Thursday, May 17, 2007

16th May 07 - 28 Weeks Later

At first this looked like another lazy sequel. Keep the same story, change the title a little, swap all the main characters, add some Americans, plonk a random director in and hear the cash registers ching away with money spent by brainless fools who’ll watch any old rubbish if it’s bright and colourful. They even have a floppy haired pair of child siblings as the protagonists. As the well-known saying goes, it sounded like hell in a basket.

But it’s not quite as bad as it seems. For one thing the sequel is leap-frogging off a strong original. 28 Days… was from Danny Boyle/Alex Garland (the duo who brought us April’s CF3 rated Sunshine) and featured a new breed of zombie fun. Instead of shambling slow morons, 28 Days had super-speedy, bloody-faced lunatics. And though Boyle and Garland are absent from this sequel, the new director is Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, the Spanish writer/director of excellent 2001 flick Intacto. Chuck in Robert Carlyle and a bigger budget, and suddenly things start looking up.

Well, things aren’t exactly looking up for the characters, or the world for that matter. The film takes place 28 weeks after the original (hence the name. Clever, innit?) England has been purged of the ‘rage virus’ that caused so much havoc and the American army are supervising the reintegration of a non bloody-faced-lunatic population. But uh-oh – is that a fresh out-break I spy? Before you can say ‘is that blood you’re weeping’, London is back into a state of chaos. And now our new batch of survivors have to battle with both the angry infected, and also the crazy army, whose idea of ‘only trying to help’ is by horribly killing lots of civilians (seems familiar…)

With the luxury of not having to set up the scenario, Fresnadillo can leap straight into lots and lots of frantic running, violence and general horror. It’s great fun, and the director plays around with some neat little set pieces, in particular a pitch-black stumble through a deserted tube station, seen only through the night-vision of a sniper rifle. There’s jumps, thrills and a fantastic use of a helicopter (causing grimaces from one side of me, and giggles from the other). It’s enough to raise your heart rate throughout, and satisfies all basic speedy-zombie necessities. Watching Robert Carlyle pegging down a hillside, closely followed by a flock of rabid, scary people, is definitely my definition of fun.

The film does suffer a little from the removed original British roots. The slow set-up and story of the first film is abandoned in favour of a basic “we have to get from here to there” mentality, which seems to perfectly mirror your traditional horror computer game. “I’ll meet you over there, once you’ve performed a series of tasks” says their potential saviour. No, bloody-well meet me right here, please. You can almost count the levels as they work their way through.

The characters are also fairly generic, and almost all action pieces take place in front of some sort of London landmark. But hell, it’s a fast, fun and exhilarating ride, and it’s done pretty damn well. And so, just as the imaginative direction lifts this out of easy-sequel naffness, the rating is lifted to a commendable CF1. If only for the helicopter scene. Now that’s effective crowd control, if ever I saw it.

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