Countdown to Entropy

28 Weeks Later

28 Weeks Later. Catherine McCormack, Robert Carlyle, Amanda Walker, and Shahid Ahmed star in a film written by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Rowan Joffe, and Jes°s Olmo and directed by Fresnadillo.

As life gets tougher, our zombies get stronger. In an example of how real-world conditions will creep into our reel world experience, you may well notice a different response to 28 Weeks Later, a fine and edgy sequel to the nerve-chilling Danny Boyle film 28 Days Later. The ultimate chill factor is noticeably more muted this time around, and it’s by several degrees that Boyle’s film, about the ravaging effects of a “rage virus” that clears out London, is better and more cunningly calculated than young Spanish director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s sequel. And yet, it seems the more dire the outside world becomes, the more we’re able to relax into the fantasyland angst of sci-fi dread.

As we rejoin the story, survivors of the chaotic epidemic of the first film have escaped to safety in a bucolic outpost outside London, or so they think. After a presumed period of cleansing, when the affected victims have all died out, the U.S. Army sets up a green zone just across the Thames in London and hopes to begin repatriating a mobile population of returnees. Ah, but has the bug been licked? There lies the rub, and the mauling in the making.

We can find cold comfort, but comfort nonetheless, in viewing this allegory about biological and social vulnerability-civilization on the brink of anarchy-but chalking it up to the zombie genre. Yes, these “rage virus”-infected beasts are a spookier breed than the George Romero-esque models who lumber doggedly on your lawn. These puppies are hyper-adrenaline-ated zombies modeled more after rabid dogs.

Fresnadillo, abetted by cinematographer Enrique Chediak and the effects team, codifies his visual plan for the film by contrasting the scenes of relative calm and clarity that are interspersed throughout with the voracious attacks during the rage scenes. We never clearly see the attacks themselves because the visual style during those scenes is ultra-jittery and chaotic, making the sense of fear and sudden death weirdly palpable.

Overall, Fresnadillo’s film is a solid piece of work, with little interest in comic relief or cheeky winks along the dark and dour path. A steady, stealthy narrative propulsion meets the tricky blend of mass hysteria and personal emotionality of the sort War of the Worlds only feebly scratched the surface.

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