Just when most people had written off zombies as a monster that had anything interesting to say about our life or culture (in favor of angst-ridden vampires), along came a British invasion of zombie movies: first 28 Days Later, then Shaun of the Dead (from the folks who then gave us Hot Fuzz), and now 28 Weeks Later. Revitalizing not only the creatures as a legitimate terror of interest, but also speaking to many of the fears bubbling beneath the surface of life as we know it.
28 Weeks Later features jittery camera movement often so dizzying, you can barely follow the action. Once again though, it produces an unsettling effect, both stylish and startling, not dependent on boo moments but an atmosphere of creeping terror. The movie only stops to breathe in order to set up the plot. Over six months have passed since the original movie. The rage virus has burned itself out and life is slowly being restored to London. The U.S. military, headed by Idris Elba (The Gospel, The Wire) and featuring Harold Perrineau (Oz, Lost), has stepped in to help restore order. It is their “we ain’t playin’” zombie protocols that sets up the bulk of the action, the U.S. military as much a threat as the zombies themselves.
“There are no survivors. It’s just us in here and them out there.” Jacob (Shahid Ahmed)
Zombies portray a resurrection to walking death. They are the living dead, with no hope, only the eternal existence in a “body of death” (Romans 7:24). They are particular reminders that there are worse things than death. However, this movie doesn’t stop at that level of spiritual connection. There is another story the movie seems to be telling.
London, District One specifically, stands terrifyingly empty, a green zone of safety and quarantine, Garden of Eden of sorts, waiting to be populated. People are slowly introduced into this new system, restrained only by one simple rule: do not cross into the forbidden zone. Free will being what it is, that one law can’t be followed.
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned–” Romans 5:12
Donald Harris (Robert Carlyle, Trainspotting), the “first Adam,” introduces the virus into the new system after being tempted (burdened with the memories of his cowardice) by his wife, Alice (Braveheart‘s Catherine McCormack). The virus is like a sin contagion: like the nature of sin, it’s an infection that spreads and grows almost like a conscious disease. Because of the introduction of sin, the created order is disrupted, neither humanity (once infected with sin) nor creation are as they are meant to be. Donald now exists in a state of fallenness, no longer capable of living up to the potential of who he could be.
This virus transforms us, our way of life, our way of prioritizing what is important, our ways of thinking and going about life. Rage, fear, and insatiable desire seeking to be quenched only leads to a spiral of death. The U.S. soldiers become like angels caught up in this battle, both trying to seal off the Garden of Eden from any further intrusion/escape and being a judgment of fire.
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”" –Genesis 3:15
Alice’s blood also acts as a carrier for a possible cure, so there is also a promise of future hope. Through her son, Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton), there is a hope for a cure for that way of life, as he becomes the “second Adam.” With the potential, the nature, to be one of the zombies, but not being like them: 100% them, 100% other. Through him, there is the chance of being completely liberated from this virus.
“We can’t get separated again. Whatever happens, we’ll stay together.” –Andy
Against a cultural context of an AIDs epidemic and wars on terrorism, 28 Weeks Later has a stunning resonance. Director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo establishes a claustrophobic horror, using both light and darkness to terrifying effect. And silence. Haunting images of an abandoned London, a civilization stopped dead in its tracks, provides a forlorn landscape to play out the wars. Like with most sequels, it doesn’t have the impact of the original because we’re now used to the language and rhythm of it. However, that doesn’t make it any less effective a horror tale, extending the original tale in a logical way and deepening its societal critique.
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