Review: 28 Weeks Later

I'm angry with the producers of "28 Weeks Later" (IMDb listing) and my rage tops even that of the spastic infected that swarm around the picture like a pack of rabid Olympic sprinters. You see, what was once a thematically arresting, chillingly sparse tale of isolation, claustrophobia, and panic has been turned into an asinine study of shock value and stupefying directorial imprudence. The film isn't simply bad, it's a trainwreck.

After surviving a countryside attack from the roaming infected, Don (Robert Carlyle) has found his way back to London, now under quarantine and patrolled by American military forces (including Rose Byrne, Jeremy Renner, and Idris Elba). Reunited with his children, the future looks bright for Don and the citizens of the clean zone, but it's not long before the virus finds its way into the city, leaving everyone in a panic to escape as the infected start their reign of terror all over again, leaving the military no choice but to exterminate the population.

Danny Boyle's 2003 film "28 Days Later" was far from a perfect creation, but it was a raw nerve of a feature; experimental with the horror genre and lofty in intention and political subtext. Save for the final act featuring the cliched crumbling of military might, Boyle's picture was an endearingly scrappy DV-shot piece of tremble and shock.

"28 Weeks Later" essentially defecates all over Boyle's ideas to erect its own diseased velocity of genre filmmaking. Director Juan Carlos Frensnadillo made a potent debut with his 2001 oddity "Intacto," but all that goodwill has been flushed down the toilet with this monstrosity.

To start with, "Weeks" doesn't bother with a personality of its own, preferring to basically remake "Days," only this time more money was spent to open up the scope of the story. Fallible military? Infected sprinting around a lonesome London? Interpersonal bonds snapped by the viral party pooper? It's a striking color of deja vu, only now the acting is melodramatic and exhaustively subpar, any semblance of logic is torched quickly, and the infected aren't the only ones with an anger management problem. It seems the production hates everyone as well.

"Weeks" is a violent film, but not an elegant one. It's missing the vital mood of humanity that informed even the darkest of scenes in Boyle's film. Frensnadillo is similarly hopeless with the attack sequences, forgoing gorehound opera for barbaric sensory-overload indulgence that reads brightly as amateur hour. Fearful of still moments that might form genuine suspense, the director shakes his camera like it forgot to do the dishes, leaving the audience at a total loss over how to process the punch-drunk, blurred images. Over and over, Frensnadillo covers "Weeks" as though he's never made a movie before, cheaply (almost comedically) employing moments of sonic jolt to keep the viewer alert and pushing the ferocity of the violence past a comforting point of flesh-stripping endearment; it registers more as sickness.

There's no love for the material in "Weeks," and there's no respect for the apocalyptic potential that defined Boyle's original picture. The sequel has been crafted to optimize visceral contact rather than cerebral contemplation, and the overall dodgy quality of the film wouldn't sting nearly as hard if the picture didn't routinely use child endangerment as safe passage to pushover audience sympathy, or steal liberally from "The Stand" to invent suspense set-pieces. "Weeks" is as artistically bankrupt and thoughtlessly made a movie as can possibly be assembled, and everyone involved in the production should be ashamed of themselves for trying to sneak such rubbish past loyal fans of the original picture.

What really gets my goat is that Fox Atomic (the Cannon Films of the 2000s) is trying to sculpt this story into something it was never intended to be: a franchise. The studio wants to milk this puppy for every last dollar it can squeeze out of it, leaving the ending open here for further infected adventures, now with sights set on expanding the action into the rest of Europe. It's a sickening turn of events in an appallingly imbecilic feature film. If there's any justice in Hollywood, the rage should halt here.

Filmfodder Grade: F