Thursday, May 10, 2007

28 WEEKS LATER - wickedly brutal horror, but a plot with holes you could drive a horse and cart through

Day One. A mutant infection turns humans into slavering cannibalistic vicious Beasties. 28 DAYS LATER, Cillian Murphy emerged from St Thomas Hospital and wandered onto an empty Westminster Bridge, down the Strand and Fleet Street and up Ludgate Hill to St Paul's Cathedral. In Danny Boyle's cult horror hit of 2002, much worse carnage was to follow. But nothing was so frightening as seeing London - specifically the London streets outside my house - decimated by disease.

When a small British movie takes six times its budget at the US box office, you can bet a franchise has been born. The first installment opens as the last film ends with Robert Carlyle's character giving in to the survival instinct and abandoning his wife to the infected. It's a truly horrific, shocking, emotionally brutal and bloody opening to a movie that uses handheld 16 mil and quick editing to keep the adrenaline up.

28 WEEKS LATER and the character works as a janitor in the Isle of Dogs - a secure area run by the US army. He has also been reunited with his children who were conveniently on holiday in Spain when the outbreak began. Cue a lot of traumatic equivocation about why mum didn't make it. There then follows a chain of events involving this family that provokes another outbreak of the infection. Cue lots of genuinely scary chase scenes in which Beasties and Britons are gunned down by US troops, the Isle of Dogs is firebombed and North London gassed. The pace is unrelenting, the score loud and monotonous and the effect exhausting. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (INTACTO) certainly knows how to scare the willies out of us with a bit of sleight of hand and a night-vision scope.

As far as it goes, this all makes for a decent horror movie. You have the genuine blood and guts and scares that are often missing from modern horror flicks. Best of all you have real acting and real emotional payoffs. Carlyle is of course brilliant, but the two kids, the delightfully named Imogen Poots and Mackintosh Muggleton, are also good. What it doesn't make for is a complex political allegory as I had been led to expect by some reviewers. This hardly matters. Sure, the US army runs the "camp", but frankly, given the storyline, you'd have to have a foreign power sorting stuff out. Britain is, after all, decimated.

But when the dust settled and I looked back on the film, I felt dissatisfied with a number of character and plot implausibilities.* As a result, while I had a brilliantly bad time watching 28 WEEKS LATER, it falls short of the originality and brilliance of the first film.

28 WEEKS LATER is on release in Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore, Philippines, Taiwan, the UK and the US. It opens in Malaysia on May 17th, in Estonia on May 18th, in Brazil and Mexico on June 1st, in Argentina and Bolivia on June th and in Spain on June 29th. It opens in Germany on July 19th, in Finland, Italy and Norway on September 7th and in Belgium, France and the Netherlands on September 19th.

*SPOILERS FOLLOW.........Why do apparently sensible kids decide to disregard common sense and orders to go into London? How come Janitor Dad has access to even the most high-level secure parts of District 1? How come Beastie-Mum has no guards? Did Beastie Mum allow Janitor Dad to kiss her deliberately. If so, it was pretty dumb considering she was bound to be his first victim. How did Wembley get built? Why in a movie previously so scrupulous about London topography do the heroes go from Regents Park to Wembley by way of Charing Cross Station? How come Beasties couldn't cross the channel first time round?..........


  1. Ah, but ignoring common sense is a staple of the horror genre. I mean how would people die if they did things that made sense.

    "Hey, I've got an idea. There's a killer picking us off one by one. So let's all split up and take these unreliable torches with us and no weapons."

    Every fucking time.

  2. True dat, but my vague memory is that 28 Days Later avoided the worst of this ridiculousness.

  3. More plot spoilers follow:

    - Why did they land at city but dock at gatwick?

    - Why did they go by Thames Barrier and then Tradewinds, travelling towards the airport as opposed to away?

    - Why did the US military believe that the best method of disease control was to put everyone into a single cramped dark space that they hadn't previously guarded?

    - How come the main baddie escapes the fireballing of the whole of the Isle of Dogs by hiding around a corner, whereas the goodies, much further away, barely escape?

    - How unlikely is it that they just so happen to meet the main baddie again on the north bound line at Charing Cross station, of all places?

    - How did they get to the Metropolitan line from there, and how did they know how?

    - Why did the disease management expert tell them to get an infected child to an uninfected country, as opposed to a specialist containment centre in London?

    - Why didn't they chase down the children when they escaped, they were on fucking bikes for goodness sakes, they have helicopters, and they attend immediately when they reach their house. So what, they followed them all the way there and then pounced? What the fuck?

    - Why did they think it was a good idea to put the all the lights out in the buildings when the virus was out?

    - Why did armed and trained guards get so easily overcome by an angry janitor with a disease?

    - Why does a virus appear as a bacteria under the microscope - bacterial infections have an incubation period of 2 weeks because of their relatively slow reproductive rate, whereas viruses can affect you almost immediately (within 5-20 minutes) making viral infection slightly believeable)

    - Why do the all the infected people just so happen to find the goodies, within 30 seconds of them, in a massive city like London. Do the infected have satnav and tabs on the people? It was believable in the first film where there were loads of infected - but not in this one where there were relatively few after the napalming.

    - Who mowed the lawn at Wembley?

    - Why is this film such utter wank?

  4. Also, how could the new Wembley even have been BUILT if this film is 28 WEEKS after the Rage first occured?