Fox Atomic decided to torture us by inviting us over the the swanky Fox lot to view the first 28 minutes of the in-progress flick, 28 Weeks Later (we parked in "The Sound of Music," and let me tell you ... those hills were most definitely not alive. They didn't have eyes either, thankfully). I can say with absolute conviction, if you liked the first one, you're going to like this one as well. It's also safe to say (according to Fox Atomic) that you don't have to have seen the first film in order to enjoy this one. That's definitely true from what I was treated to.
Here's the setting: it's 28 weeks since the outbreak of the Rage infection that decimated London in the first film, 28 Days Later (hence 28 Weeks Later ... both movies are timed from the infection outbreak, which is day zero.) If you haven't seen the first film, the Rage virus/infection isn't pretty. One bite (or even a single drop of blood) from someone who is infected will put you instantly into a "state of irreversible hyperactivity and murderousness," according to Wikipedia. It's almost like being turned into a familiar horror movie staple (we aren't using the zed word here), except with the extreme hyperactivity.
Trust me, when one of the suckers gets near you, you do not want to be hanging around. At all. Plus, they'll chase you ... and chase you ... and chase you some more. I don't mean the sort of shambling "I wonder if he's still behind me?" type of pursuit. I mean the "Oh my god, I'm going to pee my pants if I don't get caught first because these things are breathing down my neck, holy cow I wish I hadn't cheated on that algebra test when I was 10, I'm going to die, there goes my whole life in front of me" type of pursuit. That's no exaggeration. In fact, as I was walking back to my car the hairs on my neck kept bristling, and I turned around a couple of times, nonchalantly, to make sure I wasn't going to have to kick my shoes into high gear.
Pardon me for getting a bit off-track -- back to the setting of the film. It's 28 weeks since the Rage infection from the original film. London was completely ravaged by the infection, and the entire area has been under a severe quarantine lockdown. According to some cards they flashed on the screen (which may be changing by the time the film hits theaters), everyone infected by Rage has died of starvation (god how we hope that's true), and the U.S. has arrived to help reconstruct the city and begin the repopulation. People who weren't infected were moved out of the city en masse, and housed in military quarantine and refugee camps for the past 24 weeks or so, and the U.K. is just starting to crack the door open a tad to let folks back in. You know that's just asking for it, like Sheriff Brody saying it's okay for folks to go swimming in Amity again.
It's unknown what the number of fatalities were, but suffice it to say they had to be staggering. London has been reduced to a ghost city, and other than the military presence, nothing is happening in the vast metropolis. The returning survivors (about 15,000 people) are kept in a small area that has been deemed safe, dubbed "District One," on the Isle of Dogs -- a small peninsula on London's East Side. They have hot and cold running water, a few facilities, "and even a pub!" one of the U.S. soldiers tells some of the bedraggled returning. Outside of the safe zone, it's a pretty bad scene, with rats and wild dogs running rampant, disease (not Rage) out of control, and generally just a pretty nasty place to be around. Ah, the good old U.K.
While Fox has asked us to keep a lid on exact event details, we'll drop a few hints. Catherine McCormack and Robert Carlyle star in this film, and we see them during the first couple of weeks of the outbreak of Rage (during the timeline of the first film) holed up in a farmhouse well outside of London. Their kids are on a school trip out of the country, thankfully, leaving them to survive on their own. Of course, Rage infected humans attack the farmhouse in a brutal manner. Flash forward to 28 weeks later (I want a dollar each time I work the title into this story), and their kids are just returning as part of the repopulation. These are apparently the first kids to come back to the city at all, as one soldier tells her superior officer "No one told me that we're now admitting children."
She's obviously worried about the Rage infection returning, but it wouldn't be much of a movie if it didn't. Plus, her superior tells her, "If it comes back, we kill it. Code red." So of course now you know it has to return. With a vengeance. We expect that, at a minimum, there will be a lot of gore and people fleeing from the infected screaming "RUN!" The opening scene we saw was an attack in pretty close quarters, but the Fox Atomic reps we spoke to told us that things will change dramatically in scope as the film unfolds. Bring it on, we say.
The short bit of footage was introduced by executive producer (and director of 28 Days Later, Trainspotting, The Beach, Shallow Grave and other fine flicks) Danny Boyle, and director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. Boyle talked about bringing Fresnadillo on board after seeing his film Intacto and being impressed by it. They showed a few moments from that film, and it wowed me enough to add it to my Netflix queue. They both discussed making the sequel, and let us know that we were one of the first groups ever to see this advance footage. Thankfully, it was impressive enough to justify bringing us geeks in for a peek.
The best part about seeing all this was that it looks really great. Plus they have put some impressive talent in it. Robert Carlyle is one of the most underrated and underused actors from the past ten years, if you forget his terrible turn in The World is Not Enough. For some vintage and great Carlyle, check out Plunkett & Macleane. Catherine McCormack is great too, having previously impressed me in The Weight of Water and Spy Game. The worst part about seeing all this ... it makes me want to see the rest of the movie, pronto. Now we have to wait until May 11th find out what happens.