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28 Weeks Later

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28 Weeks Later
Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Screenwriters: Rowan Joffe, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Enrique Lopez-Lavigne, Jesus Olmo
Starring: Robert Carlyle, Catherine McCormack, Rose Byrne, Jeremy Renner
Running time: 99 minutes
Certificate: 18


Zombies may be prone to feasting upon living flesh, but 28 Weeks Later sees them devour the supposed rule that horror movie sequels pale in comparison to the original. Prepare yourself for a terrifying and allegorical concoction of thrills and moral complexities that will leave you shaken and very much stirred.

Picking up the action several months after 28 Days Later, this superb movie depicts a ravaged London in the process of rebuilding after the zombie plague threat has seemingly subsided. The American army has moved in to oversee the redevelopment, with survivors repatriated to a quarantined colony on the Isle of Dogs. Amongst the population is Don (Robert Carlyle), who is reunited with his two children but harbours a guilty secret – that he abandoned their mother to make an escape after their house came under zombie attack.

With England seemingly zombie free, it’s pretty obvious that it’s just a matter of time until there’s a fresh outbreak of the rage virus, but when it does materialise it’s relentless and gruesome. For a handful of survivors, including Don’s children, a young medic and a disillusioned sniper, solace might be found in the form of a decrepit Wembley Stadium. Like much of the other familiar London iconography on display, it’s presented in a bleak, desolate state that mirrors the humans’ prospects of survival.

As with many superior horror films, such as George Romero’s Day of the Dead, humanity poses as much of a threat to the central protagonists as the superficial zombie baddies. But 28 Weeks Later is far too complex to merely categorise the characters as ‘good guys’ or ‘bad guys’. We’re forced to confront what we would do in certain extreme and harrowing ‘kill or be killed’ type situations.

At one pivotal stage, we adopt the perspective of US army sniper Doyle (Jeremy Renner) as he’s given orders to gun down hordes of fleeing men, women and children after an outbreak of the virus. It’s a moral mindf**k of a situation, given that the greater existence of humanity depends on the virus being contained. It’s uncomfortable viewing, but utterly absorbing.

Away from engaging our little grey cells, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s film attacks our senses on a purely visceral level. The blood-soaked thrills are perfectly executed to maximum stomach-churning effect, with the extended opening sequence functioning as a nightmarish epiphany of brilliance. Featuring Don’s desperate evasion from a zombie attack, it will undoubtedly lead to a procession of clunks in the cinema, as jaw after jaw drops to the ground. It’s simply breathtaking.

Fresnadillo instills a real sense of urgency to the narrative through his selected use of handheld cameras at key junctures, giving the events a news reportage feel that further heightens the parallels with the American occupation of Iraqi soil. For a sequence set in the murky depths of the London Underground, devoid of light, we subjectively witness events from the perspective of military medic Scarlet (Rose Byrne) through her night vision goggles. This suitably disorientates our senses and places us into her confusing and terrifying predicament as she tries to find Don’s children, visually evocative of the finest moments from The Blair Witch Project.

There are also a couple of respectful homages to the work of ‘Living Dead’ maestro George Romero, with a ‘trapped in car’ sequence recalling the brick-wielding zombie attack from Night of the Living Dead, plus the best use of a helicopter blade in a movie since Dawn of the Dead.

A crucial factor that keeps us engaged is not knowing which cast members will be left standing at the end of the film. 28 Weeks Later is not afraid to delve into Alfred Hitchcock Psycho territory in terms of the auteur’s bumping off of Janet Leigh early on in that particular film, despite being the nominal star.

28 Weeks Later transcends any notion of genre or classification as a mere ‘horror movie’. This film carries an emotional bite that sinks into your flesh and minds as effectively as the sharpened incisors of the most ravenous zombie.

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