Sunday, May 13, 2007
28 Weeks Later (2007)
28 Weeks Later is the sequel to the amazing British film 28 Days Later that took the zombie film and turned it on it's head in a few different ways. The story is pretty straight forward, being devoid of any unnecessary twists or pointless character background. The virus that infected the English population in the first film has been eradicated and London is being slowly, and carefully, "re-populated". Unfortunately, the virus proves to be more difficult to wipe out than originally thought and it re-infects the population. The U.S. led NATO force occupying London tries to contain the spread, but eventually has to resort to "Code Red" and things get nasty really quick as a small group of people who managed to avoid being infected has to find a way out of London before the entire city is "cleansed".
This movie surpassed my low expectations on so many levels. What I expected to be a by-the-numbers action movie with ridiculous CGI effects and story lines involving hackneyed child characters was, in fact, one of the smartest films I've seen in ages. Extremely dark in nature, apocalyptic in a very literal sense and brutal in ways that are far too realistic, 28 Weeks Later is easily the finest horror film I've seen since The Descent. This is to say that there are scenes of violence and bloodshed that are both grotesque and frightening, but also truly heart wrenching. Too often horror films emphasize the brutality of death and violence and lose sight of the impact it has and how it affects people. The horror becomes nothing more than a cheap entertainment gag and an exercise in technological wizardry. 28 Weeks Later is certainly a special effects triumph and there are plenty of jolts and scares. However, it also maintains the ability to keep the viewer very aware that the point of a horror film is often to horrify rather than just scare. There are scenes where the violence is truly over the top and grotesque and the viewer is not disconnected from it they way one might be in, say, a low budg' slasher movie. There are very bad things happening on the screen and there's nothing fun about it.
The reviewer at Bloody Disgusting makes a great point that I want to reiterate. Part of the downfall of most Zombie movies (or horror movie in general) is that there are always "heroes" and "villains" among the humans. Dawn of the Dead had the macho security guards, Night of the Living Dead had the disruptive and paranoid guy in the basement, Day of the Dead had the overzealous and power hungry military guys as did 28 Days Later. The "non-infected" people in 28 Weeks Later are not one dimensional and take actions that are understandable no matter how the audience may feel about them. Again, it's the lack of disconnect from the film that makes this a truly horrifying movie. You are not given the chance to think "well, you had that coming because you did this or acted this way or are like this...." because if put into the same situation, you'd most likely do the same thing.
The military theme is an interesting one as well. An English film directed by a Spanish director, the movie could easily be seen as a statement on the current American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. While things probably won't get out of control the way they do in the film (uh, duh), you can see the parallels easily which, once again, makes scenes involving the "justification of extreme measures" all the more disturbing.
All that being said, this isn't a flawless movie. There are elements of the movie that are a little hard to swallow, but it's important to remind yourself that a) this is a movie about crazed cannibals and the nihilistic destruction of all humanity and b) the movie does, after all, strive to entertain. So some of the questions one might ask -why does that one particular zombie always manage to find the good guys - are easily answered with "because it makes the movie that much more scary".
Quick note - Yes, I know that the zombies are not actually "zombies" in the strict horror purist sense. So don't waste your time trying to explain that to me. I get it.
28 Weeks Later is a gruesome, remarkably gory and violent horror movie that is able to make a statement without being ham-handed about it. The acting is top notch, the story is simple and well done and the characters are multi-dimensional. It certainly made an impact on me and left me in what I call a "movie coma" where I sat thinking about it for a couple of hours afterwards. This movie is fucking awesome.
- Complaint Dept.
Owa Maya Gawd. I had low expectations going into this movie. I really liked 28 Days Later. I mean, really liked it. And don't even get me started on my love for Cillian Murphy. What I'm usually not a fan of is sequels. So, was I excited about seeing a sequel to an already great movie minus my boyfriend in it? Not especially. I knew I was going to see it, but never expected to freak-out fall in LOVE with it. I cannot even begin to explain my love for this movie.
My favorite genre of Horror movies are zombie flicks. Plain and simple. Now, I realize 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later aren't actually zombie flicks, but they are the next best thing - cannibal flicks! Sign me up!!! I absolutely love them and the more blood, the better. This movie has some of the coolest gore ever. I mean blood and guts and heads and limbs and mouths full of blood and eyes full of blood. It splatters, it drains and it's amazing.
The blood isn't the only good part about this movie. It's scary. Genuinely scary. I don't want to give anything away, so I'll keep it at that. The acting is good (come on - Begbie is in it!), the characters are well-developed and not over the top (like in the Dawn of the Dead remake) and they are human. They do shitty things in the movie that suck, but then make you wonder what you would do in the same situation and chances are - you would do the exact same thing they did.
I cannot say enough good stuff about this movie, so I'll stop. I will tell you this though - 2 minutes into the movie I thought to myself - I don't care what happens in the rest of this film, I heart this movie. And that's that...I heart 28 Weeks Later and you should too or else you're dumb.
While I cannot say that my first instinct about this movie was true, it turns out it was closer to the truth than I would have wished. Like Complaint Department, I thought that the movie was going to be a bad CGI wasteland offset by feelgood "kid" actors. Once I started hearing reviews and talking to people though, it seemed like my expectations were based on a poorly-made trailer, and not a poorly-made movie.
It took me a few weeks to get around to seeing this, but by the time I managed to get to the theater my expectations had shifted from thinking it would suck, to thinking it could be really good. Boy was I let down.
WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD!! This film has been out in the theater for about a month, if you haven't seen it by now, be warned that I will address specific things in the movie that might spoil it.
Complaint Department concedes in his review that there are elements that are hard to swallow, and unfortunately for me I just can't get past them. The first 15 minutes of the film are amazing, and I was truly sweating in my seat wondering if this could in fact be one of the greatest horror films ever made. And then, like so many other films, 28 Weeks Later seemed to give up on its audience, and itself. A list of crummy things:
- Daddy zombie showing up EVERYWHERE was insulting to the audience.
- The main characters did turn out to be little kids. Boo.
- Said little kids break out of quarantine just to go get a picture of their mum, and in turn cause a whole new outbreak. Stupid.
- Um, why does Daddy zombie tear out Mommy half-zombie's eyes?
- When your horror / drama film has an action climax that is half looney tunes out of control firehose and half stolen from Planet Terror with a helicopter taking out a horde of zombies, you know your film has issues.
There were parts of the movie that were well done. I too really liked the military aspect of the film, probably more than any other aspect. I liked how they focused on the U.K.'s proliferation of video surveilance and showed it being used to keep tabs on the population. I also really thought that the opening sequence was amazing at setting the mood and upping the adrenaline for the film. Finally, the scene where the group moves through the subway and you can only see through the rifle's night vision scope as the kids fall over bodies that lay strewn all over the ground was truly one of the most claustrophobic and terrifying pieces of cinema I have seen yet.
But in the end I think that this was a movie that went nowhere. I felt no connection to ANY of the characters, and there was never a sense of purpose in them getting from point A to point B. It seemed like they wandered around for an hour and then stubled into a stadium where the rescue chopper sits waiting for them. 28 Weeks Later copped out in too many ways for me to walk away feeling anything but distaste for it.
- the fucking beard