31 Fright Nights: Halloween 2017, Night #28 – 28 Weeks Later (2007)

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Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo

Writer(s): Rown Joffé, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, E.L. Lavigne & Jesus Olmo

Studio/Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Budget: $15m

Box Office: $64.2m

Release Date: 11 May, 2007

IMDb Rating: 7/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 70%

UK Blu Ray release? Yes

Cast

Robert Carlyle – Don

Rose Byrne – Scarlet

Jeremy Renner – Doyle

Harold Perrineau – Flynn

Catherine McCormack – Alice

Idris Elba – Stone

Imogen Poots – Tammy

Mackintosh Muggleton – Andy

Trailer

Plot According to IMDb

Six months after the rage virus was inflicted on the population of Great Britain, the US Army helps to secure a small area of London for the survivors to repopulate and start again. But not everything goes to plan.

Inertia’s Insight

Danny Boyle’s stylish and harrowing horror film 28 Days Later… was heralded as a triumphant entry in the zombie landscape, its fast and furious rage carriers making for a frenetic and nail-biting film. Digitally shot and all the better for it, the film saw something of a happy ending, as the infected appeared to be dying off and the military were still flying.

And so here we find ourselves, 28 Weeks Later. In the opening sequence we’re introduced to Robert Carlisle and his diverse group of survivors, holed up in an old farmhouse in the countryside. As is apt to happen, shit goes sideways and the inhabitants of the farmhouse soon find themselves on the run. It’s a great opening sequence. Though the grainy digital footage is gone, the pace is still breakneck as Carlisle’s character, Don, hurtles towards safety. The mix of handheld shots that bounce on Don’s shoulder coupled with the swooping crane shots as dozens of infected bound towards him make for a thrilling set piece. Immediately in the opening sequence the new directorial hands are established.

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Cutting to London, 28 weeks after the rage virus first got out, life is returning to normal. Areas are quarantined and inside the safe zone, life is being rebuilt. The presence of the American military both as a safeguard as well as a global power is particularly effective. Considering when the film was released, our relationship with America was fractured by the two Middle Eastern wars, with faith in our own government as a power rather than a proxy starting to dwindle. Seeing their hold over London, their “we saved you” stance is particularly poignant.

Even though we know what’s coming – there’s no way we can watch a post-apocalyptic film building a Utopia without a few infected running in to fuck it all up – we get some time alone with Don and his kids. Their relationship is fractured, the loss of their Mother difficult to take. It’s interesting to hear Don lie, placing us in that mindset: just what would we say to our kids to protect them? But this lie leads his daughter Tammy to go searching for the truth, and in doing so, she finds her Mother, alive and unwell…

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An a-symptomatic carrier in a zombie film is a gold mine for the story, but just as quickly as she’s discovered, all hell breaks loose in an incredibly claustrophobic sequence. Don’s reunion with his wife is short lived, and Carlisle is superb in this scene. But it’s the bit inside the dark room when the infected break out that really has you on the edge of your seat. The lighting is superb, and there’s just enough of a hint of the true horror to leave you guessing the rest.

It shows just how easily things can spiral out of control and how quickly this virus can spread. America’s “drop ’em from high” attitude sees the remaining survivors in a race against time to get the hell out of dodge. In post-apocalyptic films we love to see the landscape – iconic landmarks riddled with ivy and in a state of disrepair. Their run through London gives us a few of these gems, Wembley in particular being an effective touch.

Yet the film is not without its pitfalls. DOP Enrique Chediak’s day-for-night technique is poor. Whilst it may be cheaper to film during the day and have it edited in post to appear as night, it is so ineffective. The blue hue only provides poor lighting for the scene, and the fact that it is so obvious, it removes you from the scene. It’s a small scene that manages to affect the overall feel of the film.

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That said, Fresnadillo’s spin on the rage virus is an exemplary entry in the zombie sub-genre. Tense, frenetic, gory – just look at the helicopter scene – and completely believable, it still leaves us yearning for another sequel even 10 years later…

Inertia’s Ideal Score ( out of 5)

★★★★

Trivia

  • All of the night scenes involving Andy, Tammy, Scarlet, Doyle and Sam’s journey across London to escape the bombs were shot day-for-night using a new technique created specifically for the film by DOP Enrique Chediak
  • All of the infected are played by people from a dance, gymnastics, circus or mime background
  • The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff doubled for the interior of Wembley Stadium because, at the time of filming, the interior of Wembley was still under construction

Quotes

SCARLET: It all makes sense. They’re executing code red. Step 1: Kill the infected. Step 2: Containment. If containment fails, then Step 3: Extermination.


Tomorrow: Night #29 – Hostel (2005)

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