28 Weeks Later DVD: Review By Dodd

A worthy sequel that delivers the right dose of action and horror
  • OVERALL
    3.5
    GREAT
  • Feature
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE GOOD
A worthy sequel that delivers the right dose of action and horror
THE BAD
Why must something so smart occasionally slip into immature horror territory?
THE FEATURE
I once used to think that the world needed more zombies. Being a fan of George Romero's Living Dead films, I always wondered why Hollywood wasn't utilizing the fun flesh-eaters in current cinema, and why the only artifacts of the monsters existed on video store shelves. Needless to say, I did get what I asked for. The horror genre has taken a dive into zombie movies, and fans have coughed up the dough to see them. In fact, the market has become saturated with the sub genre so much that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish the hurried high concepts from the genuinely well-done projects. One film that kicked off the trend was Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later in 2002 (2003 release in the states). The unforgettable movie was not made for cheap thrills, but for authentically scary situations and a strong social commentary. In the middle of this long-running zombie craze, a sequel was ordered to the original hit titled 28 Weeks Later. This presents the ultimate question: is this going to besmirch the reputation of its predecessor, or is it going to create a memorable series? I am leaning towards a little bit of both.

The title pretty much says it all in regards to setting. After the Rage virus had wiped out most of England, it is now 28 weeks from the events in the original film. Much of the virus has been contained, and survivors are now residing in a designated safe area in the middle of London. Most of these survivors have overcome death defying obstacles to reach this safety. This includes Donald (Robert Carlyle), who, as evidenced at the beginning of the film, makes an ultimate and shocking sacrifice to save his own hide from the infected. Working as a residence manager in the safe area of the city, Donald calls his children Tammy and Andy (Imogen Poots and Mackintosh Muggleton) to leave their refuge in the U.S. and rejoin him in London.

All seems to be progressing smoothly as the military carefully comb the residents to ensure that the virus stays out. Due to a few sloppy mistakes, unfortunately, the infection manages to penetrate the safe haven. From this point forward, mass hysteria kicks into gear once again. The children are left to fend for themselves as humans both infected and uninfected trample one another to reach safety. But where is safety when you are surrounded by the dark and infected streets of London, and a trigger happy military force?

For the most part, I would give 28 Weeks Later my blessing as a worthy sequel. Director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo takes the reigns from Danny Boyle and seems to care for the original source material. Like the predecessor film, there is a subtext present that relates to the real world. While the idea of a zombie breakout seems entirely unlikely, the mass hysteria that ensues seems frighteningly believable. As the rabid infected run rampant through the safe compound instantaneously spreading their disease to others, the military supervisors sit atop building tops shooting every possible living person on the streets. As innocent people are gunned down, we realize that we are more scared of the powers that be rather than the blood-spitting monsters on the street. In a time of outbreak, would the government be ready to contain the danger, or would the blood of the innocent be spilled?

This sequel could be on par with the original film if it would stay on its mature track. The impressive seriousness of the storyline and direction are occasionally shattered by the films insistence on being...well...a zombie movie. Don't get me wrong now. I love the camp that generally comes attached to most zombie movies. But I expect a different level of sophistication from this particular series. There is a bit of awkwardness when, after getting things right for so long, we get zombie carnage. When I saw the film in the theater, people laughed and clapped like excited chimps when a helicopter flies through a pack of zombies chopping them into splatter and body parts. As much as I love this kind of thing in films that set a different tone, it seemed as though 28 Weeks Later took a hiatus from its agenda, and decided to sit at the kiddie table. Some may think that the movie is able to have its cake and eat it too, but this mixture of high brow and low brow horror just simply doesn't work for me.
THE EXTRAS
Code Red

The general overview of the film is covered here in regards to the conception and filmmaking process. In 13 minutes, this is a short and sweet piece that is original to the DVD and not promotional, fluff material. One of the best parts is when the producers (including Danny Boyle) and director Fresnadillo discuss the original concepts. This includes having the movie take place as a prequel before the events of the original. What is especially authentic about this feature is the presence of Danny Boyle. When the original director stands by the sequel product, it is clear that there is some level of satisfaction.

The Infected

Hey we all love zombies, right? This feature follows the actors on the set that are caked in blood and ready to run rabidly for the camera. Being that these infected are the heart of the film, it is great to follow them for the 7-minute duration of this piece.

Getting Into the Action

This clocks in at another 7 minutes, and is devoted exclusively to the action sequences of the film. Considering the small budget, there is an emphasis on how great sequences were pulled off on so little moolah. This one feels a little rushed to me as it jumps from one sequence to another with summary descriptions. I would have liked to see more elaborate setups for each scene.

Deleted Scenes

There are a whopping two deleted scenes here with optional commentary. I will make this simple and say there is not much to see here. However, it will not be very time consuming to give them a watch.

Commentary

Director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and producer/writer Enrique Lopez Lavigne sit in for this one. The track is more on a serious and technical side, and will be satisfying for filmmaking fans. The amazing opening sequence is especially insightful. Unsurprisingly, Danny Boyle himself shot the sequence. The duo does run out of steam from time to time but the men still do an effective job.

Graphic Art Sequences

These are a unique addition to the featurettes. They are impressively-animated sequences that resemble comic strips with voiceover narration. For more insight into the origins and spreading of the virus, these will make for a fun viewing experience.
THE VIDEO
Widescreen. The direction here is a bit more frantic and experimental than the original film. There is a lot of shakiness and quick cuts to emphasize the mass hysteria of the breakout. There are also the occasional first-person shots that are reminiscent of video games.
THE AUDIO
5.1 Dolby Surround. The filmmakers wisely utilize the original score from John Murphy. This music, as demonstrated in the original film, is incredibly haunting. To get the best experience out of this, rank up your surround sound system and get ready for an adrenaline rush.
THE PACKAGE
I was not provided with the original case from the movie studio (hint, hint Fox!)
THE FINAL WORD
28 Weeks Later has its ups and downs as a sequel. For the most part it really delivers in respecting the source material and not going for profitable thrills. With Danny Boyle on board as a producer and consultant, you can really tell that a lot of care was put into the finished product. This may not include the occasional bit of gratuitous violence that breaks away from most of the films intelligent agenda. But with a handful of worthy extras, I think this would be worthy as either a purchase or a rental.

Questions? Comments? Just want to talk movies? Drop me a line at dodd@movieweb.com

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