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28 Weeks Later
10-01-2007, 05:52 AM
Review Date: October 1, 2007
Released by: Fox
Release date: 10/9/2007
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.85:1 | 16x9: Yes
28 Days Later was released in the UK in late 2002 and didn't hit US theaters until mid 2003. If my memory is correct, the UK DVD was actually available when the movie hit US theaters. There was lots of buzz about it around various horror sites, including our own forums. There was the typical debate of whether or not one liked the film, but with this movie came a debate about 'The Infected vs The Standard Zombie'. As I have a tendency to do, I ignored the buzz and didn't get around to watching the movie until months after it was released. When I finally saw it, I loved it. Ultimately the film was a success, both critically and financially. It reached over $50 million at the box office on a meager $8 million budget.
With any successful horror movie comes the inevitable sequel that fails to live up to the original. Does 28 Weeks Later follow that same path? Lets take a look at the DVD release from Fox and find the answer.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/28w/28w_shot1s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/28w/28w_shot1l.jpg) The infected have died from starvation. It is now twenty-eight weeks later and reconstruction efforts in London are well under way. A section of the city called District One is at the heart of the reconstruction. It is here where 15,000 civilians are brought back in to begin repopulation. It's a 'green zone', the only area of the city declared safe for civilians; they are banned from leaving due to safety concerns. It is heavily guarded by American forces as cleanup efforts take place nearby.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/28w/28w_shot2s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/28w/28w_shot2l.jpg) It is here that the story of the Harris family takes place. Donald (<I>Robert Carlyle</I>), the father, lost his wife to the infection. His children, Andy (<I>Mackintosh Muggleton</I>) and Tammy (<I>Imogen Poots</I>), were overseas during the outbreak. They have just returned to the city and are reunited with their father at District One. Andy tells his children the tale of how their mother was lost and they begin to prepare for a new life. Andy struggles with the loss of his mother and fears he will forget what she looks like over time. Tammy decides the two should sneak out of the green zone and retrieve a picture of their mother from the family home.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/28w/28w_shot3s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/28w/28w_shot3l.jpg) Their escape from the green zone sets off a series of events that ultimately unleashes the rage virus once again. The military do their best to isolate the virus, but things quickly spiral out of control. Chief medical officer Major Scarlet (<I>Rose Byrne</I>) believes Andy has a rare genetic defect that gives him an immunity against the virus and holds the key to a potential cure. She enlists the help of Sargent Doyle (<I>Jeremy Renner</I>) to get the children to safety. Doyle's plan is to rendezvous with his buddy and fellow soldier, Flynn (<I>Harold Perrineau</I>), who is patrolling the city in a helicopter. The group must get through not only the infected-filled streets surrounding District One, they must outrun the military, who are implementing a full blown extermination.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/28w/28w_shot4s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/28w/28w_shot4l.jpg) 28 Days Later was a sleeper hit and had near universal praise amongst horror fans, but it went beyond being just a great horror flick. While it has the blood and guts we all wanted, and these zombie-like creatures that we all love, it also had a good story and some good acting to it. After loving the original, I was destined to see the sequel during its theatrical run. Being a horror fan, I had my hesitations. We all know how awful horror sequels can turn out. 28 Weeks Later breaks the rule, however. Like Aliens, it took what worked in the first movie, added lots more action, and ran with it. From the very beginning, 28 Weeks Later had me on the edge of my seat and never let go. The only disappointment I had was the movie was over before I knew it. That isn't due to a short runtime, however, since it clocks in at 100 minutes even. It was over before I knew it because I was enthralled by it. Even the second viewing, for this review, left me with the same feeling: it was over too soon. I was shocked when I finally took a look at the cover and found the runtime.
Spanish filmakers Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and Enrique Lopez Levigne took the reigns from Danny Boyle and managed to not only match the greatness of the original, but even exceed it in many instances. The two bring their own style to the movie, but at the same time they keep Danny Boyle's style present as well. This may be in part due to Boyle himself serving as executive producer, directing some scenes, and helping with second unit shots. Many have complained about the shaky-cam feel the two Spanish filmmakers bring to much of 28 Weeks Later. I loved it. During the commentary they briefly discuss this. They are trying to create a claustrophobic feeling in some scenes, but it's mainly used for an 'infected mode' of sorts. Most of the handheld scenes are when the infected are on the attack. It brings a sense of realism and brings the viewer into the movie by giving it a documentary, or reality show, look and feel.
Speaking of the infected, they are back and better than ever. They aren't the slow zombies from the days of Romero, or even the fast zombies from Resident Evil, since the infected aren't technically zombies at all. They are living humans infected with this rage virus that drives them to insanity. Once infected, ones only purpose is to kill anything that surrounds them and through any means necessary. As humans, they can do anything an uninfected can do. No slow chases here; these ones can run full speed. Both movies come up with plenty of creative ways for the infected to kill. Ripping into ones flesh with their teeth seems to be the preferred way, and understandably so, since the virus is spread through blood and saliva contact.
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The story is on par with the original. Some fans complain that the film doesn't explain why people would want to return to Britain, but that's simple enough. It's human nature to want to return home; it's where the heart is, after all. This family's struggle with the loss of a mother and the lost dream of restarting their lives is the center of the story, with death and destruction soon to follow. The actors all give top-notch performances. Robert Carlyle as the cowardly, yet loving father is exceptional and nails the role. Imogen Poots and Mackintosh Muggleton as his children have a perfect brother and sister chemistry to them. Jeremy Renner is also noteworthy as Sargent Doyle, the soldier who struggles between following orders or protecting the innocent. He gives a convincing performance that puts a human side to the stone-cold military machine.
Good acting, a good story, and the gore factor are all must-haves, but it's the thrill factor and atmosphere that seals the deal. From the opening sequence, the movie kicks into high gear with intense, tension filled situations. Once the outbreak occurs, it's nearly non-stop action to the end. The flame-throwing soldiers emerging from the gas clouds are particularly eerie and effective, as are the numerous shots of desolate London. But the most nail biting moment comes when Scarlet leads the children into the subways of London. It is pure darkness; everything we see is through Scarlet's perspective as she peers through a night vision scope that's attached to a rifle. The sheer intensity and terror that is present as we witness the children peering back at Scarlet with pure fear on their faces as they try to make their way down corridors and escalators littered with bodies is some of the finest modern-day filmmaking, as well as acting, I've seen in a long time. It serves as a reminder that gore isn't always king, and it's sometimes what we don't see that is the most frightening.
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Like almost every other horror movie, there are some flaws to 28 Weeks Later. They mostly center around the story and the plausibility of some situations and characters. I can overlook them, and I won't delve into them here on the fear they will contain some spoilers to the movie. Just remember, we are horror fans. That's not a blank check (or 'cheque' for those in the rest of the world) to excuse poor writing, but we're the ones who are okay with the dead coming back to life and Jason surviving time and time again. I've never had a problem leaving a bit of reality at the door when I go to any movie. And if you aren't, horror movies probably aren't for you. We are talking about a movie where a single virus leaves the UK in ruins, after all. So, lets not get too nitpicky.
28 Weeks Later is an excellent horror movie; I highly recommend it as a must see for all. It left me wanting more; a lot more. Lets hope I get the chance to review a 28 Months Later DVD someday.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/28w/28w_shot11s.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/28w/28w_shot11l.jpg) Presented in an anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen presentation, the 28 Weeks Later DVD contains a slightly flawed transfer, but one that matches the theatrical presentation. Much of the movie was shot on 16mm (this is confirmed on the commentary as well) and a result, there is grain present and there are scenes appearing soft and lacking in detail. It is most evident during the nighttimes scenes but it's inconsistent. One scene is sharp with no grain while the next is soft and contains light grain. Colors are subdued and the sunlight appears overly bright in the daytime scenes. These flaws are due to the 16mm source, no doubt. Whether the filmmakers were trying for this gritty look or the 16mm was simply a budgetary limitation is unknown to me. But given it was shot on 16mm and this DVD does accurately portray the theatrical presentation, I'm rating the image quality with a B+.
The English 5.1 track is one of the better tracks I've reviewed. There's nice use of surrounds and the subwoofer is cranking, and rightly so. From doors thumping shut and an intense soundtrack, to the massive firebombing scene that had my windows shaking. Excellent track that will please all; solid A here.
http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/28w/28w_menus.jpg (http://www.horrordvds.com/reviews/n-z/28w/28w_menul.jpg) The DVD is no slouch in the supplements department. First up is the commentary track by director/co-writer Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and producer/co-writer Enrique Lopez Levigne. It's an informative track and the two consistently speak throughout; there are only a few gaps of silence. You learn a lot about their style of filmmaking, which I really enjoyed hearing about. The only issue I had was it was difficult to get past their heavy accents, but it's bearable.
Next is two deleted scenes and while I enjoyed watching them, I couldn't agree more on the decision to cut them. One just seems completely out of place if it were left in the movie, and the other is just plain confusing. Optional commentary is available on each as well.
The first featurette is titled Code Red: Making of 28 Weeks Later. It runs about 13 minutes in length and features interviews with the cast and crew about the making of the movie. The Infected featurette focuses on, you guess it, the infected. It's 7 minutes in length and contains interviews with cast and crew focusing on being the infected or working with them. We also get a look at some behind-the-scenes footage of cast members training to be the infected. Getting Into Action runs 7 minutes in length and focuses on the additional action in this sequel and contains interviews with cast and crew sharing their thoughts on the filming the action scenes and the challenges involved.
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Next are two animated graphic novels, titled The Aftermath: Stage 1: Development and The Aftermath: Stage 2: Decimation. The Aftermath itself is a comic that bridges the gap between the first and second movie. It contains four stories, or stages if you will. The two animated stages that were included on the DVD are fun to watch and answer some questions about the rage virus and its creation.
The remaining supplements consist of a theatrical trailer, followed by several trailers to other Fox movies, and a chapter insert. All and all some great extras were included on the DVD that fans are sure to enjoy.
Final thoughts? Great movie, great transfer, great soundtrack, and great extras. What do you think? Get it! With a reasonable MSRP of $29.98, it's a must own. Well worth a blind buy for those on the fence.
Movie - A-
Image Quality - B+
Sound - A
Supplements - B+
Running Time - 1 hour 40 minutes
English Dolby 5.1
Spanish, French Dolby Surround
English, Spanish subtitles
Commentary by Director/Co-Writer Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and Producer/Co-Writer Enrique Lopez Levigne
Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and Enrique Lopez Lavigne
Code Red: The Making of 28 Weeks Later Featurette
The Infected Featurette
Getting Into The Action Featurette
28 Days Later - The Aftermath: Stage 1 "Development" Animated Graphic Novel
28 Days Later - The Aftermath: Stage 3 "Development" Animated Graphic Novel
10-01-2007, 02:24 PM
Great review, Dave and I agree with almost everything you said there. But does the DVD come with a chapter insert?
10-01-2007, 05:51 PM
Yes, it comes with an insert. I will update the review.
10-01-2007, 10:41 PM
Great review Dave! I respect that you acknowledge that the film does have some "plausibility issues" (see the final ten minutes), and I agree that it is so strong in so many other areas that it is still definitely worth people checking out.
10-02-2007, 12:04 AM
Thanks MCZ. I was torn between discussing the flaws and maybe using spoiler tags, or going the way I did. It does seem like I simply brush them under the rug without discussion, which I suppose is what I did. But the issues were minor for me, and as such I decided to only briefly touch upon them.
10-09-2007, 05:53 PM
Got the DVD today (would've gotten it yesterday if it weren't Columbus Day) and I sort of agree about the video, but the opening attack on the cottage was extremely sharp and detailed. Only when Robert Cartyle got out of the house and started running towards the boat did it get a bit fuzzy and grainy. The rest of the movie looked very good, a much better looking film than 28 Days Later, which the video quality was simply awful no matter how you look at it. Great audio and extras too.
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