28 Weeks Later

Directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo

Starring: Robert Carlyle, Catherine McCormack, Amanda Walker

Certificate: 18:

Running Time: 99 minutes

UK Release Date: 11th May 2007

A rash of zombie films in recent years has certainly tested audience appetite for a sub-genre that looked decapitated, staked, bludgeoned, burnt and safely disposed of a decade ago. Weíve had comedic homage with Shaun of the Dead, tongue-in-cheek remake courtesy of Dawn of the Dead and political statement from the grand master of the undead George A Romero in the form of Land of the Dead. Apart from the implicit blood and gore, the subject matter has always lent itself well to the allegorical treatment - with the best of Romeroís work constituting a subverted, nightmare vision of the real world and even Simon Peggís romzomcom saying more about todayís submissive society than a thousand conservative party political broadcasts - but there is only so much creative juice to be squeezed from this particular fruit and it is in danger of running out.

It was with a fair amount of trepidation therefore that I ventured to a screening of 28 Weeks Later, a sequel of sorts to Danny Boyleís accomplished 2002 film 28 Days Later (read my review in the archive section). I say sequel of sorts because in those twenty-four weeks since the last story concluded the new Wembley Stadium has been built from scratch and flat screen televisions become the must-have commodity. Very minor details but I couldnít let them pass without mention. Thankfully I can report that my more fundamental concerns were unfounded.

The story begins this time when the national pandemic has subsided and an American-led NATO force has been called in to monitor the first arrivals of an experimental new society in Londonís Isle of Dogs. Don (Robert Carlyle) is reunited with his young son and daughter (fortunately abroad when the plague cut a crimson swathe through Britainís population) but is reluctant to share the true circumstances of their motherís death with them. When the pair venture into the unguarded part of the city and find their estranged parent alive (and unwell) they bring her and the disease back to the nascent community. Needless to say, soon all hell breaks loose and both the living and living-dead find themselves targets in the ensuing carnage.

Juan Carlos Fresnadillo takes over the directorial reigns from Danny Boyle and is the architect of the filmís many successes. Quite simply, this is the best zombie film in the last ten years, perhaps ever; the best directed, best written, most original and most ambitiously photographed. From the zombiesí opening salvo on Donís safehouse the action sequences are manic and disorientating, shot from every possible perspective you could imagine. Most importantly they are captivating and scary, neither lingering on the more brutal or gory elements nor glossing over them; Instead making us believe they were filmed on the spot and that the events depicted in them real. On top of that, the sheer variety of landscapes and locales featured, from the grisly back streets of decaying suburbia to the pitch-black subterranean tunnels of the underground network (all filmed using a breathtaking array of techniques) is truly impressive, contributing to a series of memorable set-pieces that will shred the nerves.

Fresnadillo was also co-writer and masterfully puts the building blocks for a good story in place in what could be deemed the somewhat ponderous first act, establishing the importance of the children to mankindís future, as well as their place in a fractured biological and surrogate family which arrogantly boasts victory over the disease. When events take a turn for the worse the plight of the central characters and their quest to find sanctuary (neatly at the new Wembley Stadium) matter more precisely because we have a substantial investment in them. The story therefore doesnít feel padded but succinct and rounded (unlike the slightly disjointed original which, to a certain extent, didnít quite know what to do with its protagonists once the zombies were effectively beaten). The introduction of the gun-toting Americans soldiers, no doubt a nod to certain events in Iraq, and their subsequent betrayal of the people they are supposedly protecting, is another very clever twist that adds a fresh dimension to proceedings.

There are some minor gripes - at times one too many aerial shots of Londonís skyscrapers made me feel like I was watching an episode of The Apprentice, and Robert Carlyleís constant reappearances at opportune moments stretched credibility to breaking point Ė but they do not detract from an expertly crafted piece of horror.

4 Stars

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