28 Weeks Later is the rarest thing you’re going to find at the movies this summer: a sequel that doesn’t suck. In fact, this explosive, nerve-frying followup to Danny Boyle’s much-admired 2002 hit 28 Days Later is a dynamite zombiefest all on its own. Taking over for Boyle as director and co-writer is Spain’s Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, who scored big in the horror lottery with Intacto. He picks up where Boyle left off, showing a few survivors seeking shelter in a farmhouse from a zombie plague that damn near depopulated England. When the attacks start again, Don (Robert Carlyle, he of the mad Trainspotting glint) ) scrams out the window leaving his wife (Catherine McCormack) to serve as a cannibal snack. Fresnadillo ups the gore quotient and shows a penchant for showoff editing and strobe lighting that Boyle avoided. It grabs you though, hard and often.
But 28 weeks ahead to London, where Don and other Brit refugees find a fragile safe zone in a hi-rise under American army guard. Don’s two young children, played without an ounce of bogus cuteness by Mackintosh Muggleton and Imogen Poots, are also rescued. They buy dad’s story about mom being munched until she shows up looking only a little the worse for wear. It’s too bad Don bends down for a kiss of forgiveness. Yikes!
Don’t let anyone tell you what happens next, just that the chase is on. Fresnadillo pulls out all the stops. The zombies move even faster than before. And they don’t just nibble on necks, those suckers chew right into the arteries. You’ll want to duck from the blood spray. And watch out for the blades of that heliocopter — it’s a real zombie Cuisinart.
Fresnadillo is savvy enough to realize that there’s no place better than a B movie to tuck in a political subtext. And it’s hard not to think of Iraq and the fear of Islam generated in the Dubya era as the U.S. occupying force. It’s shooting and bombing without regard to collateral damage. Jeremy Renner, so good as a serial-killing cannibal in 2002’s Dahmer, is equally effective here as a Special Forces sniper who grows a conscience. That thematic resonance makes 28 Weeks Later stick to your nightmares. Hold on for a hell of a ride.