What is the deal this year? What ever happened to a happy ending? Earlier this year we were forced to endure clich©-fests such as Premonition starring Sandra Bullock and The Reaping starring Hilary Swank. And we were willing to endure them on the promise that by the end, they would at least make us feel good about the existence of mankind. In the end we found no solace, just sheer disappointment. And we realized that we just sat through two terrible thrillers. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo presents us with a similar situation with 28 Weeks Later, a desperate circumstance that makes us hope for a relieving outcome. While he may not give us the light at the end of the tunnel though, he at least leads us there with style.
The follow up to Danny Boyle’s sensational thriller 28 Days Later, Fresnadillo’s take brings us back to London just over 6 months after the initial outbreak of the rage virus. As we learned at the end of the last film, the virus only affected the island of Great Britain and was subsequently able to be contained. But as the American Army escorts Brits back to their homeland, we come to find that while the infected may have died off, the virus is by no means gone.
This time around the story focuses on a family torn apart by the outbreak. It begins by introducing Don (Robert Carlyle) and his wife Alice (Catherine McCormack), who are hiding out in a remote cottage during the time of the initial outbreak. When the cottage comes under attacked by the infected, Don and Alice are forced to make a run for it. Now, this is moment one where the film begins to take on a very morose tone, as Don is run into a corner where he must choose between fighting to save his wife and saving himself. Guess what he does… He runs off and leaves his wife to be eaten up by a mob of blood-hungry infected. You have to know that is going to come back to bite him in the ass at some point…
Of course it does, 28 Weeks Later as Don is welcoming his two children back to London. The kids find a way to leave the government imposed safe zone and make it back to their old house. And what do they find there? Why, their mother of course. It turns out that something in her genetic makeup makes her able to withstand exposure to the rage virus, but as the Americans and the denizens of London soon find out, that doesn’t mean that she can’t spread it around.
From there the film explodes, even more intensely than its predecessor, into panic mode. In fact, if there is one thing this movie accomplishes with flying colors, it is that it turns up the scare factor. From running out of town as the US jets incinerate London (in a very cool explosion scene, mind you) to navigating through a dark body-littered subway with only the use of a nightvision scope to guide us, it is as if the audience is thrust into the role of the two children, having to overcome tremendous obstacles to escape an almost apocalyptic fate.
And while this film is intensely scary, it did seem as if they (and by they I mean the creative team behind the film) were reaching a bit for a story. In Boyle’s 28 Days, the factor of innovation and the creative way he tells a horror story are overwhelming. In 28 Weeks, a little too much is asked of the audience, particularly in the ending. After a moment we all figure out the hook, but then we are forced to think “Seriously? That is depressing.”
But alas, despite being asked to take some plot points at face value, fans of the first film will certainly enjoy the way Juan Carlos Fresnadillo polishes up one of the more visionary thriller concepts in recent history and scares our pants off in the process. While 28 Weeks Later may not be good enough to make you forget about the first one, it will certainly make you remember that spine-tinging sensation that you hoped you wouldn’t have to feel ever again.