Reviewed by Darren Bevan

THE FIRST FILM, 28 Days Later, was such a seminal redefinition of the Zombie genre that it seemed like real madness to tamper with the formula – although to its credit not once does this film refer to those hit by the plague as Zombies (and henceforth neither will this review). But the signs weren’t good with director Danny Boyle and writer Alex Garland disappearing off to take on Sunshine – in fact they even took their star Cillian Murphy with them. And yet 28 Weeks Later, with little known Spanish director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (Intacto) at the helm, is actually as gripping – and in parts sickening – as the first film.

It begins with the Rage virus still causing mayhem and killing off as many people as possible in Britain – but in a quiet corner of the countryside, Don (Robert Carlyle) and his wife (Catherine McCormack) are with an elderly couple and getting ready for a meal of pasta in darkness. Not your typically domestic scene but it has to be said one which is in keeping with the original bleakness of the original. However, within minutes as they discuss their children still being away on the continent and out of the now locked down country, there’s a banging on the front door. It’s a child forced to run from his parents who’ve been infected and have a taste for flesh.

It’s at this point, the tension and paranoia is ramped up as the inevitable swarm of Infected hit the house and force Don and wife to try and escape. However, this is where you realise bleak will be the bon mot of the film – Don is forced to abandon his wife and run for his life leaving her to the mercy of the infected hordes. It’s an interesting conundrum which poses the uneasy question as to whether any of us would do exactly the same thing. Needless to say Don, sickened by his cowardice and self-preservation gene, makes it out alive and heads to London.

28 Weeks Later and the virus appears to have burnt itself out; the Infected have died from starvation – London is zoned off, parts of it quarantined for biohazards while others are now being resettled by the American led NATO force. (Goodness knows why the British army hasn’t been drafted in – presumably they were infected and died off). 15,000 civilians are being allowed back to rebuild their lives in the shadow of Canary Wharf and trying to start again.

For Don, it’s the return of his children Andy and Tammy who were on a school trip abroad when the original virus broke out. However, although they say the children are our future, it’s Andy and Tammy who once again bring civilisation to its knees and nearly deprive it of any kind of future by slipping out of the quarantine zone and going back to their original homestead.

Nothing so wrong with that – except to say, there they find their mum seemingly alive and immune from the original attack of the Infected. She’s brought back for routine medical attention – and it’s there everything starts to go horrendously awry as the Rage Virus once again is brought back to life.

There’s nothing overly inherently wrong with the film – on reflection, there are several serious plot holes which are quite glaring and jarring (the worst being it’s never overly clear how Don’s wife survived the original attack) but the pace of the film zips along that you’re carried with it. It does, however, feel like a video game in many places, in that it can be divided up into many levels: Level One, escape the Infected at the Farmhouse; Level Two, escape the infected at the Canary Wharf showdown; Level Three, survive the streets of London and head to the meeting point and so on.

As with 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later shows London once again deserted and empty London landmarks which are eerily quiet to those used to the bustling Metropolis.

There’s also parallels with Iraq as the Americans police the civilians in London from atop the roofs, and there are scenes where the Americans sickeningly lose control as they open fire upon crowds, confused over who’s got the Virus and who hasn’t. Scenes of crowds running amok and hordes of Infected attacking them are slightly ruined by the fact it’s filmed on a handheld camera and shakes so much you can hardly see what’s going on. It’s easy to understand Fresnadillo wants to promote a sense of panic but it’s so lost in a bout of motion sickness. The American presence is an annoyance and unnecessary – and seems to solely be there to sell the film to a newer audience who may have never seen the original.

Perhaps the best homage in the film comes courtesy of a helicopter, an open field and a mass of Infected humans – it appears to be a surefire nod to Peter Jackson – but to say more would spoil it.

However, the faults of the film are evened out by how it acquits itself . The fact all of the main cast are pretty much unknowns – Robert Carlyle, Rose Byrne and Harold Perrineau are perhaps the best known – makes it more tense to watch as you never really know who’s going to be left standing at the end.

It does leave itself open for a third installment in a way which seems obvious on reflection. But you’d have to hope, those in charge decide enough is enough and leave it at that - although it’s inevitable given the days and weeks which have passed, 28 Months Later and even 28 Years later could be on the cards. If that’s the case, pass me the vial marked Rage and dope me up.