We’re in Year Six of Hollywood’s zombification of our horror movies—a reign of moderate terror—that peaked with Dawn and Shawn of the Dead, and it’s gotten steadily sillier. Hopefully this head-slappingly silly sequel to Danny Boyle’s vicious 28 Days Later will be the silver bullet that leaves the genre as dead as the mid-‘90s sexy vampire craze. So lets start the carnage, shall we?
28 Weeks Later kicks off on Day 15 of the infection crisis, where good, god-fearing Englishmen are catching the rage virus—a nasty thing that has them spitting up blood and bashing their heads against everything like angry moths. In 20 seconds, the bitten transform into the biters; in a crowded room, all it takes is one Infected (as the government calls them) to take a lusty bite of his neighbor, and you’ve got a seething mass of screams and hysteria in less time than it takes to microwave popcorn. (Does this happen here? Of course it does.)
Back when the zombification plague was gunning full-throttle, Don (Robert Carlyle, one of the knocker-doffers in The Full Monty) and his wife Linda (Catherine McCormack) were holed up in a farmhouse under siege by the undead. With their two children safely abroad, they considered themselves one of the lucky—until a whole Brady Bunch of Infecteds tore down their walls and Don chose survival over rescuing his wife. He’s haunted by memories of Linda’s pale, pretty face begging him to save her as he sprinted to safety. At least whatever zombie mom she became has starved to death by now, since everyone else is either dead or across the Channel, leaving the US-led occupying forces to declare, cautiously, that England is now Infection-free. Anyone who reads the newspapers knows that American military optimism is worth its weight in hot air, but lured by cheap real estate and sentiment, remaining ex-pats start to trickle back six months later.
Naturally, when his children Tammy and Andy (the fabulously named Imogen Poots and Mackintosh Muggleton) are admitted back into quarantined London, Don doesn’t say a word about his dastardly Sophie’s choice. It’s time for normalcy—which lasts precisely 28 weeks and one day. While it’s tempting to see Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and Rowan Joffe’s half-cocked flick as a full-throttle screed against the Iraqi occupation (excepting Jeremy Renner’s Sgt. Doyle, the clueless US soldiers aren’t troubled by wasting civilians), that’s being far too generous to a script with more holes than one of their victims. As a tenuous military analogy, it squeaks by, but as an action flick, it’s a frenetic mess. Every fight scene feels like it was filmed dangling from a galloping horse. You can’t make anything out but fingers and blood and zombies banging around the walls like attention-starved brats. And when you’ve seen (or not seen) all you can bear of that, Fresnadillo shoots the same scramble by flashlight, then by strobe. The only way to avoid a seizure is to roll your eyes and look at your watch.
When not battling zombies and the military, the remaining family members spend the second half of the movie sprinting to emo music pursued by the most tenacious and ludicrously victim-specific enemy since Jaws IV followed the Brodys to the Bahamas. At least that film had Michael Caine. Let’s hope that when all these market-saturating zombies are finally returned to B-movie earth, we can get a resurrection of some good old-fashioned killer animal movies. That’s the best way to keep us out of the water—and giddily screaming in the multiplex.