28 Days Later : a sinewy horror movie arrives that reboots the zombie flick for the 21st century, making deadheads very happy indeed.
Five Years Later: director Danny Boyle and writer Alex Garland eff-off into the Sunshine , taking star Cillian Murphy with them, and pass the sequel reigns to little-known Spanish director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo.
98 Minutes Later: you’re convinced this is no slapdash sequel. Sure, it regurgitates its predecessor like a zombie puking blood-vomit, but it’s stylish, disturbing and not without its own ideas.
Set, erm, 28 weeks after the initial outbreak of the Rage virus, 28 Weeks Later takes place in a post-plague London that’s gone to the dogs – the Isle of Dogs. That’s where the US military has broken the quarantine as 15,000 civilians begin to rebuild their lives in the shadow of Canary Wharf (strangely, there’s no mention of the British armed forces; perhaps they’re too busy selling their zombie stories to The Sun). Among the civvies are Don (Robert Carlyle) and his kids Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton) and Tammy (Imogen Poots). But when Don’s supposedly dead missus is found alive and (not very) well, another outbreak of Rage is on the cards. Best start running...
Running is what 28 Weeks Later does best. It’s as if Fresnadillo took the most memorable sequence from his arty oddity Intacto – the blindfolded forest race – and stretched it into a 90-minute, 90km steeplechase. Any tie-in videogame will probably be virtually indistinguishable from the movie: Level 1, escape the infected Isle of Dogs; Level 2, survive the streets of London; Level 3 drive through poison gas clouds while being chased by a helicopter gunship and a horde of infected.
It’s non-stop action, breathless to the point of asthma. Fresnadillo isn’t afraid of standing still – he works hard to bring a little humanity to the blood-splattered proceedings – but he’s at his best when screeching packs of Infected are hoofing, chomping and, in one colourful sequence, being mass decapitated by helicopter.
The dialogue isn’t quite so successful, with Rose Byrne’s scientist and Jeremy Renner’s army sniper given to uttering atmosphere-piercing clichés. And don’t question the logic either (oh, go on then – would anyone really tonsil snog their Infected wife?)
Yet, there are moments here that beckon nightmares: the puking, raging Infected remain terrifyingly implacable beserkers; empty London landmarks (Regents Park, The Millennium Bridge, Wembley Stadium) are eerily strange yet familiar; and the opening 10 minutes – all handheld cameras and chaotic self-preservation as the Infected attack a rural farmhouse – deserves props as one of the most disturbingly intense sequences you’ll see this year.
By the time the credits roll (and an epilogue opens up the possibility of 28 Months Later across the Channel), the Infected will be the only ones moaning. Everyone else will be left satisfied and satiated – at least until the inevitable third installment charges into cinemas.
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A frantic follow-up that delivers jolts, claret and just enough character to make you care. Looks like these Infected zombies still have legs...