Friday, May 11, 2007

Zombie Madness!

Below is my review of zombie sequel 28 Weeks Later, as it appears in Las Vegas City Life.

The horror shocker has received a score of 78 (generally favorable) at MetaCritic. Go here for more reviews.

More gore
28 Weeks Later doesn't stray far from its predecessor

CHOPPER BLADES SLICE UP frothing zombies like a shredder taking apart so many paper dolls, and geysers of blood flood the abandoned streets of London and its suburbs in 28 Weeks Later, Spanish-born director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo's sequel to Danny Boyle's visually captivating 2002 shocker, 28 Days Later. Yes, it's an all-out gore fest, sure to sate the bloodlust of the most dedicated connoisseurs of the latest cycle of victim-carving horror fare.

The prologue offers a measure of feel-good warmth, although it's weighted with dread regarding the inevitable attack. A hardy group of survivors, including Don (Robert Carlyle) and his wife Alice (Catherine McCormack) enjoy a candlelit pasta dinner at a farmhouse shuttered to prevent the raging hordes of zombies from detecting the presence of uninfected humans. At the dinner table, the topic turns to the group's fate. "There are no survivors," one man insists. "It's just us in here and them out there." Minutes later, that last supper is obliterated when bright light breaks through the grainy darkness and the vicious cannibals surge into the home, incisors ready for a serious bout of flesh-chomping. Don is the sole escapee from the carnage.

Twenty-eight weeks later, with all the zombies presumably dead, the U.S. military has arrived, and Don is working as a security specialist with all-area access. He's reunited with his adolescent son (MacKintosh Muggleton) and teenage daughter (Imogen Poots), who ultimately become valuable as potential sources for zombie-immune blood. The kids' fight for survival, with the help of a military scientist (Rose Byrne) and a Special Forces sniper (Jeremy Renner), drives the action in the second half of the film.

That said, Fresnadillo (Intacto) and his co-screenwriters practically demand a political reading of the bleakest movie of the summer (so far). After bands of raving zombies have overrun England and died from starvation, the United States begins a process of occupation and repatriation. And then, faster than you can say "Islamofascist terrorism," the disease erupts all over again and it becomes impossible to distinguish the good guys from those infected with zombie blood. The military's task goes from taking out selected evildoers to essentially destroying everything in sight. The command: "Target everyone at ground level. No exceptions." A bloodbath ensues, and zombies aren't the only ones eradicated.

Does that wartime scenario ring any bells? Of course, an alternate reading is here, too: When it comes to responding to evil scourges, a scorched-earth approach is the best way to go. Take no prisoners. Firebomb the place so that no evidence is left behind. Those looking for references to real-life events might also point to hints of 9/11 in the makeshift sidewalk memorials and "missing" posters, and evocations of Katrina's devastation in a rooftop with a masked-tape "I Am Here" sign.

Politics aside, 28 Weeks Later makes an effectively frightening thriller despite how the repeated attacks of these lightning-fast, new-school zombies soon become redundant. Viewers won't learn much new information about the zombies, beyond the fact the rage virus isn't airborne and, in some cases, can be carried by a victim who demonstrates only mild forms of the disease. Another rule about its transmission: Deep-mouth kissing with an infected person can lead to instant zombification. In the bleak world of 28 Weeks Later, even love kills.

28 Weeks Later

Robert Carlyle, Catherine McCormack, Rose Byrne. Directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo.

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