28 Weeks Later (2007)
28 WEEKS LATER
Review by Chad Shonk
There’s an episode of The Simpsons where Homer meets Mel Gibson. Mel is making a remake of the Capra/Stewart classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. He has brought Homer in to help him spruce up the ending, because Homer has declared the famous “Filibuster” scene from the original to be very very very boring. In Homer’s new finale, Mr. Smith, played by Gibson, proceeds to kill Congress and the President in a ridiculously violent sequence. At the height of the lunacy, he impales a man with an American Flag on a pole.
A few years later, Gibson, still a few years away from ranting about the Jews, made an insufferable film called The Patriot. As a fan of American Revolutionary history, I was doubly dismayed by its inaccuracies and just plain shitiness. At the end of this film, Gibson, playing an unnecessarily made up version of a real life guy (don’t get me started), is trying to kill the moustache-twirling Redcoat that he has been chasing the entire film. And, in the heat of the battle, what does Minuteman Riggs pick up as an impromptu weapon?
An American Flag.
On a pole.
Which led me to believe that when Mel saw his Simpsons episode, he thought, “Damn. That’s pretty fucking cool. I ought to use that.”
I was reminded of this watching 28 Weeks Later, the sequel to Danny Boyle’s 2002 post-apocalyptic zombie film, 28 Days Later. I saw it last night in a fairly packed late night screening in Culver City, California. It’s co-written and directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, who I’ve never heard of. Now I know why.
Did you see Grindhouse? Probably not, based on the box office, but you should have. In Robert Rodriguez’s half, Planet Terror, which is also a post-apocalyptic zombie movie, although a rather tongue-in-cheek one, there is a sequence where the heroes use a helicopter to massacre a group of infected zombies. Tilting the chopper towards the ground, they use the main rotor like a weed-whacker. It is silly. It is gruesome. It is stupid. It is awesome.
There is a scene in 28 Weeks Later that is a little bit, nay, exactly, like the one in Planet Terror. But it’s dead serious. It’s not a joke. But it’s still silly. It’s still stupid. And it is in no way awesome.
And neither is the rest of the movie.
As the title states, this film takes place 7 months after the original. The outbreak of the “rage virus” has been contained and eliminated. England is zombie-free. The only people living in the UK live in an Iraqi-like Green Zone, cut off from the rest of London, guarded by soldiers. The film follows two children whose mother was killed during the infection and have been reunited with their father, played by Trainspotting’s Robert Carlyle. Soon, a woman is discovered who may the last carrier of the virus, and her infected ass is brought into the “safe” Green zone.
28 Weeks Later is a mean, violent, nihilistic, humorless film with no humanity whatsoever. Which would be fine, if it were, say, well made. Scary. Entertaining. Poignant. Moving.
But it is none of these things. It is okay for about a half an hour, maybe 45 minutes, but, as the hilarity begins, so does the shitiness.
The first film was shot in a largely hand-held, docu-drama style that made it a visceral, frightening experience. 28 Weeks tries to emulate that style, but fails miserably. I am a fan, largely, of Shaky-Cam. I think that Paul Greengrass (Bourne Supremacy, Bloody Sunday, United 93) is one of the most exciting filmmakers working today. I believe that Gasper Noe’s Irreversible is vulgar, sensational masterpiece, and that its nausea-inducing camerawork is one of its greatest assets.
But in the hands on the wrong filmmaker, it can be a disaster (see Bay, Michael and the inevitable train-wreck that will be Transformers). In 28 Weeks, the camera operator seems to be an epileptic 3rd grader on a Pixie-Stix and Red Bull binge. There is no sense of the geography. There is no sense of style. Just bouncy-bouncy shaky-shaky filmmaking that covers up the fact that the film has no tension whatsoever.
I’m what you call a sophisticated movie-goer. Not an ego thing, just a fact. Unless your last name is Scorsese or Tarantino, I’ve seen more movies than you. I went to school to study film. I write films for a living. Most of my friends are also filmmakers, and guess what we talk about 99% of the time?
So it’s rare that I find I film that has me baffled. But I’ll admit it. I had not a motherfucking clue what was going on in 28 Weeks Later. I was lost most of the time. Not in a David Lynch-what-a-mind-fuck-is-this sort of way, but in an I-can’t-see-a-goddamn-thing way. None of the shots remain long enough during the action scenes to actually make out what’s happening. I think the filmmakers are going for an impressionistic type of thing, flashing images in front of you, cutting them together, putting some “scary” sound effects, and thinking that will substitute for real horror and suspense.
It, um, doesn’t.
The story isn’t bad, although the script is pretty awful. All of the soldiers talk like twelve year olds on Xbox Live and their inane chatter is mind-numbing. At one point, after a character is shot, she actually says, through gritted teeth, “It’s just a flesh wound.” I thought the Python boys put that line to bed with the Black Knight in Holy Grail. The script has no humor. No cleverness. The characters simply move through space, hit their marks, say things to advance the story, and then, of course, get eaten.
But the most glowing indictment of the film came from the audience I saw it with. In this quote unquote horror movie, no one screamed. No one jumped. No one laughed. No one clapped. No one had any kind of reaction to it at all. They sat there for the better part of two hours, ate their popcorn, got up when it was over, and proceeded to forget about it by the time they got to their cars. And these are the people that saw it on opening night.
The reviews have been pretty good on 28 Weeks Later, but I beseech you not to listen to them. It’s a bad movie. It’s barely a movie at all. It’s just a bunch of random images that don’t tell a compelling story or even really attempt to scare you at all. It is in no way entertaining or moving or thought provoking.
It really is just a non-fun version of Planet Terror. So just go see Grindhouse, again or for the first time. You’ll thank me.