greygirlbeast (greygirlbeast) wrote,

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Addendum: Only the End of the World Again (again)

Having made it three-quarters of the way through the Norse/Icelandic/Anglo-Saxon glossary thingy I had to write today, and figuring I can easily finish it tonight, Spooky and I decided to celebrate the death of Jerry Falwell by taking in the 4:40 p.m. matinee of 28 Weeks Later at Midtown. And about the late and unlamented (at least in this household) Mr. Falwell, I will have more to say later. I try not to speak ill of the dead, but when someone has made it his life's goal to preach the extermination of me and mine, and then I outlive the motherfucker, I think it's fair enough for the gloves to come off.

Farewell, Mr. Falwell. You were the sort of bastard who makes me very sorry I do not believe in Hell or even karmic retribution.

But, about 28 Weeks Later. As I've said before, I am not a film reviewer, just a nixar who sees far too many films. But this is what I will say about 28 Weeks Later, which I score an 8 out of 10. Oh, yeah, I'll stick it behind a cut for them what fear spoilers.

I think this film is probably as good as Danny Boyle's original, though it is in many ways a very different film. The thing that struck me almost right away is that 28 Weeks Later is to 28 Days Later later almost exactly what Aliens was to Alien, if Aliens had been a far, far bleaker sequel than it was. Whether it's the Colonial Marines or the US military, the story's pretty much the same. Complacent soldiers who cannot begin to comprehend what they're up against led by an incompetent chain of command that cannot imagine itself ever actually failing. And I was tempted to title this entry "Newt's Story." Because we certainly have a strong parallel between the Jordens and the doomed family of 28 Weeks Later. At one critical point, Andy (our Newt, in this case), even seeks shelter in the air ducts. Even the slipshod, inconsistent manner in which Aliens makes use of the aliens' acidic blood (extremely corrosive when convenient, less so when inconvenient) is echoed in 28 Weeks Later. Sometimes, a single drop of blood is enough to infect, though other times characters fairly swim in the stuff and come out uninfected. Finally, this is far more of an action film that was 28 Days Later, and those who have already seen Grindhouse will wonder whether Robert Rodriquez or Juan Carlos Fresnadillo was the first to realize what a wonderful zombie killing device a helicopter might become.

But enough of the comparisons. Because, all that said, 28 Weeks Later is its own film. And it is unrelentingly grim. As with Zack Snyder's superb 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead, there is no light at the end of this tunnel. Indeed, this is truly a horror film, for the sense of horror almost immediately overwhelms the viewer's ability to experience anything else. I'm not talking about gore (though, make no mistake, this is a gorefest). I'm talking about horror. Well, and fear, which inevitably follows from horror. To pull out the dictionary, horror —"An intense, painful feeling of repugnance and fear." But something more than that. An existential shock, which is that horror that follows from the realization that you are so entirely fucked there's no way back and the only thing you can hope for is an easy death. The realization that all of existence is balanced on the knife's edge of "nature red in tooth and claw" (thank you, Mr. Tennyson). This is the end, and there's no one to rescue you. Not your mother and father, not the military or a government or some corporation, no Ellen fucking Ripley, no loving god at the end of the end of the world. Only terror and then death. This is not a film that plays with awe and wonder. This is not fun. This is a cold blade in the gut in a dark room.

And on the subject of "running zombies" (keeping in mind that the infected of 28 Weeks Later and its predecessor are actually not zombies), anyone who finds the shuffling undead of Romero's film's more frightening that the super-predators of these two films, well, let's just say our fear receptors don't work quite the same way. The victims of the "rage virus" are, for my part, one of the most sublime terrors ever portrayed on screen.

Finally, it was impossible to watch 28 Weeks Later and not see a film that is as much about the war in Iraq and the ravages of Hurricane Katrina (and bungling of Federal relief efforts) as it is about a bioweapons experiment cum apocalypse. Like Children of Men, I could not watch this film and not sense the profound fear and distrust of America that so much of the world must harbor these days. And the bleak realization, in the wake of Katrina, that many Americans have had, that their own government may pose the greatest threat of all to their well being. It's certainly not a new message for an sf or horror film, but here it is timely and delivered with great skill and force.

I would also add that Robert Carlyle is perfectly cast, and he brings a dreadful humanity to his performance. Jeremy Renner's Doyle is another fine performance (you'll see Hicks here, of course, if you've seen Aliens), and there is a splendid eerieness about Imogen Poots (despite her unfortunate name). John Murphy's score is breathtaking (almost literally), and Enrique Chediak's cinematography simultaneously pays homage to the original and serves the needs of this far darker vision.

Tags: 28 weeks later, jerry falwell, movies
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