The torch has been passed. Not just from original 28 Days director Danny Boyle to 28 Weeks director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, but from the apocalyptic consumer cannibalism of Romero’s Dead -ilogy to today’s Rage infected culture of destruction. Yes, I’m saying what I never thought I would: the horror genre finally has a capable successor franchise to those seminal films.
There is a feeling you get while watching 28 Weeks Later. You can feel it growling in your core. Things are changing. This movie is upping the ante. It is upping the ante to a level of game others simply aren’t even playing at yet.
I’m still so shocked by the transition I saw yesterday that I’m not even sure I’m ready to talk about it yet. What compounds this is the fact that four days ago I assumed this sequel was going to be an in-name-only cash-in on a film that is easily one of the most influential genre films of the decade. I am glad to admit that now I don’t even need to consider starting the review with, "More like 28 Weaks Later!"
When the shit hits the fan in this movie, it doesn’t just hit one fan, it hits all fans. 28 Weeks Later is a veritable assembly line of shit hitting fans. It happens again and again, practically shoving the viewer to the brink of exhaustion. And when you’re doubled over with a stitch in your side, it’ll punch you in the face. Just because it can.
I love it.
The sweeping heartbreak of the siege on Robert Carlyle’s safe house cottage and his subsequent survival marks the arrival of one of the most engaging film openers the genre can lay claim to. Emotions are established instantly, the viewer’s anticipation of a hellish onslaught taught. Then it happens. The feet hit the earth running, the horror shattering the day with all the force and subtlety of a sledgehammer.
And that is within the first, oh, 8 minutes.
For prosperity of viewer discovery, I hate to put the spotlight on plot specifics or event highlights. The story revolves around a family reunited after the 6 month quarantine of England inside a US secured safe zone. Elements of the script are expected – of course there is going to be an outbreak, of course one or more of the loved ones are going to be involved – but compensation is found in the film’s sheer scope. Relentless doesn’t even begin to describe it. I will say this, though: rooftop snipers and a helicopter. Fuck!
A sole complaint to be registered is with some camera work during moments of intense chaos. At times the shots are too tight, too obtrusive. The intended ferocity and vérité of what is being filmed is certainly there, but the effect can border on headache inducing.
The film has a brilliant score by John Murphy accompanied with an absolutely crushing sound department. The audible aspects of 28 Weeks Later alone deserve an essay I’m not man enough to write. But when a movie makes you want to rock out while watching it, which a shameless man sitting next to us unexpectedly did, you know it is kicking your ass.
Chaos of the handheld cameras aside, the cinematography of 28 Weeks is engrossing. I was curious as to how they’d recreate the same sense of abandonment as its Days predecessor without the ability to shut down entire sections of busy business districts in England, but they did it. Not only that, but Fresnadillo’s clever use of the sniper scope as both a means of voyeurism and survival is consistently eerie. Those crosshairs are just plain creepy and elicit great raising of the hairs on a neck, especially during a late portion of pitch black wandering that is the most effective use of night vision since Silence of the Lambs.
Acting is admirable, in both juvenille and adult departments. Robert Carlyle is, of course, the precedent for emotion. His multiple break downs are truly heartfelt. Jeremy Renner as one of three connected US military officials who find themselves involved with the family is appropriately pissed off. As is everyone else in the movie (here is looking at you Harold Perrineau), which is largely why I love it so much. No one wants to help anyone in this thing. People do help each other out, but they do it with such real reluctance.
Fresnadillo captures this seething inhumanity perfectly. He uses the ruthless gore carefully. This may seem paradoxical considering the movie has more dead bodies than I have numbers for, but this isn’t even close to the torture porn of late. The details, believe it or not, are classy and often exist only in the periphery, despite the hidden knowledge that it probably took someone hours to craft that throat wound that’ll only be on the edge of the screen for 3 seconds. 28 Weeks Later is a more violent film than all the Saws on the work bench, yet it never strikes that cheap, exploitative chord the so-called ‘Splat Pack’ do.
28 Weeks Later is bleak as hell and twice as brutal with characters to care for and an almost epic understanding of mankind’s best intentions ravaged by his worst qualities. A unique minority more apocalyptic in nature than most films pre or post apocalypse. This beast is right on the crest of the end of the world, watching that wave crash is a rare treat. Fresnadillo orchestrates the accompanying tsunami with operatic beauty. Not content with his waters simply destroying every sand castle on the beach, he wants to be there to see the families cry when they come back.
Then he wants to punch each one of them in the face. Just because he can.
I love it.