Monday, May 14, 2007

28 Weeks Later

One of the best things you can say about Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and his mostly satisfying sequel "28 Weeks Later" is that the man definitely does his homework.

In crafting the follow-up to "28 Days Later," he clearly watched Alfonso Cuaron's "Children of Men," lifting much of its story and even a few exact scenes. I was mostly able to forgive this because, luckily, he also clearly watched a lot of what passes for "horror" nowadays, and managed to avoid most of what makes it all suck so hard.

Most of the raves (and even the pans) for "28 Weeks Later" have heaped praise on the opening sequence, and rightly so. It's simply a stunner. In it, Fresnadillo makes great use of what most "horror" movie directors seem to have forgotten, that the suspense should be at least as terrifying as the payoff. I don't want to tell you too much about it, but in revealing that the rage virus hasn't been completely wiped out (of course), it also very efficiently sets up the moral ambiguity of our first hero, Begbie (a k a Robert Carlyle.) The decision he makes at the start sets the tone for the rest of the movie.

Even better, however, is a scene in which Begbie's two kids, who have recently returned to London as part of the repopulation effort, journey out of the safe area to visit their former home. If you've seen this, I think you'll agree with me it's one of the best horror set pieces put together in years. Even if you were able to figure out what was lurking on the top floor faster than I was, it's still just a gut punch that hits hard.

But, of course, I'm getting way ahead of myself. I suppose I should share at least a little bit of the story, especially since, given that this only made an estimated $10,000,000 at the box office, there are at least a few of you out there who didn't bother to catch it on the opening weekend.

Well, as the title makes clear, it's "28 Weeks Later," and a U.S.-led NATO force is in charge of repopulating London and insuring the rage virus doesn't return. Begbie, after the opening sequence, is a key player among the civilians, and when his two kids return it should set up a happy new beginning. And it does. For about five minutes.

This being a horror movie, the virus will return, and the NATO troops will go to the most extreme measure possible to remove it. Though they were really given little do here as members of the American force, it's still always nice to see Idris Elba and Harold Perrineau on the big screen.

Once the chaos is unleashed, it becomes a tale of survival, and that's where Fresnadillo is at his strongest. This one is much more bleak than its predecessor, and a much more efficient killing machine. You can certainly bring your own political views into the fact that this is, in effect, America invading a foreign country with extreme force (if I wanted to make you groan, I'd call it schlock and awe.) But Fresnadillo wisely keeps most of the attention on our two young heroes who may hold the only hope for survival.

Now, though I really liked this flick quite a bit, it's not perfect. There's one scene in particular, after the military base has been put on lockdown, that's just extremely lazy to the point of annoyance. If you've seen it, you'll know what I'm talking about. I can't think of one instance in which I've ever enjoyed looking at a strobe light, especially in a movie, and I certainly didn't here.

And the final 30 seconds or so, which I won't reveal here, are just thoroughly unnecessary. After setting the stage for the inevitable third chapter of this saga, you don't need to serve it up to us in a kiddie meal.

But, those are really just quibbles about the most satisfying sequel I've seen in many years. Do yourself a favor and go see it before king Shrek returns to wipe everyone out.


Chalupa said...

I'm glad to see you loved this as much as I did. Here's my review. My wife and I were the first ones in the theater for the first showing in our area. One thing I noticed is that you referred to Robert Carlyle's character as "Begbie" from Trainspotting. That's all I ever refer to him as. He'll forever be that crazy guy from Trainspotting to me.

Chalupa said...

Oh, and on a sidenote, have you seen The Baxter? I just watched that last night and it reminded me of Snapper, which I watched on your recommendation. The movie isn't really like Snapper, I just enjoyed it as much.

whitechoclatespacegg said...

I just saw this last night, I haven't written my review yet, I'm still thinking of what I want to say. But I really did like it.

Reel Fanatic said...

I hadn't heard of The Baxter, Chalupa, but if it compares in any way to The Snapper, that's a good enough recommendation for me ... It's going into my Netflix queue right now

Marina said...

Cool. I'm really looking forward to this and it sounds like I'm not going to be overly disappointed!

kookiejar said...

I liked this too, although I thought Perrineau and Elba were pretty much wasted. In fact many of the actors in this were too good for the material, including Carlyle.

I was also VERY annoyed by the Code Red. But the whole movie redeemed itself with the scene at the deserted carnival, with the helicopter. Awesome.

Good work on your review. I already posted mine.

Reel Fanatic said...

I'm definitely with you on Perrineau and Elba being wasted, kookiejar, especially since they're two of my favorite actors ... I have to say, though, that Begbie made the most of his time on screen, and managed to turn his into a very memorable role for me

Tyg said...

Have to agree on that opening scene.
Its the best bit of horror I've seen since I first saw Ringu. Really unsettling stuff.

There are a couple of niggles as you say, lazy strobe effects have been done to death , look at the trailers for any modern horror movie.

And there are a couple of plot points that really make no sense. I mean the scene you mention where the kids break out of this HIGHLY secure area and manage to make it all the home seemed a tad unlikely.

The worst for me was Robert Carlyle's character having access to what one would imagine would be Military only area is a little unfeasible.

(Of course the fact he keeps turning up throughout the movie also seems unlikely, but I suppose that could be explained away)

In any other 'zombie' movie these things would be forgivable, but because 28 weeks tries to be so grounded in reality they're a little more glaring.

Reel Fanatic said...

You're certainly right about the plot holes, Tyg, and that I shouldn't be so forgiving with a sequel to such a great movie .. I guess as I was caught up in the energy of it those things just didn't bother me as much as they did you

cinderelly said...

i was on the fence for this one, thinking i might wait till dvd since i did not hear good things about it, but i think now i do want to see it! i loved the first one, it was so scary!

Reel Fanatic said...

This one is definitely at least as scary as the original, Cinderelly, and a lot more bleak in its outlook ... If you want to see it in a theater, I'd definitely act in the next two weeks or so, because the summer window just keeps getting smaller and smaller