Audiences hoping to experience similar thrills to director Danny Boyle's original virus-infection shocker 28 Days Later would do better to re-watch that flawed film rather than endure this committee-produced half-hearted follow-up from newbie writer/director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (Intacto). Seven months have passed since the last Rage Virus victim died of starvation in London. The U.S. Army controls the empty city's quarantined district, where adolescent siblings Tammy (Imogen Poots) and Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton) are reunited with their father Don (Robert Carlyle) after his narrow escape from a marauding band of diseased zombies that ostensibly took the life of the children's mother Alice (Catherine McCormack). Nevertheless, of the 500 survivors populating Britain, Alice endures undetected, thanks to a genetic immunity that may provide an antibody against the insidious Rage microbe. Enormous plot holes, indistinct swipes at social satire and a wayward emphasis on feeble child characters contribute to the film's tedious clinicism. This isn't just a bad movie -- it's a cut-and-paste example of how movie sequels are predictably inferior to their ancestors.

There's a notable lack of urgent discovery in the beginning minutes of 28 Weeks Later in spite of its thundering musical score of goth metal. Fresnadillo makes no attempt at matching the fast-twitch blast of graphic energy that exploded from the first film's opening sequence where contaminated lab monkeys broke free of their cages to wreak unthinkable havoc. Here, a group of civilians hide quietly around a dinner table inside a boarded-up rural farmhouse. Don and Alice retreat to an upstairs bedroom when viral automatons invade the dark crevices of the house to bite and spew blood on the uninfected civilians. Don jumps out of a second-story window, abandoning his wife in the process, before escaping in a motorboat whose blades chew at the tainted flesh of his spastic attackers.

The lead-up seems to promise an Omega Man perspective on one man's attempt to escape an inevitable doom. Instead the plot veers off into a militarized London overseen by U.S. Army commander General Stone (Idris Elba), where Don's children join their traumatized father in a refugee compound that seems more like an internment camp. Never mind that the children effortlessly skip out of the U.S. Army's "secure zone" to gather possessions from their home -- where they discover their mother alive if unwell. The movie doesn't care about believability or cohesion. The prevailing attitude here? "You want a sequel? We've got a sequel."

The most visually arresting moment comes in the form of an exceptionally gory climatic scene that seems lifted from Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez's Grindhouse in which a pilot tilts his helicopter and uses his chopper blades to make minced meat (literally) of an approaching group of zombies on the ground. It's an unfortunate parallel that points out the lesser quality of 28 Weeks Later as compared to Grindhouse. At least Tarantino and Rodriguez create an atmosphere of cinematic pleasure.

A turning point finally arrives when Army Ranger Sgt. Doyle (Jeremy Renner) disobeys General Stone's order to fire on civilians after the quarantine is broken. Doyle leads a small pack of survivors away from the American soldiers and zombies -- who by this time are lining up on the same side of the law (or lack thereof). By that point, however, it doesn't matter who the villains are -- or even if there is any hope for humanity. The audience is simply being baited for a third continuation of more of the same. Judging from this psychology, humankind really is staring into an abysmal future. Enjoy the decline.

Palouse Cult Film Revival: Little Shop of Horrors @ The Kenworthy

Wed., Feb. 8, 7:30-9:30 p.m.
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