however, is a beast for 28 Weeks Later. Surround usage is quite solid all the way through, from the usage of gunshots and usurping thumps to the musical accompaniment. Here's where the film's audio track sounds flat-out stellar: the music. My goodness, did this erratic soundtrack pour through with fluent solidity. Making plump use of the LFE channel, the throbbing score that shifts between smooth electronic throbbing and grating guitar riffs truly rocks. Though this is a loud film all around, the bass levels maintain a steady keel with the rest of the higher-pitched noises. It's not a demo level Dolby track with activity, but it'll provide a fully pleasing experience from start to finish. Audio is also available in English SDH (as a language track), as well as French and Spanish Dolby surround tracks. Subs are offered in English and Spanish.
28 Weeks Later comes loaded with a solid barrage of supplements that stands out more with quantity over quality. This package includes:
- Audio Commentary with Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and Enrique Lopex Lavigne -
An audio commentary with the director and key producer is featured. Most of their dialogue is a bit dry, but it provides some interesting textual insight into the specific scenes. They give us little nuggets about joke scenes being improvized, character motives, and tonal discussion. It's a fairly solid track that stays moderately focused on each scene.
- Deleted Scenes w/ Optional Commentary -
Two deleted scenes are featured with optional commentary and unfinished color palette. Interesting, these two scenes make me wonder how I'd see the film if the palette wasn't tinkered with. Outside of that contemplation, these are wise cuts that feel a little forced and uncomfortable with the rest of the film's tone. The second scene is a form of alternate ending that's compellingly bizarre, but still feels like a wide cut. Here, the commentary is much stronger, sporting some very interesting bits about the reasoning not to include these parts and why they're clipped out.
- Code Red: The Making of 28 Weeks Later -
This 13-minute making-of featurette serves the direct purpose of such a production, giving us little flashes of behind-the-scenes work and idea reasonings. There's a lot of discussion about how they formulated the sequel's story, which are great to hear. It rehashes the plot and the key themes a bit, but the glimmers of interest peek out more than the marketing gloss. This Making Of piece is undoubtedly not a safe watch before the film.
- The Infected -
This is a short piece that displays the actors and actresses who play these menacing creatures chasing around our main characters. It also shows us a bit on how they're choreographed and other ways how they achieved their motion.
- Getting Into The Action -
Basically, this is a featurette that reminds us that there's a load of commotion going on in 28 Weeks Later, and that the film isn't just packed from head to toe with horror. We see how some of the visual effects are conceived, as well as how the taxing spans of running depleted the actor's energy.
- 28 Days Later: The Aftermath: Stage 1 "Development" and Stage 3 "Decimation" -
In line with Fox Atomic's graphic novels, these animated shorts are film versions of segments included in the books that help to connect the two films. "Stage 1 'Development'" is chock full of acid coloring and jumpy images that make it difficult to watch, while "Stage 3 'Decimation'" is packed with rich flowing artwork and very watchable content.
Finally, Scene Selection access and a non-anamorphic, spoiler-filled Theatrical Trailer are available, as well as trailers for 28 Days Later, The Hills Have Eyes 2, Lake Placid 2, Pathfinder, Perfect Creature, and Wrong Turn 2.
If the question sits in your head whether 28 Weeks Later is a worthy follow-up to the first flick, then scratch your head no more. It's a little bit different than Boyle's 28 Days Later in tone and achieved thematic presence, but every other bloody second of it stands strong as a respectable action-based horror fusion. With frenetic camera work and sharp tension that sits like an urchin in your gut, you'll easily get sucked into this second gruesome foray with the "infecteds". If you can stomach a more high-octane film with a lower sense of mystery than its predecessor, then 28 Weeks Later comes Highly Recommended.