by Rob Gonsalves
You have to keep an open mind in this line of work. 2006's 'The Hills Have Eyes' remake bored me, but I enjoyed its sequel earlier this year. 2003's '28 Days Later' annoyed me, but '28 Weeks Later' ... well, I can't say I "enjoyed" it, but it didn't annoy me.The "rage" virus has decimated England, turning people into gnashing, sprinting "infected" who either kill or infect others. As before, the attacks are filmed with barely-scannable undercranking effects, sandblasting us with crazed fragments in which howling maniacs lunge at anything that moves, their gory hair flinging dark dots of blood into the air. These movies are hectic and grim, with practically no intentional humor — it's all about kill or be killed. I remember when horror movies used to have more personality.
"Better than the first, though still hectically unpleasant."
That said, 28 Weeks Later — directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (Intacto) from a script credited to him and three others — does try to provide a shade more humanity than its cold predecessor. In a prologue, Robert Carlyle (Trainspotting) plays a hapless man who, in a moment of terror, abandons his wife in a house overrun by "infected," fleeing for his life. Their two children, fortunately, are out of the country on a school trip; the kids return to England about six months later, when the country has been cleared of the "infected" (who've all died of starvation). The U.S. Army is helping England to repopulate, though this proves to be about as efficacious as the U.S. helping Iraq to become a democracy. The kids are reunited with their father, who tells them a carefully worded version of the events that, presumably, killed their mother.
It's not quite that easy, though, and before long there's another outbreak. An Army doctor (Rose Byrne) wants to keep the kids safe, because there's reason to believe they may be worth examining. The general takes one look at the outbreak, which has gotten completely out of control, and orders up a Code Red. This obliges the rooftop snipers to shoot everyone on the streets, the infected and the non-infected. One such sniper (Jeremy Renner) decides he's had enough of Code Red and leaves his post to help the doctor and the kids escape before the district gets fire-bombed.
There is a hint of heroism and self-sacrifice here, unlike in 28 Days Later, where it was every man (or cipher) for himself. There are, of course, massive implausibilities and plot holes, as well as a surely accidental echo of a helicopter-vs.-monsters gag from Robert Rodriguez' Grindhouse film Planet Terror. And this whole franchise remains a scrawny reiteration of George Romero's The Crazies and David Cronenberg's Rabid — I hope Romero, in particular, is getting a few bucks from Danny Boyle and Alex Garland (who directed and wrote the previous film, respectively, and executive-produced this one). The wider scope of the story here allows for some chilling views of an abandoned England, littered with corpses and maggoty pizza boxes. Jeremy Renner, who really should have a better career by now based on his haunting work in Dahmer, comes through with a likable portrait of a conflicted sniper, and the always-dependable Harold Perrineau Jr. shows up as Renner's chopper-flying buddy.
Mostly what impressed me about 28 Weeks Later is that it doesn't demonize the Robert Carlyle character; he takes the coward's way out, true, but Carlyle plays the man's self-torturing guilt for the rest of his time onscreen, even in scenes wherein you wouldn't expect him to express anything other than rage at his situation.This sequel takes its predecessor's derivative, remorseless premise and deepens it a bit, though I can't be alone in wondering why this, of all things, should be a franchise ('28 Months Later' has already been announced), and why British and American audiences apparently can't get enough of infected lunatics vomiting blood onto their victims. I'm usually not weak of stomach, but, c'mon, whose idea of a good time is this?
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originally posted: 05/13/07 17:24:50