A Zombie Bomb

28 Weeks Later
Running Time 99 minutes
Directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Written by Rowan Joffe, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Jesús Olmo, Enrique López Lavigne
Starring Robert Carlyle, Catherine McCormack

Wafting in a stupor between endless prequels and sequels, Hulks and Shreks, and campy Caribbean pirates that look like glam-goth Calvin Klein underwear models, movie critics in the summer of 2007 are living in a state of suspended animation. Searching each week for new ways to make trash sound bearable, endurable or even humorously disposable is a pretend game of debilitating frustration. Avoid them all, but make a concerted effort to run as far as you can from 28 Weeks Later. I finally caught up with it this week in a multiplex in Connecticut where the survival techniques in 1408 started looking like kindergarten stuff.

The violent vision of apocalyptic cynicism about the deadly plague that wiped out England at the end of Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later takes up where the last one left off. Spanish director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s maudlin sequel calls in the Yanks to supervise the repopulation of an eerily evacuated London. But when one of the few remaining infected zombies finds its way inside the enclave, all hell breaks loose in a manner only too familiar to anyone who has seen cheap zombie-lust epics like Night of the Living Dead and Zombie Island Massacre. The pretentious, overloaded metaphor for Iraq is just one of the heavy-handed uses of the horror-flick genre as a pop extrapolation on current geopolitical anxieties.

Opening with a bloody farmhouse siege that boils George Romero’s monster-mash flicks down to five minutes of cartoons, the movie depicts how a guy named Don (Robert Carlyle), a survivor from the first zombie invasion, leaves his wife (Catherine McCormack) to die when the barn they’re hiding in is overtaken by hordes of flesh-chomping infectees. Months later, he’s in London trying to explain to his children why their mother died, but before he can satisfy his guilt, she returns, more or less alive, and carrying more than a suitcase. The orange-eyed zombies are fiercer, faster and hungrier than ever. No one is safe and every survivor stands to be shredded without notice. The violence comes not in carefully modulated waves of suspense, but in howling splashes of mayhem, panic and raspberry sauce. Finally, the Americans go ballistic and start shooting everything that moves—a knee-jerk U.S. military reaction that is so predictable I’m shocked the audience didn’t think of it first.

There isn’t much acting here, but there is entirely too much vomiting, and the prose turns laughably purple, too. When all those ferocious, carnivorous zombies converge from everywhere at once, spewing blood and screaming in a virulent, aggressive and psychotic rage, I could not suppress a giggle. In the old days, a feverish programmer like 28 Weeks Later would’ve ended up on the bottom half of a double bill. Today it gets welcomed by some reviewers as an antidote to tedium. Desperate times produce desperate critics.