28 days later redefined the zombie genre and helped launch the careers of Danny Boyle and Alex Garland. Its sequel, 28 weeks later, features a scene in which a helicopter blade turns a horde of undead into bloody mush. Which movie is the best? If you think it’s the original, you’re in the majority. You are also completely wrong.
Boyle’s film introduced the Rage Virus, a deadly pathogen that accidentally escapes from a lab to quickly infect the population. He replaced the tired tropes of boring, plodding zombies with adrenalized pack hunters who act with lightning-fast movements and cunning intelligence. Eight years before The Walking Dead showcased its hordes of cannibalistic corpses, it was a wake-up call for the zombie subgenre.
28 weeks later was not only the worthy successor of 28 days later, but surpasses the original film in some ways with its polished editing, nightmarish settings, an elevation to its catchy electronic score, and a shocking level of gore that sets the bar high for future zombie films. While Boyle achieved a gritty punk sensibility by filming in a harsh documentary style, weeks is all Hollywood bombshell, with a body count to match.
With a relatively modest budget of $15 million, 28 weeks later arrived on May 11, 2007, five years after Boyle’s post-apocalyptic offering. It managed to collect $64 million, an impressive total for a standalone sequel. Fresnadillo embarked on the screenplay collaborating with Enrique López-Lavigne and Jesús Olmo, with contributions from 28 days later screenwriter Alex Garland. None of the original cast would return, and the sequel’s wider scope would see Robert Carlyle, Imogen Poots, Jeremy Renner, and Idris Elba as the most notable names attached.
The plot picks up six months after the zombie outbreak swept through the British Isles, wiping out the majority of the population. NATO declares the Rage Virus eliminated. Citizens are allowed to return to a safe protected area for reconstruction, order is finally restored and life slowly returns to normal. But as the refugees return to the island, one survivor is carrying a mutated form of the disease that is even deadlier.
Or 28 days later revels in its austere intimacy and cinema-verité heritage, 28 weeks later opens up the canvas of this national calamity and delivers a visceral punch of orchestrated action sequences. It’s a juggernaut of stylish horror, from the unforgettable opener of a quiet dinner interrupted by a swarm of hungry zombies to the shock and awe of the bombing of London and the intimate villainy of Robert Carlyle’s character feasting on his wife.
It’s a bloodier and often darker ride than 28 days later, one that not only expands on the themes of the first film, but also manages to stand out as an effective sci-fi thriller dosed with harrowing drama and buckets of blood. Seeing an army helicopter shoot down charging zombies with its rotor blades will remind you why this film is so revered by splatter lovers, and let’s not forget the stumbling trek through subway tunnels littered with captured corpses. through a night vision goggle.
His deft camerawork comes courtesy of cinematographer Enrique Chediak, who gives the project an unflinching ferocity akin to a war correspondent’s first-hand account of a particularly vicious pandemic. It may lack the indie vibe of its predecessor, but it still feels like you’re right in the thick of the action.
And Fresnadillo, who had just one stroke under his belt, deftly approached the task of pushing the boundaries with a professional flair and an ever thickening atmosphere of hidden terror. There are also political commentaries that add context to the fracturing of society and the distortion of our core values, although the American soldiers who rule London like a clumsy analogue of the war in Iraq have aged less well.
Will there ever be a third part of the franchise? The zombie craze may have played with The Walking Dead, Fear the living dead, World War Zand even the Netflix zombie heist movie army of the dead, but these things go in and out of popularity. 28 days later screenwriter Alex Garland has recently said he has a “bigger idea” for a third film that he considered during conversations with Danny Boyle, but nothing concrete has emerged. (Garland also took the opportunity to settle the debate over whether his infected are “zombies” or not. They are.)
Whatever happens next, 28 weeks later was an evolutionary step for horror movies, confidently building on the foundations of Boyle’s masterpiece to create something chillingly fresh. By targeting the aftermath of the infection and its widespread chaos, the sequel offers hope married to the impending reality of another wave. It’s a visceral heartbeat and a timely reminder of viral danger.
28 weeks later diffuse on HBO Max.