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Film Review: "28 Weeks Later", 20th Century Fox, 2007

The idea of a sequel to cult UK horror flick 28 Days Later had us here at BFOF immediately sceptical. It seemed to us like an unnecessary follow up to a decent original out to tarnish its good reputation in the vein of Blair Witch Project 2 or Jurassic Park XII: This time the dinosaurs speak Welsh. It is the not-at-all-predictable tale of the UK plague where angry folk roam around unintelligently searching for non-infected characters to disembowel.

The zombies are back: but this time its just impersonal mass slaughter on a national scale again. And 28 weeks later as well, what a massive twist of fate. Cruel Coincidence, why do you mock us British so?! As obvious and banal as the storyline is however, (could it really have been anything else?) there is no doubting the class in the way this film is produced.

Ambassador, what giant great green gashes youíve got

With the ďrage virusĒ infuriating those unfortunate enough to become inflicted with the disease, the previously ravaged London and UK is bracing itself for the return of the non-hopping mad. Itís not a massive spoiler to say that the repatriation was not quite the resounding success it was hoped, and it isnít therefore the 120 gripping minutes of speeches made by the UK ambassador to the UN thanking the USA for its kind help in its time of need, that we were all hoping for.

So then, instead of international bureaucracy we get this: eyes being gauged out and intestines going everywhere. And a lot of people spewing up blood uncontrollably. So then, not a film which is going to win prizes for originality. What it does deserve accolades for, on the other hand, is the manner in which it goes effusively about its business. Plot twists throughout are frequently less than expected; this is no Hollywood save-the-world story of a hero single-handedly kick boxing the un-dead to death.

"Shit!" : There is an awful lot of running away from stuff in this film

Killing the atmosphere

What this film gets absolutely spot-on is the creation of an atmosphere which, in spite of the obvious fact that it is completely implausible, is both chilling and sinisterly horrendous. The unsettling scenes of mass murder on the streets of London or disturbing portrayals of the normal people being dispatched like flies leave an unnerving impression. Likewise, the deserted city streets and eerie silences really enhance the feeling of hopelessness and of the real magnitude and grandeur of events.

This hauntingly atmospheric foundation would not likely have had half the impact it does were it not for the superbly gruesome depictions of violence and the equally striking special effects such as the firebombing of Londonís Canary Wharf safe zone. The intensity of the attack scenes in which the central characters of the film thrash around holding onto their increasingly unlikely lives is so finely portrayed its physically draining to watch. Equally complimentary is the frequent use of ghostly silence, interspersed with sudden bouts of very loud music (usually when something particularly ghastly is happening to someone on screen).

Scenes of killing barely let up the whole way through, and as a consequence the impact does inevitably diminish somewhat.

The film manages to find an admirable balance, being simultaneously serious or genuine while employing the kind of loose, playful story telling which makes it easy to overlook and not care about some of the more implausible events which occur throughout, or the choppy and dubious dialogue which sometimes rears its ugly blood stained head. On a basic level at least, itís an extremely entertaining film to watch for those of us partial to prolonged representations of extreme violence being played out in front of our eyes.

If the spooks donít get you, the USA will

Meanwhile, the filmís makers are frequently happy wearing political leanings subtly on sleeves. The US army is seemingly unilaterally brought in to oversee the repatriation of Britain (ďmeh, it was 28 weeks ago, surely the virus is gone by now, best repatriate ASAP just to be on the safe side. Oh.Ē) Though the army is depicted in an on-the-whole favourable light, it is striking to watch the way they deal with the crises of the growing threat as it begins to escalate, and in which they eventually resort to mass indiscriminate extermination. This action is equally disturbing (arguably more so given itís connotations within the realm of the zombie-less real world) as anything the acrimonious actions of the zealous plagued can muster.

Mind you, silver linings and all that. At least Chelsea FC got destroyed.

BFOF Rating: * * * *