28 Weeks Later
Most sequels fail by scrupulously remaking a story that we've already seen. This fierce, frenzied follow-up to Danny Boyle's propulsive zombie movie works harder than that, abandoning the original characters (whatever was left of them) and acknowledging the real draw was a vision of Britain overrun with raging psychopaths (something we can all relate to). I'd be surprised if it doesn't overtake the first film at the box office.
A tense, exciting prologue reminds us just how nasty this rage virus really is: a handful of survivors are holed up in a country cottage when they're suddenly overrun. In a panic, Don (Robert Carlyle) abandons his wife Alice (Catherine McCormack) to a grisly fate and saves his own skin.
Five weeks later, we are told, all the infected have succumbed to starvation. Twenty-four weeks later, the Americans have begun Reconstruction. And by Week 28, refugees are being re-admitted to the Isle of Dogs, a safe zone under the watchful eye of military security forces. Here, at Canary Wharf, Don is reunited with his two kids, Tammy and Andy (Imogen Poots and Mackintosh Muggleton - JK Rowling eat your heart out). He has some explaining to do. And even more so, after the children have sneaked over the Thames to reclaim some mementos from their old house and found much more than they bargained for.
You can't go home again, according to Thomas Wolfe, though he forgot to explain that if you do, you might wind up with blood on your hands, your feet; everywhere in fact. In no time at all the fissures running through Don's unhappy little family have cracked open the reconstruction programme's brave new world and sent military command into Code Red: lockdown and mass extermination. Tammy and Andy escape into the deserted capital with help from an unconvincingly sympathetic GI (Jeremy Renner), but it's a toss up who represents a bigger threat to their survival, the newly infected, or the security forces.
With Alex Garland and Danny Boyle otherwise engaged on Sunshine, sequel duties to the 2002 hit have been entrusted to Spanish director Juan Carlo Fresnadillo, whose only other feature is the eye-catching thriller Intacto. It proves a shrewd choice. 28 Weeks Later combines traditional B movie virtues - economy, invention, backbone - with the extraordinary spectacle of a twenty-first century metropolis stripped of its citizenry. The apocalyptic imagery is every bit as eerie as in the original, and the road to Wembley has never seemed so perilous.
At close quarters, Fresnadillo's reliance on a murky palette and blurry handheld frenetics slips from intentionally disorienting to downright confusing at times, but the action scenes come thick and fast, culminating in a genuinely scary descent into a pitch black tube system.
Where 28 Days Later' presciently tapped into fears around terrorism and biological weapons, Fresnadillo's film inevitably echoes the situation in Iraq. In the movie's most powerful sequence the security forces give up the hopeless task of distinguishing between rampaging infectees and their terrified prey, and shoot down everything that moves. Given the deeply cynical ending, you could twist this political allegory more ways than one, but they don't call it "horror" for nothing.
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