The sequel to Danny Boyle and Alex Garland's lean, relentless horror show 28 DAYS LATER (2002), begins with a craven act of betrayal and ends on a mean, sly joke with an apocalyptic punch line. In between, it alternates between creeping dread and sheer panic as the nightmarish rage virus, which transformed most of England into slobbering, flailing, zombified cannibals and the rest into a moving flesh feast, erupts anew.
It's been months since the virus escaped an animal testing lab and unleashed anarchy in the U.K., divided it into the infected, stripped of every human impulse except the uncontrolled need to eat, and the not-yet-infected, ever-dwindling bands of survivors keeping their heads low, their guns cocked and their hopes pinned on help from abroad. Don and Alice Harris (Robert Carlyle, Catherine McCormack) are holed up in a dark farmhouse with a handful of others, eating tinned goods and creeping around like church mice until their fragile sanctuary is inevitably invaded by the grunting, scrabbling infected. Only Don escapes; his split-second decision to leave Alice to her fate will come back to haunt him in ways he can't imagine.
Twenty-eight weeks later, American-lead NATO forces under the command of no-nonsense General Stone (Idris Elba) have secured a small piece of London, a shiny new housing development on the Isle of Dogs, and are supervising England's reconstruction. The last of the infected appear to have died off, and survivors have been rescued and relocated. Citizens abroad when the outbreak began are being repatriated, including Alice and Don's children, 10-year-old Alex (Mackintosh Muggleton) and teenage Tamara (Imogen Poots), who accept their father's tearful, self-servingly inaccurate account of Alice's death because really, what's the good of asking questions whose answers you don't want to hear? But being youngsters, they defy the first rule of the new order and venture out of the green zone in search of mementos of their old life. They find a doozy of a keepsake, and in a reckless moment, the rage emerges from hiding.
If 28 DAYS LATER put a monster-movie spin on the specter of global pandemic and social collapse, Spanish filmmaker Juan Carlos Fresnadillo's (INTACTO) follow-up is a pointed allegory of Gulf War chaos. It's not subtle, but zombie movies are blunt tools: From WHITE ZOMBIE and THE PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES, in which rapacious capitalists staff their mills and factories with mindlessly obedient dead men, to George Romero's DEAD films, with their creeping class imagery, this genre wears its subtexts on its rotting sleeves. 28 WEEKS LATER is flawed — the constant reappearance of one key character verges on the absurd — but it knows where it's going, and it gets there in a chilling blaze of fire, blood and poisonous fog. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh