'28 Weeks Later' lacks bite

Wednesday, May 16, 2007 | by: Mat DeKinder

Zombie movies have enjoyed a renaissance, or reanimation if you will, in recent years thanks in large part to the British import "28 Days Later."

The movie's killers are not technically zombies per se, but instead normal people turned into mindless, bloodthirsty killing machines by the quick-spreading "rage" virus. "28 Days Later" envisioned an England decimated by the virus and where only a tiny band of survivors attempted to outlast thousands of quick-footed ghouls.

So naturally, in the mindless, cash-thirsty world of Hollywood, a sequel was inevitable and now we have "28 Weeks Later."

But where it's predecessor reinvigorated the genre, "Weeks" really just delivers more of the same with a sprinkling of some nifty action sequences.

The movie picks up, as the title so nimbly explains, 28 weeks after the initial outbreak of the virus, which remained contained to the British mainland. And since all of those originally infected have died of starvation (no time for eatin' when there's killin' to be done), it is believed that the virus has run it's course.

Not that the U.S. military is taking any chances. People are slowly allowed back to England, but only in a quarantined area in the heart of London and with mucho security.

We meet Don (Robert Carlyle, who you might remember quite a bit of from "The Full Monty"), a survivor who is reunited with his children Tammy (Imogen Poots) and Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton, and yes, these are real names) who happened to be on vacation abroad when the virus struck.

Don believes his wife Alice (Catherine McCormack) was killed by the baddies, but instead she shows back up, sporting an immunity to the virus. But wait, while she may be immune, she still carries the virus, which in turn starts infecting people and we're back to where we started.

All manner of disaster breaks loose and along the way we pick up Army doctor Scarlet (Rose Byrne) who is keen on finding a cure for the virus and heavily armed sniper Doyle (Jeremy Renner) who shoots a lot of people in the head.

The problem with "Weeks" as opposed to "Days" is that we spend much less time with the main characters so it's hard to care what happens to them. "Days" took its time and made the point that in some cases the survivors were just as dangerous as the zombies.

It seems the only point to "Weeks" is that zombies are bad and blowing stuff up is cool - which, in all fairness, happens to be true.

It must be frustrating to the film's crew that "Grindhouse" beat them by only a few weeks to be the first movie to feature a herd of zombies getting mowed down by the blades of a helicopter. So close.

One creepy and effective feature of "28 Days" was the grainy, hand-held, documentary look that made you feel, for better or worse, that you were along for the ride.

There is an attempt to duplicate that look in "28 Weeks," but it doesn't really feel authentic with all the aerial shots and polished special effects sequences. And while "Weeks" does deliver on the splatter and gore front, there's not much tension or many real scares.

"Weeks" is also overly enamored with shots of an abandoned London, which was effectively unsettling in "Days" but here feels tired and overdone. We get it, it's a ghost town.

And while I'm complaining, something that bothers me about this series is that in all the chaos and confusion, why don't the zombies attack each other? How selective is mindless rage? Maybe they have a secret handshake or something.

"28 Weeks Later," isn't terrible, it moves along at a brisk pace and is far from dull, but when held up against what came before, there just really isn't all that much to sink your teeth into.

"28 Weeks Later" is rated R for strong violence and gore, language and some sexuality/nudity.

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