And then occasionally, once in a blue moon in fact, a rare effort comes along that is better than the previous film. It not only builds upon what came before it, but improves upon it. And even occasionally does right what the previous film did wrong. And like Dawn of the Dead was to Night of the Living Dead, so too 28 Weeks Later is to 28 Days Later. This is a completely different film. 28 Days Later was a small story. It was a few people running from an outbreak only to run headlong into human nature.
This time, the zombies are gone and people are trying to start over again. They’re going home. Going back to work. Picking up the pieces. And just when everything seems to be going fine, the worst-case scenario happens. And, quite literally, all hell breaks loose. Which, of course, is exactly when this movie goes from being just a solid sequel to being a Holy shit, what the fuck did I just sign up for ass kicking kind of horror film. It’s brutal, it’s bloody and it is sometimes just plain downright mean. There comes this point about halfway through in which it becomes kind of like the film Spartan in which the main characters begin having horrible things happening to them and drop off in unpredictable orders. It broadsides you, leaves you off balance and you begin thinking no one is safe. Not a single character. Which is exactly how a great horror film should be. Especially in a series that borrows so heavily from Romero.
What I’ve come to love about this series is just how it handles its material. There’s no way to see this as anything but derivative – like it was conceived during a fever dream by someone who’d fallen asleep after watching both Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and The Crazies followed up by a handful of viewings of The Omega Man. But while it definitely borrows liberally from all of these, it also melds them so well together that it becomes its very own beast in its own right. I mean, these REALLY aren’t zombies. They certainly aren’t the undead. And they play by neither set of established zombie rules. And while this is an outbreak movie, the real fear isn’t infection – it is getting torn apart and eaten by someone who just 8 seconds ago was your best friend. So in effect, Danny Boyle has created a third strain of zombies – zombies that can be killed like normal people, except that they turn instantly, run faster and only need to puke blood on you to bring you to their side.
And frankly, it’s refreshing to see someone doing something a bit different – especially with zombies. And it also helps that this series goes to excessive lengths to create some new and exciting never-before-seen set pieces. The last act of this film has so many jaw dropping sequences unlike any horror film you’ve ever seen that it’s hard to believe they all came from the same film. Which also serves to enforce just what they did right with this one. Those that have problems with 28 Days Later all tend to complain about the same thing – the last act. Here, rather than being the weakest part of the film, it’s the strongest. Virtually all of the best moments of the film are jam packed into the last 25-30 minutes. And the ending is everything you want from a film like this. Simply incredible.
Director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (director of the brilliant and criminally under seen Spanish supernatural thriller Intacto) delivers upon all the promise he showed in his previous effort. This movie is a gritty, dirt-under-your-fingernails kind of raw that 28 Days Later grasped at with Digital but this movie accomplishes with much better production values. Not that the money made the difference, but Fresnadillo’s style added a layer of depth to what could have been just drab.
I can’t sing the praises of this film enough. It really and truly is the visceral, unhinged horror film that we all have deeply wished it could be. Highly Recommended for anyone who has ever enjoyed a zombie film, and Required Viewing for anyone who loves either incarnation of Dawn of the Dead. Not Recommended for the timid, the squeamish or anyone who doesn’t feel like they want to get their ass kicked for a paltry $8. Really, the only people who shouldn’t see this film are people who just don’t like horror or gore. This is the film those who were disappointed with the last film wish it could have been.