Sunday, October 5, 2008


Zombie movies are a dime a dozen nowadays, and the latest zombie movie "28 Weeks Later" (** out of ****) isn't worth a dime. Technically, "28 Weeks Later" qualifies as a sequel of sorts to British director Danny Boyle's 2002 zombie chiller "28 Days Later." In "28 Days Later," a botched laboratory experiment on animals unleashed a deadly virus that mutated humans into frenzied flesh-feasting maniacs on the rampage in the United Kingdom. None of the original cast survives to reprise their roles in Spanish director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo's follow-up epic that he penned with three other scenarists Rowan Joffe, Enrique Lopez Lavigne, and Jesus Olmo. Original writer Alex Garland and Boyle serve only as producers, but apparently they felt confident enough about Fresnadillo to give the Spaniard a free hand. Indeed, the situation has changed dramatically from the first film. If movies were rated strictly on production values, "28 Weeks Later" would be a top-notch spine-tingler, but the monolithic plot and the dire lack of originality cripple this giddy chiller. The first scene that introduces us to the predicament of leading man Robert Carlyle promises more than the rest of the film can deliver. The exception to the rule is one scene where a U.S. Army helicopter flies low enough with its rotor blades acting as scythes to devastate a horde of zombies scrambling feverishly across an open field. This is about as fresh as this grisly yarn can get. The action degenerates into one hair-raising chase after another on foot, by car, by chopper, etc., with snarling zombies in hot pursuit with nothing to differentiate it from the countless other zombie movies out there. Worst, there's really nobody to either identify with and everybody pretty much gets bitten and turned into zombies.

"28 Weeks Later" opens serenely enough in an isolated English farmhouse where a group of survivors hide out in relative peace. Husband Don Harris (Robert Carlyle of "The World Is Not Enough") and his wife Scarlet (Rose Byrne) are sharing the premises with another couple when somebody knocks at their door. They let the latest survivor--a child in--and set about feeding him when out of nowhere a horde of zombie burst to attack the house and literally rip it apart. During this melee, Don and Scarlet are separated, but Don can do nothing to save Scarlet. As the zombies charge after him, it is all Don can do to save his own skin and his escape is pretty narrow. After this explosive opener, "28 Weeks Later" goes about its business bringing audiences up to date on the latest events. You have to read several captions to grasp the current predicament. Fifteen days after the initial outbreak, the authorities quarantined mainland Britain. The rage virus decimated the population some 28 days later. Eleven weeks afterward, a U.S.-led NATO force arrived in London, and 18 weeks later, this force confirmed that the country was "free" of infection. NATO forces along with the returning civilian population began rebuilding twenty-four weeks later, and twenty-eight weeks later these citizens started their lives anew within the confines of a niche of the city. Snipers are stationed everywhere in case zombies reappear and helicopters with machine guns patrol the city.

At this point, Don is reunited with his two children, Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton) and Tammy (Imogen Poots), who had been earlier relocated to safety on the Spanish mainland. They inquire about their mother, and Don cringes with guilt as he tries to explain that he had to abandon her. Don's kids are curious, and they sneak off into the forbidden zone to check out their old home. Miraculously, they discover their mother, and the authorities lock up Rose to conduct tests on her because she appears unscathed from the ordeal. An Army medical expert believes that Rose may hold the solution to curing the plague since she hasn't mutated into a zombie. Meanwhile, the authorities have given Don special privileges to assist them. Incredibly, those special privileges extend to giving him a key that allows him access into any secure area. He visits Scarlet and kisses her and promptly contracts the plague. It's a little hard to believe that the authorities would have given Don such freedom, but it is also hard to believe that Rose could have escaped without a scratch.

Afterward, Don pursues his kids and an Army sniper who is trying to lead them to safety. "28 Weeks Later" turns into a mindless melodrama that tries to milk this predicament for all the adrenaline that it can, but it gets tiresome after the first chase and goes downhill. Predictably, "28 Weeks Later" ends with a set-up for a sequel which will hopefully not illuminate the big screen anytime soon.

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