Movie News & Reviews

"28 Days Later" leaves you hungry for its sequel

There's nothing better than a good apocalypse, is there?

Something about the end of the world just makes for good drama. I guess it's one of those things you wouldn't want to go through in real life, but it's still fun to hear about.

About the only thing that's the same between 28 Weeks Later and 28 Days Later is the end-times concept and the music. Normally a sequel with a different director and none of the original cast is a near-biblical mark of a crummy movie, but after a brief lull in the countryside, 28 Weeks Later picks up directly where the first left off.

The Infected, zombie-like people with no desire other than to kill and eat those who don't yet have the disease, pound through the windows and walls of the rural home where Robert Carlyle has found refuge with his wife. Caught off guard, knowing a scratch or bite means infection, Carlyle leaves his wife to the monsters and flees into the English countryside.

Even having seen the Infected's animal rage in 28 Days Later, this opening scene is one of the most terrifying in recent history. The survivors' sanctuary is destroyed in an instant. Director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo's vision is every bit as nasty and brutish as what made the original so good.

Seven months later, the Infected have all starved, and a US-led force has established a clear zone in London. Carlyle has made it out alive, and when his children (Imogen Poots and Mackintosh Muggleton -- I swear those are their real names, just ask the Internet) return from school abroad, he confronts the guilt of abandoning his wife to be messily devoured.

The clear zone's got snipers on the rooftops, helicopters in the sky, and tanks in the street. Security cameras watch the city constantly, mirroring the Surveillance State of modern Britain. When the infection returns, none of it helps.

One of the things that set 28 Days Later and now 28 Months Later apart from traditional zombie movies is how fast everything goes to hell. The Infected aren't shambling lumps of rotting flesh waiting around to get their skulls split open by a well-aimed hollowpoint, they're sprinters with adrenaline-crazed strength. The second you see them is the second you run. Otherwise, you're one of them, or worse, you're their brunch.

Fresnadillo nails this with a handful of confused scenes in dark rooms that makes sitting in an unlit movie theater much scarier than it has any right to be. After some time in the quiet tranquility of underpopulated London, the terror of the first five minutes starts to feel like a dimly-remembered nightmare; when it all comes roaring back, filthy and bloody, it's that moment of peace that becomes the dream.

The director's less adept with making his characters interesting. There's some unusual drama around Carlyle and his family, but weird cuts and meh dialogue strip it of any real impact.

Fortunately, those parts are greatly outnumbered by the ones where shrieking mobs are running for their lives or a helicopter pilot uses his main rotor as a lawnmower, but for people instead of grass. Without time to think or second-guess, the panicked acts of the survivors become stomach-twistingly real.

Mark 28 Weeks Later down as a pleasant surprise. It ends with the suggestion we might see a 28 Months Later a couple years from now. If it means more work for Fresnadillo, who till now has worked exclusively in Spain, I'm all for it.

Grade: B+