It’s not a secret that once a sequel was announced for the critically hailed “28 Days Later,” that many a horror fans raised a brow. Some were cynical, some disappointed, all doubted it could achieve the slightest bit of quality the original film did. And once the Fox Atomic banner took the project, my faith wasn’t raised, especially after watching their hyped offering “The Hills Have Eyes 2.”
With a safe but creative marketing campaign, and providing beefy previews to the press, Fox Atomic has been confident about this sequel, and it soon connected to fans who, upon the glimpse of the trailer, soon were relieved that though the sequel screamed “Cash-in,” Fox Atomic understood what the original held in terms of influence and social consciousness.
“28 Days Later” was an important milestone for horror films, even though many prefer to downplay it. It influenced many other horror entries, including the remake of Dawn of the Dead, and it garnered a hefty fan base. It’s by far one of the best horror films I’ve ever seen, and Boyle proved his abilities further with it.
With a cast that’s not as notable as the original film’s, “28 Weeks Later” deserved a chance to be seen and held in high regard in spite of it. No knock on the cast, but could this sequel get off the ground without Cillian Murphy, or Christopher Eccleston? Most of all, could this sequel achieve the slightest fraction of what the original offered us?
I’m proud to say, fear not horror buffs, the “28…” franchise is safe and tidy. So far. FOX Atomic takes the same approach they did for “Hills 2,” if the first film was great, jack it up with a little military, and a faster story. And “28 Weeks Later” performs the same task, and sadly never answers much of the same lingering questions. Why are those that aren’t infected, dead? What happened to all the bodies? And most of all, where did Jim, Selena, and Hannah go?
It’s a sure bet they made it thanks to “28 Days…” ending as the military began to intervene, but the questions remain. What also remain, however, is the haunting and utterly spine tingling score that was apart of the immense charm of “28 Days Later.” Unlike “Hills 2,” the producers make mostly right moves, and provide an excellent sequel that’s in-line with continuity, and pays great homage to the first film.
As usual, the US military and their ill-informed units play a big part in the revival of the Rage Virus as soldiers and snipers are told to look out for anyone with the virus, and yet are still not sure who is infected, and who isn’t. This brings about an utterly wrenching moment where our rooftop group of snipers are swallowing their emotions, and picking off anyone who may be a threat, even if they’re trying to survive. All the while the base built to protect the refugees is now a death zone.
Director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo does an excellent job providing the audience with a shock of the revival of the Rage virus, as it spreads in a frantic and rather scattered sequence played through red lenses, and the rapid spread of the disease filmed through random light from flashlights and air ducts. The military looking over at one another as the split screen of the ragers slowly scrolling to the left was a perfect representation of the infected and their rapid take over on humanity.
Suffice it to say, “28 Weeks Later” is a very good follow-up. Even if flawed. It’s tough to feel as much emotion behind two soldiers as is it for the every man, especially when the screenwriters never delve into the psychoses as much as the original did for its core characters. Victims alike are under-developed, and the characters we journey with also end up feeling like victims rather than survivors we’re supposed to sympathize for. Also, Fresnadillo does go over the top with some rather absurd gore, and a climax that doesn’t pack the same emotional punch as the original; the climax is perhaps the most unsatisfying as it never really resolves anything; it just leaves the door open, and there’s no overall terror, as much as the director tries.
Thankfully though, we’re not short changed in casting. Underrated character actor Jeremy Renner gives a very good performance as the sniper with a crisis of conscience who takes it upon himself to play guardian, while the ravishing Rose Byrne is a great link to the every man archetype as Scarlet, a lab worker whose prophecy comes to pass. From minute one, “28 Weeks Later” strikes out on its own without ever wasting away the utter potential of this concept that Boyle and Garner realized in 2003, with startling images hearkening to 9/11, the Iraq war, and the fall of civilization at every turn.
I can’t imagine re-watching it over and over as I’ve done with Boyle’s superior masterpiece, but in the end, it’s a worthy follow-up, and I’ll surely be waiting for “28 Months Later…”