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20th Century Fox presents
"Abandon selective targeting. Shoot everything. Targets are now free. We've lost control."
DVD ReviewAs a sequel to Danny Boyle's thrill ride virus flick 28 Days Later, writer/director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo's 28 Weeks Later dispenses with any character carryover (not that there were really that many left), and instead focuses on the chaotic aftermath of attempting to control the nasty rage virus and somehow re-establish order, all set six months after the events of the original film.
The reconstruction of ravaged London has begun, with heavily-armed NATO troops patrolling the city and the 15,000 returning citizens/refugees shuttled in by train with strict governmental orders to avoid crossing the river, due to the as-of-yet unclaimed bodies and roving packs of dogs and rats that still litter the surrounding areas. It has been six months since the last infected human has been seen, though no one has any idea how to prevent the rage virus (which turns humans into flesh-eating killing machines a few seconds after infection) from starting up all over again.
But considering this is a horror movie, you're pretty safe in assuming that the plan goes to crap rather quickly. Oddly named actors Imogen Poots and Mackintosh Muggleton play a young sister-brother refugee pair reunited with their father (Robert Carlyle), who during the film's opening flashback sequence narrowly avoids being killed during a frenetic "infected" attack. What follows is Fresnadillo carefully building up to the new outbreak—which we all know is going to happen—and when it does, it erupts with great waves of bloody chaos, as a small band of survivors who may hold the key to a cure find themselves not only trying to avoid the rage-infected humans, but the military, who have initiated the wipe-out-everything-that-moves-operation known as Code Red.
Fresnadillo fills Boyle's directing shoes pretty well here, adopting a visual style that serves as a natural connective link to the first film. The pacing, especially once things go horribly wrong again, is fast and brutal, with the rapidly spreading virus and rooftop military snipers adding dual-layer danger for the main characters. So many times sequels veer off the style path, ending up resembling the original in name only, whereas Fresnadillo plays the role of both forger and artist, making a film that is a logical followup storywise, and also one that tries to understandably escalate the danger and gore. A wild helicopter sequence—in which the spinning rotors act as a giant Cuisinart—is conceptually ridiculous, but so boldly unfettered in its execution that it seems somehow believable.
Perhaps the camera cuts are sometimes a bit too manic during the attack scenes, but the editing seems designed to recreate the implied frantic nature of a zombie attack. And while the boundaries of the plot may seem limited in range—characters must avoid getting killed—Fresnadillo wisely goes for broke when necessary, even turning simple moments like a kiss into one of those fidgety hard-to-watch bits we all know is going to end horribly. It's a pivotal moment in 28 Weeks Later, and Fresnadillo compounds the tension by taking his time in getting to the bloody payoff we all know is coming.
Sequels are a tricky business in the horror genre; many fail miserably and just become bastardizations of a perceived new studio franchise. 28 Weeks Later sidesteps the inherent trickiness, and cleanly builds upon the situations created in the original, advancing the storyline in a satisfying and logical fashion. In and of itself, that's quite an accomplishment for a horror sequel, and Fresnadillo has assembled a very exciting and grim adventure that plays like a natural progression of Boyle's film.
Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-
Image Transfer Review: 28 Weeks Later is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Fresnadillo employs a noticeably desaturated palette throughout much of the film, and the attack sequences are often purposely grainy and dark, with an almost documentary feel to them. During some of the more controlled sequences (the underground military bunker, for example) colors appear slightly more robust, though still far from natural levels. This intentionally stylized approach can make transfer flaws sometimes more difficult to properly isolate, as the director-sanctioned rough appearance can sometimes mask other imperfections.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix doesn't quite immerse me in the middle of things like I would like, but the presentation is better than it is worse. Score elements have a deep resonance to them, as do sound cues such as sniper fire and a rampaging helicopter. Rear channels are used often, so there is some sense of being surrounded at times, but the quality of these discrete cues is never especially precise or focused. Hardly awful, and certainly aggressive, but just not the kind of track to elevate the viewing experience exponentially.
A 2.0 stereo English track enhanced for the hearing impaired ("snarling, hissing") is also included, as are French and Spanish 2.0 surround dubs.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 29 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
8 Other Trailer(s) featuring Day Watch, Sunshine, 28 Days Later, The Hills Have Eyes 2, Lake Placid 2, Pathfinder, Perfect Creature, Wrong Turn 2
2 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Enrique Lopez Lavigne
Extras Review: Extras begin with a commentary track from writer/director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and writer/producer Enrique Lopez Lavigne. The content is good, especially when they're discussing the evolution of the project, but the presentation is slightly dry, making this a marginal recommendation, considering the same material is covered in a more concise manner in the accompanying featurettes.
A pair of deleted scenes (05m:20s) feature an optional commentary from Fresnadillo and Lavigne explaining why the character development footage was cut for pacing and repetition. The aforementioned three short featurettes—Code Red: Making of 28 Weeks Later (13m:06s), The Infected (06m:06s), Getting Into The Action (07m:14s)—daisychain together well to present a nice, watchable background on the project, including actor Rose Byrne's praising the infected's ability to "run, scream, shout, and gurgle blood."
The best extras, however, are the two graphic-novel-styled Flash-animated segments—28 Days Later: The Aftermath: Stage 1 "Development" (07m:36s) and 28 Days Later: The Aftermath: Stage 3 "Decimation" (04m:47s). These standouts are not just a couple of very unique, polished features, but also provide necessary thematic tethers to both Boyle's and Fresnadillo's films.
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsWith 28 Weeks Later, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo proves himself to be more than up to the unenviable task of helming a sequel to Danny Boyle's original infected human/virus flick. Wonderfully dark, gloomy, and downbeat, Fresnadillo piles on the bodies as the dreaded rage virus once again runs rampant.
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