“28 Weeks Later,” isn’t the same thinking man’s zombie film as its predecessor — the surprise 2002 hit “28 Days Later” — but it ramps up the action and will leave you on edge enough that you’ll be searching for a nightlight before going to sleep.
As the title implies, it’s been 28 weeks since Britain dealt with breakout of the rage virus, which turned regular people into flesh-eating crazies. Unlike zombies, the rage- infected are no plodding, simple-minded opponents. They sprint after their victims and are vicious in their assault, just as quick to brutally pummel a victim than munch on their arms.
In an opening flashback scene, Director/co-writer Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (taking the series’ reins from Danny Boyle) wastes little time making those hairs on the back of your neck stand as a small band of survivors find their cottage attacked by a swarm of rage-victims.
Fresnadillo uses candles to illuminate the room and when the rage-victims claw through accompanied by unwelcome sunlight, it’s a legitimately frightening moment.
Only Don (Robert Carlyle) manages to escape, but is wracked with guilt over leaving his wife Alice (Catherine McCormack) behind. Now 28 weeks have passed and U.S.-led NATO forces, including sniper Doyle (Jeremy Renner, “The Bourne Legacy“) and helicopter pilot Flynn (Harold Perrineau, “LOST“) are still in the process of cleaning up the city — burning bodies and otherwise making sectors habitable again.
Don is rejoined by his children, Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton) and Tammy (Imogen Poots, “V for Vendetta”), who promptly leave the protected area to get some belongings from their old home and find mom is a lot less dead than dad would have them believe.
During this seemingly simple ride through an abandoned city, Fresnadillo oh-so-slightly plays with your nerves, alternating between tight close ups on the kids and wide shots showing the desolate state of the area, utilizing every other perspective as a shot through the eyes of a rage-victim just ready to pounce.
Sure enough, after Alice and the kids are brought back to the base, one of them is a carrier — infected by the virus, but immune to its effects. And then things get nuts when one starts infecting other people and the whole cycle starts all over again.
The script isn’t as smart as the previous film and has too many “dumb character” moments if only because it would take some very questionable actions to have a virus break out in the same place twice.
Their guardians, however, are fair game even if they’re far more interesting/better-developed characters.
Doyle is trying to get a group of survivors out of the war zone while Scarlet (Rose Byrne, “Troy”) wants to get the kids out to develop an virus antidote. Renner and Byrne are decent, but their characters aren’t the most complex and the focus is disappointingly really on Andy and Tammy.
While he doesn’t have Boyle’s knack in making the non-action scenes just as engaging, Fresnadillo proves just as capable with the action scenes. He plays with the audience’s expectations toying with flickering lights, stark red lighting, camera shots to develop a vivid sense of claustrophobia. John Murphy returns from the original to provide some continuity with the sequel’s score, which skillfully keeps you nervy throughout.
This is another sequel that fans of the original should enjoy even if it doesn’t add a lot to the rage-virus story.
Rating: 7 out of 10