Movie Discussion: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s 28 Weeks Later (2007)

  • Monthly Theme: Families in Peril28 Weeks
  • The Film: 28 Weeks Later
  • Country of origin: U.K.
  • Date of U.K. release: May 11, 2007
  • Date of U.S. release: May 11, 2007
  • Studio: Fox Atomic, et al.
  • Distributer: Fox Atomic & Fox Searchlight Pictures
  • Domestic Gross: $28.6 million
  • Budget: $15 million (estimated)
  • Directors: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
  • Producers: Danny Boyle, Alex Garland, et al.
  • Screenwriters: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Rowan Joffé, E.L. Lavigne & Jesus Olmo
  • Adaptation? No.
  • Cinematography: Enrique Chediak
  • Make-Up/FX: Cliff Wallace, et al.
  • Music: John Murphy
  • Part of a series? This is a sequel to Danny Boyle’s 2002 film 28 Days Later.
  • Remakes? No.
  • Genre Icons in the cast? No.
  • Other notables?: Yes. Character actors Robert Carlyle, Rose Byrne and Jeremy Renner.
  • Awards?: Best Horror at the 2008 Empire Awards. Eloy de la Iglesia Award at the Málaga Spanish Film Festival.
  • Tagline: “Quarantine. Eradication. Sterilization. Repopulation. Re-Infection.”
  • The Lowdown: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s 28 Weeks Later (2007), the conceptual sequel to Danny Boyle’s fantastic 28 Days Later, which Kristine and I watched last year and both adore. Fresnadillo is the guy who made that 2001 thriller Intacto which was very good.

If you haven’t seen 28 Weeks Later our discussion will include massive SPOILERS. 

Kristine: First off, I have a request.

Sean: Shoot. Anything for you, darling.

Kristine: First of all, I demand that this chat be presented by Imogen Poots (that’s her real name) of 28 Weeks Later fame.

Sean: You got it.

Kristine: And I also found out the actor that plays her brother in the movie is named… Mackintosh Muggleton.

Sean: You are a liar.

Kristine: I am not lying. [Editor’s Note: Upon further research, it turns out the role of Andy is played by Mackintosh Muggleton. Stage name?]

Sean: So, our first sequel… What, overall, did you think of it?

Kristine: I thought it was a good film. In some ways better than Danny Boyle’s original.

Sean: Oh. How so?

Kristine: I thought the social commentary was more damning…broader. The human relationships were more complex. The infected were scarier to me.

Sean: Yeah, I see that….

Kristine: Also, I thought all the Katrina visuals were really fucking scary and haunting. Like the rooftops painted with prayers and stuff. And the way they were all gathered in the huge Superdome-type building, and the way they were written off.

Sean:  Like when they go back to their abandoned house? Yeah, that is very “Katrina.” I think, if there’s a down side, it’s that the movie is a bit too preachy.

Kristine: Yes, returning home to the abandoned neighborhood is so Katrina.

Sean: Yeah, this is definitely a case of horror as overt social commentary.

Kristine: It IS preachy and obvious, but I still found it effective.

Sean: Does that mean the movie is lefty, liberal, anti-Bush?

Kristine: Yes. Which is fine, since I think a lot of horror is right-wing.

Sean: Right.

Kristine: I don’t have any examples, I just think so.

Sean: Yeah, this is firmly in the George Romero camp of horror movies as lefty critiques. When we watch the original Romero zombie movies, you’ll see.

Kristine: What did you think was the most powerful relationship in 28 Weeks Later?

I would run to if someone wanted to sneeze blood into my mouth.

Sean: Robert Carlyle. Just him. Everything about him was great. He’s the best part of the movie for me.

Kristine: I agree about Robert. Do you think the brutal killing of the wife is gratuitous or necessary?

Sean: I think that’s, like, the standout scene.

Kristine: That scene was insane.

Sean: Yeah Robert killing his wife and the daytime chase that opens the movie were the best scenes, I thought.

Kristine: Yeah, the daytime chase scene was scary as hell. But I’d like it on the record that I thought Rose Byrne was a total nothing in the movie.

Sean: Poor Rose. She’s really blah in this role. I actually also think the kids are total duds.

Kristine: I don’t care about the kiddos either.

Sean: Kids in horror are hard to pull off, and I thought they were vapid and annoying.

Kristine: The mythologizing of children annoys me. Why are their lives more valuable? Which actually dovetails into The Mist, though I am not trying to rush along.

Director to Rose Byrne: “Just do nothing.”

Sean: But the brutality of the wife scene…. I think that’s the most effective bit of shock and horror in the movie. Her character gets such a raw deal; it’s kind of upsetting.

Kristine: I have a question about the wife.

Sean: Go…

Kristine: When she kisses him, she wasn’t deliberately trying to give him the virus, was she? She didn’t know she was infected, right?

Sean: Remember that she is left behind at the start of the movie because she wants to protect that strange kid that shows up….. No I don’t think she knows….

Kristine: Her being strapped down by the military when he kills her is so fucked up. God, that scene.

Sean: I am just annoyed by the “woman as maternal martyr” thing. Yeah, the marriage dynamic is interesting and Carlyle’s performance is amazing.

Kristine: Agreed. Which also happens with wilted Rose, and of course the “Amanda” character in The Mist.

Sean: I actually think the movie’s biggest flaw is that it doesn’t use the Imogen character to full advantage. SHE should be our main POV character and her realization about what Carlyle did to their mother should be really momentous…

Give me a child quickly so I can prioritize their needs over my own, dammit!

Kristine: So, what’s scarier – zombies or society?

Sean: Do you mean, society as represented by the military?

Kristine: Yes.

Sean: Um…..I think the soldiers are more scary for sure….

Kristine: Me, too. When they are mowing down people on the streets…

Sean: In The Mist, I think the soldiers are depicted as heroes. They’re the ones who appear at the end to fight the threat. The big difference is that in 28 Weeks Later the threat comes from within; the soldiers have to turn on the civilians in order to contain the monster.

Kristine: Well, I don’t know if they are “heroes” in The Mist. They’re just not totally vile. What did you think of Jeremy Renner?

Sean:Jeremy Renner is hot and amazing and I want to run away with him.

Paternalistic militarism has never been so sexy

Kristine: His character is better than Wilted Rose, but not by a whole lot. They make Rose’s character so sexless.

Sean: I think, though, the Rose Byrne vs. Jeremy Renner characters are a reflection of the gender politics of 28 Weeks Later, which are super tradish.  Renner’s Doyle is stoic and brave, wile Rose’s Scarlet is called upon to be really vapid and useless….

Kristine: But J-Ren (the actor) is very charismatic.

Sean: I do think Scarlet’s death is still kind of shocking, maybe more so than Doyle’s. I like how the movie goes for broke with killing everyone.

Kristine: I agree, but remind me of her death scene…

Sean: Carlyle beats her to death with the night-vision rifle and we see it from his POV and it’s awful and terrible.

Kristine: Oh, right. Too bad they didn’t let her become a zombie though. See, Rose never gets to have any fun. Carlyle was such a great zombie.

Sean: She’s much better served in comedies, as an actress, I think. Carlyle was amazing. He is on that stupid Once Upon a Time show now with Margie from Big Love and it is horrible.

Kristine: I think the choice to not let her become a zombie is because she is such a pretty, delicate actress. Which is why it would have been so great to let her rage out.

Sean: Agreed. Or Imogen. What did you think of Renner?

Kristine: I told you- charismatic as hell, but still underused in his role. But he gets a lot more internal conflict than Rose does.

Sean: When I saw this in the theater, it was before he was a known quantity and I had totally forgotten he was in it. This is thing with horror – a lot of times when you go back and watch horror movies of yesterday the stars of tomorrow are there, working their way up the “ladder.” Horror is so ghettoized. Anyway, it was still fun to see him pop up and be amazing and hot.

Kristine: He is hot. What did you think of the pilot guy shaking the survivor off his helicopter?

Sean: That whole thing was so dumb. See, the movie has great moments like when they’re all locked in confinement and the virus is spreading really fast – that was awesome. It plays on all of our contagion fears and also just the horrible, monolithic crowd thing. But then the movie has these really dopey things like that guy hanging on the helicopter. So fucking stupid. Though the blades cutting through the zombies was fun gore and I loved it.

Kristine: I hated the fake family of Rose, Jeremy and the kiddies. Whereas, the makeshift family in 28 Days Later was real and moving.

Sean: The only good thing about that faux-family thing in 28 Weeks is that it really does make it shocking when Jeremy and Rose die horribly. 28 Days was more romantic and humane, I think, and I’m going on the record as saying I really prefer the theatrically released ending and not the one where Cillian Murphy dies. 28 Weeks is very dystopian and bleak in comparison.

Kristine: The recreation of the family theme is a mistake in the sequel. They just should have come up with a new idea.

Sean: Well, it doesn’t work at all in 28 Weeks because the kids are dumb cyphers.

Kristine: Agreed, to all of it.

Ratings Round-Up

The Girl’s rating: I’m traumatized but it feels sort of good.

The Freak’s rating: Better than I remembered.

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11 thoughts on “Movie Discussion: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s 28 Weeks Later (2007)

  1. I don’t even know where to begin with my comments. Kristine, I’m just shaking my head at you right now. If I had known you didn’t like Carpenter’s The Thing when I saw you a few weeks ago we would’ve had words.

    Out of the four films I remember 28 Days Later the least. I’ve been meaning to watch it again but it keeps getting pushed out of the way for other films. As for the others, I really enjoyed all of them for different reasons. I think The Mist is fun in a pulpy way and that’s only aided by my love for Lovecraft. I’m also a big fan of movies that take place largely in one location. Yes, it’s silly but I still had fun and I bleak is always better in my book. The Orphanage is probably the most atmospherically frightening of the group, though it’s a photo finish race with TCM. I find it really interesting that Kristine is “meh” on TCM when she dug the hell out of Wolf Creek. That movie is basically the Australian TCM! It could be a case of being ruined by the 37 years of influence Hooper’s film had on the world of horror. Seeing in at the time, or much earlier in your horror film viewing, would definitely change your opinion because you would not have all of the other films it inspired and the pop culture references to constantly knock it down.

    As for your brief chat about jump scares…

    While I don’t really have a problem with them, and they can definitely be fun – they don’t make the real classics. When you are lying awake at night, as made evident by the editor’s note, it’s not because of the jump scares but the truly horrifying atmosphere created by the filmmaker. These films leave a lasting impression and don’t just give you a fright for 90 minutes.

    Can’t wait to read about your future experience with Martyrs whenever that may be. That film fucking rocks for oh so many reasons!

  2. I also adore Lovecraft and I actually think the most “Lovecraftian” moments in The Mist are the ones that work the best (the tentacle attack scene, the huge amorphous beasts passing by in the mist). For me, the movie that best captures the tone of Lovecraft is Stuart Gordon’s Dagon – Have you seen that one, Damon? Gordon’s other Lovecraft “adaptations” (The Re-Animator and From Beyond) are also amazing, but Dagon gets the spirit and tone of so much of Lovecraft’s work absolutely right, up to and including that weird and hallucinatory ending…

    I am also totally with you on horror movies that are mostly contained to a single location (obviously Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, the first two Evil Dead movies, etc.) and I love that basic element of The Mist’s premise. What sours it for me is the really bad dialogue and cardboard characters, and I think the movie thinks it’s A LOT smarter than it is. I think you can introduce characters without a whole lot of backstory and make them feel fleshed out (I think The Descent does this really well, as does Wolf Creek, as a matter of fact) but The Mist is SO ham-fisted in the way it handles people, and it tries to be “dialogue-driven” in places but the dialogue is quite bad.

    I don’t subscribe to “bleak is always better” though. As I mentioned in the above post, I think the theatrically released “happy” ending to 28 Days Later is super effective and I love it, and I really don’t like the other alternate endings. I feel sort of the same way – but less strongly – about The Descent – I am fine with the “Sarah escapes” US theatrical ending, and though I like the UK ending fine (I think it fits the tone of the movie well) I don’t see the “happier” version as some kind of vile artistic compromise. And there’s movies like Jaws and stuff where I like that the endings end on an upbeat. I actually think a problem with contemporary horror is that some filmmakers thing ending everything on a gruesome downbeat is like… “deep” or “real” in a way that just rings false for me. The ending to King’s novella is ambiguous, and that’s what I love about it – the reader is forced to wonder. The same thing happened with Darabont’s film version of “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” where he took King’s ambiguous, unsettling ending and felt he had to provide an answer when the lingering question was more effective, I thought. King’s ending to the novella “The Mist” really smartly implies that these characters very well might meet a gruesome fate, and I think the open-endedness there is, like, amazing.

    As for Kristine’s lack of appreciation for TCM – I actually think one day when she rewatches it she’ll like it better (I think the same with The Thing). It is weird to come at all these movies from 2011 – so much of their impact was about their “moment” and also getting to see them without decades worth of contextual baggage. I know she commented to me, a la your TCM/Wolf Creek point, that she felt the 3 kids in Wolf Creek were really likable and that we got to hang out with and know them really well, and that she liked that. Whereas in TCM the kids are sort of cyphers who just quickly die (other than Sally), which I think Kristine had a problem with (not sure about that). I’m also fairly confident that when we watch TCM2 Kristine will like that a lot better.

    I don’t know, which horror classics do you think newbies will most respond to? I have to admit I was, like, agog that she didn’t love The Thing. But she dug The Evil Dead a lot……

  3. I have seen Dagon and love it! Gordon has made some great Lovecraft films but that does really capture the spirit. The HPL Society’s short of Call of Cthulhu also has some high praise. Of course, Lovecraft himself probably wouldn’t be happy with any as I’ve read that he quite hated films.

    My “bleak is better” comment is a bit of an exaggeration. Not everything needs to be downbeat but I do love a good depressing ending. When I first saw The Descent (a film I adore, by the way), it was an uncut import from the UK before it got a theatrical release in the US. That depressing ending is the one I prefer. It’s more realistic to the rest of the story.

    Kristine will surely enjoy TCM 2 better and 3’s not too bad, if memory serves, just don’t go to Next Generation – unless you just all want to have a good laugh at McConaughey and Zellweger.

    Not sure what classics are good for horror newbs that are also adults. That’s a tough call. Good luck.