Before I reflect on revisiting the “28” saga, here’s my original take from years ago. I went to the theater to see 28 Days Later and hated it. In fact, just as with The Blair Witch Project, despite the massive hype the film was getting, when the end credits began to role in the theater, the groans and looks of disappointment from the audience spoke volumes—people were flabbergasted that the movie could have gotten so many rave reviews.
Therefore, I was glad to wait until 28 Weeks Later made its way to cable, and when it finally did, I unexpectedly loved it. So has my views on either film changed?
28 DAYS LATER (2002)
Interestingly, I had no recollection of the opening scene, in which infected monkeys in a lab go ape shit crazy. I only remember the intro of the main dude waking up in a hospital in a deserted city. I guess it deserves credit for being the template for the first episode of The Walking Dead, when Rick wakes up in a hospital. However, here we get to see the main guy’s wiener.
For the most part, the opening is my favorite scene, then it’s all downhill from there, just as I remembered. The first half of this way too long 2-hour movie focuses on the main guy joining a small group of survivors in trying to stay alive. It’s just a series of scenes of them stopping at one place after the other, and very few of the scenes are actually frightening or suspenseful.
But the bigger problem for me is that the characters are simply not very likable. The main guy is particularly weird and creepy, like some sort of mentally ill dude who escaped a loony bin. I just could not connect with him at all and did not trust him. The main woman is okay and a strong survivor, which once again foreshadows The Walking Dead—she gives off a major Michonne vibe. Meanwhile, the one character I liked most is the one character that doesn’t make it.
Sure, this movie introduced fast running infected, which is frightening, but here it’s usually lost in a blur of choppy editing and dark lighting. And what could have been one of the best scenes—a trip through a dark tunnel—concludes in a moment that made me laugh when I saw it in the theater. As the infected run after our protagonists’ car, despite being completely primal, they all just suddenly decide it’s pointless to chase a car and stop running!
When we move into the second half of the film, it falls apart for me. The survivors are rescued by a bunch of armed military men. Ugh. And we get another hint of The Walking Dead—encounters with dangerous communities. Yep, the concept of a psycho community is introduced, and the infected are pushed aside so chauvinistic men with guns become the antagonists for the remainder of the film. Yawn. And the sudden upbeat ending feels kind of absurd after how dark and dreary the film is.
I do like that people can become infected simply by getting infected blood in their mouth or eye. That’s always been my pet peeve about zombie movies. People will get zombie guts all over them and never fear that it might cause them to become infected. I wouldn’t even want to get in a few feet of one of those things.
28 WEEKS LATER (2007)
It’s hard to believe these two films are even linked, because the sequel blows the first one away. Rather than a series of vignettes of characters just traveling from one place to another, the sequel has a specific story arc focusing on one family, which I found totally engrossing.
The opening is absolutely unforgettable. A family trying to exist during the outbreak is holed up in a house. When the infected unexpectedly infiltrate, the man of the house becomes a total dick and pulls an “every man for himself” move.
This scene is also burned in my mind because it takes a piece of score from the first film that is just subtly playing in the background during the final scene and transforms it into an upfront guitar anthem that carries throughout the sequel.
The film follows the family to a safe district where the children are reunited with their dad. Things become dark and ugly when the husband is reunited with the wife, turning this into an infected revenge flick that puts that absurd Day of the Dead remake with Johnathon Schaech as a stalking zombie to shame. The son and daughter are relentlessly pursued by the dad, and even a military escort—Jeremy Renner—can’t seem to keep him away.
Along the way there are some phenomenal infected attacks, including a helicopter massacre and a claustrophobic scene of everyone in a safe house creating a stampede while trying to escape as the infection spreads within minutes.
There’s also a night vision scene in underground tunnels that may as well have been a vent scene (there’s one of those, too. Fuckers).
Unlike the first film, this sequel made me yearn for a sequel that’s promised but never materialized. Yep, first impressions are everything, and my impression of the 28 films hasn’t changed a bit.