a critiQal film review 28 Weeks Later (2007)

Plot: Six months after the Rage virus spread throughout the city of London, the United States Army has restored order. While the quarantined city is being repopulated, a carrier of the Rage virus slips into London and unknowingly re-ignites the spread of the deadly infection, once again wreaking havoc on the entire population.

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  • ...just another run-of-the-mill zombie film

While the first film in this series, 28 Days Later… (2003) wasn’t anything spectacular, we again wanted something to tide us over until we saw Resident Evil (2002) (in this case, Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)). Since the glory of the first Resident Evil (2002) has faded in our minds somewhat after the rather disappointing Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004), leaving our minds open for another zombie virus movie to fill the space…and 28 Weeks Later looked to fit that bill nicely.

Robert Carlyle, who always seems to play a rather greasy figure – whether it be in Trainspotting (1996) or Formula 51 (2002) – wouldn’t have been anyone’s first choice for 28 Weeks Later, at least originally. However, he has cleaned up a bit in his role here – even if his personality hasn’t. His character is called into question very early on in the film, and he does a good job of skirting around the issue before (as the previews have already given away), he is turned into one of the undead, and spends the rest of the movie drooling and caked in blood – not something even a newbie actor would have a hard time with. While it isn’t one of Carlyle’s better acting jobs, it’s not as if it’s a primo acting gig either, so it doesn’t really matter if he’s good or not – as long as he drools and can look wild n’ crazy.

The other characters in 28 Weeks Later do a better job (thanks to slightly better roles), of which Jeremy Renner (of S.W.A.T. (2003) fame) is the most recognizable. Unfortunately, the other characters’ efforts at involving the viewer are largely wasted…and it looks like they know it, somewhere deep down. They give decent performances, but none of them really strive for a higher pinnacle of acting. It’s OK, though…as the film moves predictably towards it’s conclusion, the viewers know the characters are basically around to offer up more meals for the zombies – and it’s hard to get involved when the viewer is pretty sure the character is about to meet some sort of grisly end.

As mentioned above, the major flaw of 28 Weeks Later is its predictability. While the film does try to toss in a few more enemies (now it’s a couple of people vs. THE ARMY and the ZOMBIES!), and does a good job of showing the growing panic among the armed troops and their commander, once the zombies escape, it becomes just another zombie flick…and never again really strays from that. Once the film has gotten to that point, the viewer sticks around just to verify they had guessed correctly how the film would turn out…and for nothing else.

Before it reaches that point, however, 28 Weeks Later does a great job of showing how quickly the virus can spread – and how panic contributes to help bring the outbreak past the containable stage. The turning point comes in what must be a zombie’s dream scenario, when a zombie encounters what looks to be a darkened parking garage brimming with people hiding behind the locked doors.

But not all of the first part of 28 Weeks Later is worth watching either – flaws pop up that cause the viewer to back off a little. Some viewers probably won’t agree with a child’s accusation to their father he hadn’t done enough, when the film showed he was in a no-win situation and chose life over death. Then there’s the children escaping into the supposedly cordoned-off city – right under the watchful eye of the military – yet they aren’t stopped. Or how about the parking garage – supposedly a “safehouse” – that is protected by nothing more than a closed door that the zombies can enter almost without hesitating? Or, even worse, zombies seen running through the city far ahead of a massive fire bombing meant to destroy them, when just minutes earlier our heroes were seen barely escaping that same firebombing…and no zombies were even close to them?

While these flaws usually occur in horror films (even Scream (1996) made a comment about how the luckless pursued always seems to run upstairs to escape their killer – trapping them in a confined space), they are at least a little less blatant. 28 Weeks Later, makes them incredibly obvious, and then seems to dare the viewer to accept them. Some flaws can be overlooked in comedies and in cheesy horror films – but not in horror films that try to be legit.

The one real shining point of 28 Weeks Later is it use of light. During the calm times, the light is bright, if a little reminiscent of a fluorescent light – one that shows all of the characters’ flaws in bright detail. As the zombies emerge, however, that light dims, eventually going out as our heroes travel underground. In the parking structure, viewers are given brief glimpses of the carnage as a few remaining emergency lights sway during the melee. Later on, viewers are given the “green light” effect thanks to a rifle equipped with a night-vision scope. In that sequence, the use of that type of lighting is readily apparent the first time someone on screen turns toward the camera – and viewers are given the empty, glowing eyes effect night-vision brings.

Unfortunately, they even overuse this aspect of the film. Sometimes light can be used almost as another character in a film to build tension. In 28 Days Later… (2003), however, despite some decent sequences, their overuse of low-light situations begins to feel more like they did it to save on their special effects budget than to build any sort of tension for the viewers.

With it’s obvious plot flaws and re-fried storyline, 28 Weeks Later isn’t the highly engrossing horror flick we imagined it was. Instead, it’s just another run-of-the-mill zombie film, with the filmmakers expecting the audience to be as brainless as the zombies on screen.

Trust me, I won’t be renting this again 28 Weeks Later…or anytime in the foreseeable future.

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