28 Weeks Later (2007)
Starring: Robert Carlyle, Rose Byrne, Jeremy Renner, Harold Perrineau Jr., Catherine McCormack, Mackintosh Muggleton, Imogen Poots, Idris Elba
Directed by: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
After watching 28 Days Later for the first time a couple weeks ago, I was both excited and a bit nervous to see its sequel, 28 Weeks Later. Excited, because the original was fantastic, but nervous because I wasn’t sure a sequel that didn’t feature anyone from the original (neither cast, nor writer, nor director) could live up to the original. I was worried that they’d simply ramp up the horror and try to create a franchise, while ignoring the nuance of 28 Days Later.
So, how’d it do? Well… it manages to live up to the excitement of the original, using the ramped-up zombie theme (even if it doesn’t quite feature zombies, I’m not getting into that semantics debate) to induce genuine terror and thrills in the audience. I was wide-eyed and white-knuckled throughout most of the movie (well, when I wasn’t covering my face), so the movie accomplished at least half of what it set out to do. It was genuinely excited and frightened throughout, so in that sense, it was a worthwhile sequel.
However, in comparison to 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later is empty calories. It was all very exciting and intense, but, ultimately, it was lacking the originality and subtlety of the original, and didn’t feel as fulfilling once it was over. When the action starts in the movie, it relies on a series of coincidences that are frustratingly contrived, then all characterisation and nuance are thrown out for constant terror and action. For the most part, the action is pretty cool, but it doesn’t have the resonance from the first movie, and I only marginally cared about the characters in peril (in that they were human beings in peril, so I cared about them necessarily, but I wasn’t invested in their struggles).
That said, the first half of the movie was pretty solid. The opening scene in particular holds up with anything from 28 Days Later, infusing real pathos along with the sheer terror. Unfortunately, the second half doesn’t hold up to the same standard. In many ways, 28 Weeks Later is The Lost World to 28 Days Later‘s Jurassic Park, with more carnage, more characters to serve as fodder, and some annoying kids who keep inexplicably surviving (Mackintosh Muggleton and Imogen Poots… by the way, Muggleton and Poots is so the name of my future garage band). It’s a better movie than The Lost World to be certain, but commits some of the same sins.
Ultimately, I was still thoroughly entertained by 28 Weeks Later. It’s quite good as a genre film, giving you the thrills you expect when going to see a horror movie. But, when compared to the original, it can’t help but feel like a disappointment. It’s certainly worth a viewing, but I don’t think I’ll be following through for a 28 Months Later sequel (and yes, the movie does set up that possibility).