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Theater Review - Fast Zombies, Fierce Virus, and, Yes, an Engaging Story
May 26, 2007
by Paul Donovan

Click For Full Size A few years ago, the film 28 Weeks Later became known for two things. First, it reinvented the zombie film. Second, it introduced mass audiences to actor Cillian Murphy. Zombie film fans, such as me, were excited at the fact that now zombies can run. And fans of hot actors, such as me, were excited that the first time we got to see Murphy was a full frontal nude shot.

The film was a modest hit, and left its impression on viewers not only for Murphy but also for its bleak, atmospheric take on a genre that is usually marked by camp. These zombies were not George Romero mallwalkers. They were fast, vicious, and smart. It portrayed Britain being overrun by people who were infected by what was called the Rage Virus.

The sequel has now opened in theaters. Called 28 Weeks Later, it picks up the story about six months after the events of the first film. Britain was quarantined, and the Infected have all starved to death. The U.S. military has moved in to begin the process of cleanup and to let the surviving citizens back in to start new lives. This includes two children who were separated from their parents during the original outbreak and who are now being reunited with their father, who abandoned his wife during a zombie attack. The plot thickens when certain events show that the kids may have the secret to immunity in their blood. Unfortunately, these same events also unleash the virus once more, and a new struggle for survival starts in a society that is less prepared for it than it was the first time.

This film is almost completely unconnected with the first film other than the same backstory. You can watch this one and understand much of what goes on without seeing the first one at all. Unfortunately, that means that Cillian Murphy is not in this film. And also unfortunately, there is no new hunk to take his place – the movie centers on two pre-teen kids. But really, it doesn’t matter. The movie is good enough not to need eye candy. The military’s efforts to turn a decimated country into a habitable environment even while not really understanding the problem in the first place is engaging. The moral quandaries that soldiers (and some citizens) find themselves in when the infection gets out of control provides some resonance with deeper parts of the heart than one usually finds in a horror film.

Make no mistake, however -- this is a violent film. The frantic camera work, jumpy editing and buckets of gore will make this tough to watch for some audience members. While paying attention to story and characters, the film knows that the major draw is the idea of smart, fast, pitiless zombies tearing people apart. Add in some ruthless military snipers and doctors, and soon you realize you don’t know where to turn for comfort.

By treating the conventional zombie themes with some seriousness and semi-realism, 28 Weeks Later makes the undead respectable, and nearly transcends the horror genre entirely. By turns moving, emotional, and then surprisingly brutal, the film mixes gore with a story that you actually care about.
UPCOMING EVENTS
Dustin Lance Black Speech at UMKC

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