28 Days Later, one of the best horror films of the last decade, borrowed the most effective elements from the zombie genre (desolated cities, isolated heroes, massive amounts of bloodthirsty foes), and threw a fresh coat of blood on them. Shot with a gritty, pseudo-documentary style and using a “real world” catalyst (chemical weapons), Danny Boyle’s low-budget shocker became the sleeper hit of 2002, making a sequel an inevitability. The problem, however, was that, after 28 days, the infected antagonists of the first film had all starved to death, meaning the horrific ordeal was over, right?
28 Weeks Later shows us what happens when the United States military and its crack scientists are sent in to England to help the survivors rebuild. We are introduced to a seemingly disparate group of individuals; Donald Harris (Robert Carlyle), a guilt-ridden Londoner who has been reunited with his children after leaving his wife to die at the hands of the infected; Doyle (Jeremy Renner), an American sharpshooter assigned to “protect” the survivors in the safe zone; and Scarlet (Rose Byrne), an Army scientist who fears that the infection is far from behind them. When Donald’s children sneak out of the safe zone to return to their house, they find their mother has survived, despite being bitten. The army brings her back to study her, and discover that she is somehow immune to the effects of the virus, although she is most certainly a carrier. When Donald sneaks in to visit her, an innocent kiss is all it takes to bring on a second wave of the infected, leaving the survivors to contend with both the bloodthirsty mobs and the itchy trigger fingers of the overwhelmed U.S. forces.
28 Weeks Later takes everything good about 28 Days Later and expands upon it, offering up meatier, more complex characters, a surprisingly epic scale, and some truly intense and effective scares. The film opens with the white-knuckle pursuit of Donald and doesn’t let up until the final jarring moments. One scene, “shot” through the night vision scope of a rifle in a pitch-dark London subway station, is particularly unsettling, and one of the most unnerving cinematic experiences I’ve ever sat through. This is one of the rare examples of a sequel outshining its predecessor in almost every conceivable way.
28 Weeks Later looks fantastic, with a rich and highly detailed transfer that recreates the film’s dark color palette perfectly, and without a hint of digital noise or artifacting in even the darkest of circumstances (of which there are many). The aforementioned opening sequence, in which Donald is pursued across the lush green landscape of a rural British farmhouse, sets the tone for the rest of this transfer with its vividness and amazing clarity.
The mix on the uncompressed audio track is a bit on the loud side, with the abundance of explosions, gunshots, screams, and the film’s score swelling well above the comparably soft dialogue. I was watching this one rather late at night, and the variances in levels had me fumbling for the volume control on more than one occasion. Still, the quality of the audio is top-notch, and I’ll definitely revisit the film at a more reasonable time of day so I can truly “let it fly”.
An abundance of bonus material is presented, but, sadly, all of it is in standard definition, including three short featurettes, a pair of deleted scenes, animated “comic” panels, and a commentary track featuring director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo and producer Enrique Lopez-Lavigne. Extras are rounded out by a trailer for this feature, as well as a trailer for 28 Days Later.
One of the best horror films of the past decade gets an even better sequel, chock-full of action, intense scares, and much sly political commentary (despite our best intentions, America should really just take care of itself). An essential addition to anyone’s Blu-ray library!