28 Weeks Later (Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, 2007)
Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later (2002), I thought, had all the positive and negative traits of a typical Boyle film. Boyle, who has been switching genres with a lot less quality consistency as let's say fellow Brit Michael Winterbottom, has genuine lyricism in all his efforts. Whenever he strives for the metaphorical, he assumes an aesthetic control that is quite surprising. However, he tends to lose steam and when he totally loses his initial steam, his films burst into an inexplicable mess. That's what exactly happened with 28 Days Later. The film had its moments of valuable lyricism or effective filmmaking (that gorgeous roadtrip against a backdrop of what seems to be a peaceful British countryside; that suspenseful entry to an infested church; respectively) yet as a whole, it is betrayed by an anti-climactic thematic downfall to unredeemable tedium.
The concept of 28 Days Later, however, is golden. Like George Romero's zombie flicks, the storyline of an incurable virus turning those infected into ravenous zombie-like murderers that is quarantined within the main British isle, is so ripe for possible sequels and spin-offs. As expected, a sequel is made --- grossly entitled 28 Weeks Later (a sequel would probably be entitled 28 months or years later). It's not directed by Boyle but by Spanish horror director Juan Carlos Fresnadilla (none of his previous films I've seen).
You spot the differences immediately. Starting from the opening scene wherein we get to see a couple foraging an abandoned kitchen for food; they're obviously related, probably married; we learn that they are not alone but are merely a part of a group of survivors. It's not as eyecatching as Boyle's opening where he had then-newcomer Cillian Murphy alone inside a hospital room, and the moment he steps out of the hospital, an eerily empty London embraces his newly-recovered senses. Fresnadillo clearly doesn't want to dillydally and doesn't see the value of establishment. He throws us the facts right away, clearly banking on his audience's familiarity with Boyle's original work, and takes us straight to the action. A few minutes later, the survivors are chased, and killed.
If Fresnadillo's concern is to create a film that is more visceral, more gruesome, more violent than its predecessor, he certainly achieved it. He doesn't waste any time trying to scare you, shock you, or gross you out. However, I think Fresnadillo belongs to that school of filmmaking wherein cameras are supposed to be in a state of perpetual motion, and a shot should not last more than 2 seconds. The film is edited erratically, and the camera movements are unbearably jerky, that it's almost impossible to tell who's biting who, who's escaping from who, and so on. There are certain points in the film where that shooting style could've suited the state of pandemonium, but to turn the entire film into a full-length MTV, without the catchy music, is just plain torture.
It's quite unfortunate that the film suffers from a tired aesthetic style (I would've preferred Boyle who despite his MTV-tendencies still knows when to stop and just enjoy that moment of serenity). The story (co-written by Fresnadillo with Rowan Joffe, Jesús Olmo and E. L. Lavigne) actually has brilliant moments. Sure, there are certain instances wherein the characters start losing a hold on common sense or logic, but as a sequel to a film that draws its powers from a ridiculous idea to begin with, the writers didn't do that bad. London 28 weeks later looks like a more affluent Baghdad --- surrounded by Americans (who unsurprisingly are busy encroaching on the privacy of the re-patriated refugees, or giving themselves pats in the back for saving the world in their own pace and means), who are armed and have their own protocols, heartless and goal-oriented, which is, unsurprisingly, unknown to the repatriates.
28 Weeks Later exploits that idea. There are harrowing moments that seem to allude to our contemporary wars (at one point, soldiers would start shooting at anything that moves; then later on, raze an entire city based on mere protocol). The themes do not have the philosophical underpinnings or the sophistication of Romero's zombie parables. The allusions are quite plainly mere metaphors that manage to distract me from the film's want of aesthetic or lyrical quality. That's when I start to miss Boyle who, with all his faults as a filmmaker, still manage to churn out new things and ideas from concepts predominantly borrowed from masters of the genre.