28 WEEKS LATER (Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, 2007)
The rage virus that ravaged England in 28 DAYS LATER is believed to have been eradicated in the sequel 28 WEEKS LATER. The United States military is leading a UN mission to begin the repopulation of London, although with corpses still littering some neighborhoods, movement about the city is limited to the green zone.
Brother and sister Andy and Tammy (Mackintosh Muggleton and Imogen Poots) were out of the country on a school trip when the virus arrived. They are the first children permitted to return. Andy and Tammy are reunited with their father Don (Robert Carlyle) but not with their mother. Alice (Catherine McCormack) is believed to have met an unfortunate end at the hands and teeth of the bloodthirsty infectees. Don has no reason to expect she survived, but rather than stick around for definitive proof, he ran for his life.
The guilt torments him. It doesn't diminish when Alice is discovered cowering in an abandoned section of London. Medical officer Scarlet (Rose Byrne) examines Alice and finds that she is carrying the virus but not exhibiting its symptoms. This makes her vital for developing a cure that isn't total extermination by military force.; however, her presence means that inevitably the rage virus will be transmitted and wreak havoc in the safe area.
A tense and terrifying trip through urban chaos, 28 WEEKS LATER is Juan Carlos Fresnadillo's respectable follow-up to Danny's Boyle's original. Using urgent camerawork, a flurry of cuts, and John Murphy's pulsing rock score to convey the jittery mood, Fresnadillo opens the film with a fierce attack on a country house that culminates in a stunning chase through an open field and into the river. (The aerial shot of a zombie fleet pursuing Don gives a frightening sense of scope.) He's equally adept at milking slower scenes for all their suspense, be it the eerie shots of a desolate London or the creeping silence in tight quarters.
The strength of 28 DAYS LATER and 28 WEEKS LATER is their insistence on living in the moment. Since characters must often operate on instinct, they and the audience have little time to consider the best course of action. Fresnadillo forces both into reactive mode when faced with sensory bombardment and thus creates palpable fear.
It would then seem to be no coincidence that 28 WEEKS LATER'S two biggest narrative conveniences occur when there's a pause for deliberate choices. Andy and Tammy's excursion outside the green zone and Don's visit to Alice strain the suspension of disbelief test, but they're to be excused considering that the film explores how people react irrationally under adverse conditions.
With bored soldiers patrolling a supposed safe zone and upper military commanders eager to kill everything in sight when quick distinctions can't be made between the uninfected and zombies, it's obvious that 28 WEEKS LATER is dipping its toes into political allegory. Fresnadillo and his co-screenwriters don't go much below the surface in trying to add some social commentary, but such content adds a little heft. Mostly, though, 28 WEEKS LATER glides on a barrage of gore and visceral shocks.