28 Weeks Later

Gamely carries on the tradition

28 Weeks Later, the sequel to 28 Days Later, gamely carries on the tradition of intelligent zombie movies. The rage virus is back, and two kids may carry the antibody in their blood. Get them the hell out of a London that in its griminess rivals the stunning cinematography and dark set design of Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men.

Tough for me to advise anyone to leave the greatest town on earth, but the heroes need to go across the sea, getting there bloodier than ever. Although the new director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo is more interested in special effects and quick cutting than the original's Danny Boyle, he does spare the outright revulsion should we ever see what cannibalism looks like up close, personal, and slow.

The dark passages and twisting camera, coupled with machine-gun rapid shots, make the movie frequently inscrutable, not a big deal to horror fans but a frustration to us commoners who think the premise has promise of showing human nature at its Darwinian worst if we can only figure out what's happening. That mysterious mise en scene keeps us from connecting with the principals as we did with Cillian Murphy's and Naomie Harris's characters in 28 Days Later.

But gore is to the fore, and that's just fine with those who first screamed at zombies in George Romero's Night of the Living Dead and laughed at them in Edgar Wright's Shaun of the Dead. What I said about 28 Days Later shows what's missing in its sequel: "The eerie set design is appropriate without being overdone (Rod Serling would have approved its restraint), the characters are real without being overwrought (especially the women, who are usually sacrificed to too much emoting), and the subtexts about contemporary crises are clear without distracting from the science fiction genre itself." Correlations with HIV and Iraq are not as easy as they were with the original.

It's a nail biter and organ orgy, with just enough scary false starts and stupid people. I was engaged the whole time, except when an attractive film critic gave me her zombie embrace out of sheer fright. That's not a bad thing.