May 27, 2007

Review of 28 weeks later

Spoilers ahead.

As I mentioned not too long ago, I love zombie films and 28 days later is one of the best in the genre. 28 weeks later does not live up to its predecessor.

As mentioned in that past, Weeks has almost nothing to do with Days beyond taking place in the same fictional universe. We have a completely different writing team, completely different cast, completely different crew. This film could therefore be a creative development of the themes of the original, or a pathetic attempt to use an excellent film to shill for a mindless piece of crap.

Unfortunately, we have the latter. Weeks is just under two hours long, and the Rage virus plague only returns after about an hour. You would think the first hour would have been spent on character development. And it is -- characters who become the first casualties of the newly-resurrected Rage virus. And once the zombies are back, and we're left with four main characters who are so underdeveloped they aspire to be two-dimensional -- two of them haven't even been given names -- the second half is devoted to the chaos, guns, and running in terror that is usually confined to the first and last fifteen minutes of a really good zombie film (with sporadic zombie interludes, of course, to break the film up into chapters).

It is my strong belief that zombie films are not about the actual zombies. The zombies are just there to force the protagonists into the claustrophobic, paranoid, stressful situation that drives the actual story. The real conflicts arise out of the tensions and disagreements within the group of survivors, not between the humans and the zombies. The tight conditions and constant danger the survivors face creates a miniature of our own society, and this is why zombie films are such a ready vehicle for social commentary.

The filmmakers responsible for Weeks seem to have forgotten this. The conditions portrayed in the first half are reminiscent of Day of the dead, and I thought I was going to see a film critiquing the modern military and public surveillance. Once the Rage virus starts to run rampant again, however, these themes are dropped in favour of jiggling the camera around while the survivors run in terror and/or are mauled. There's no lull in the action for the characters to really talk to each other, much less for conflicts and disagreements to develop. Everyone's just trying to survive, and that's literally all they're doing.

Quite frankly, the crappy remake of Dawn of the dead had more character development and plot than Weeks.

Still, there were some fairly creepy and entertaining scenes. The last substantive segment of the film has the survivors stumbling down into and through a pitch-black underground tunnel filled with corpses, with only the night scope of a rifle to see their way. The opening segment is also very well done. I'd recommend Weeks on DVD as part of a zombie film festival for that reason -- a sort of light course to cleanse the palette between Days and Land of the dead.

2 comments:

Drew said...

What is your issue with American capitalization conventions?

Luke said...

"The tight conditions and constant danger the survivors face creates a miniature of our own society, and this is why zombie films are such a ready vehicle for social commentary."

>Couldn't agree more. Though I think some of the anti-US military suggestion got through..it wasn't nearly enough for something that could've been so much more with the 28 franchise as popular as it is and will continue to be with "months later" supposedly under works. I felt more like screaming at the film and some of the characters which I don't think i've ever wanted to do in any other zombie film...in that way it had its cheap slasher moments where you're just frustrated and not so much scared/thrilled/worried.

Haven't seen the original Day of the Dead yet...I should probably watch before the remake comes out..