Wednesday, October 28, 2015

7 Days of Halloween: 28 Weeks Later

File:28 weeks later.jpgFrom the very first attack, there seems to be about a thousand things happening simultaneously. But just as with the first film ("28 Days Later"), "28 Weeks Later" dispenses with one complication of these kinds of horror films: these monsters can run, and they are a hell of a lot meaner than any other zombie in any other film or show. And not only that, but they keep the zombie tradition that is ubiquitous in these films: anyone--your partner, your parents, your children--can be infected and turn on you. This might truly be the most horrifying aspect of this horror subgenre.

As the title suggests, it has been 28 weeks since the massive epidemic known as the rage virus decimated England. Most of the infected have died from starvation, and an American-led NATO force is brought in to return the survivors, temporarily house them, and keep them safe. Here we meet a variety of characters: Robert Carlyle, one of those rare actors who has a screen persona and presence that is so remarkable yet ordinary, is a family man who is separated from his children but still has his wife. The two of them are with a group of survivors in the beginning of the movie, and they are quickly attacked and most are infected. He escapes and leaves his wife behind. The ethics and morality of his decision--and whether or not there was something he could actually do to save her--I'm sure are on the minds of viewers as they watch the film. Because of the various changes the father goes through, Carlyle likely was quite enticed at the thought of playing him. He's reunited with his children (Imogen Poots and Mackintosh Muggleton), who were in Spain at the time of the outbreak. Among the other cast members are part of the American forces: Rose Byrne is a medical officer, Harold Perrineau is a helicopter pilot, Jeremy Renner (a year before his Oscar-nominated performance in "The Hurt Locker") is a sniper, and Idris Elba is a hawkish general willing to do anything to contain the situation.

Teenagers aren't always the most responsible people in the world, but it's hard to believe that the teenage daughter would take her younger brother back to their home away from the protected zone (and without notifying their father) simply to find some of their nostalgia items. But that they do. I won't reveal what happens next, but it's pretty much a nasty domino effect, all because of their field trip.

This film will probably satisfy horror fans but it safely relies on the usual tricks. There are nightmares, things that go bump in the night, strobe lights, gore, and a lot of blood. It's far grosser than I remember the first one being, so much so that I had to turn away several times. This is a film that is in love with the color red--it's in practically every scene. In addition to the copious amounts of blood, the emergency lights are red, the boy's hoodie is red, and the Americans order a Code Red to destroy the infected. At times it seems like it's the only hue in the entire palate.

One of the reasons, I suspect, that so many people are turned off from horror movies is how bleek a picture these movies paint of the world. They frequently play to our fears not simply of the dark, of aliens, of ghosts, monsters (real and imaginary) but also our fear of germs, infections, the apocalypse, turmoil, and biochemical warfare, among others. "28 Weeks Later" marries the two, though sometimes when watching the film (which I'm convinced will one day have a sequel), one wonders how necessary some of the imagery is. It's more ambitious than its predecessor and just as dark, but it also becomes a bit boring half-way through despite remaining migraine-inducing. It's a truly gruesome film, at times inconceivable yet spooky nevertheless.

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