Thursday, May 17, 2007

28 Weeks Later - Not Very Nice

Went to see 28 Weeks Later last night. I'm not sure I enjoyed it. It's a good film (although not as good as 28 Days Later, in my opinion) - but let's just say that watching it is something of an ordeal. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that it might be more enjoyable to drink several tins of Red Bull and then stick your head inside a very loud cement-mixer for an hour and a half.

I rather like horror films (well, good ones anyway) - but this one seemed to me to go a bit far. Not sure I can quite put my finger on it - but let's have a go. The worst thing was the relentless noise - loud, crashing noises designed to make you jump and feel like someone is tearing off your fingernails at the same time. A bit of that's all-right - but if it goes on almost without respite for the duration of the entire film it gets wearing. It's not as if it's even very clever or sophisticated - it just tires you out and makes you want to leave the cinema for a bit of peace and quiet. And I'm afraid if a director does the ya-boo made you jump fright bit (with extra-loud crashing noise accompanyment) more than twice in the same film (let alone 5 or 10 times as in many minutes) I just find it deeply irritating - not terrifying, irritating.

There are some memorable scenes in the film - I think the initial extended scene in which Robert Carlyle abandons his family and flees for his life in terror through the countryside was fantastic (there's a bit almost reminiscent of Raiders of the Lost Ark, where hordes of pursuers appear over the crest of a hill and bear down on the hero sprinting for an escape vehicle - except rather more scary and not very funny). As most of the reviews I've read point out, the shots of an abandoned, desolate ghost-town London are very impressive (although the first film did much the same thing).

I wasn't really very impressed with the film's super-charged gore factor, though. One of the best things about the first film was that it had quiet bits in it in which an understated psychological kind of horror came to the fore. In the second film, however, it was all running, shooting, crashing and slashing. There's a scene in which an infected Carlyle gouges out the eyes of his wife - completely unnecessary, I thought - and just deeply repulsive rather than horrifying. These things usually work best if suggested rather than filmed in close-up. Furthermore, the original film worked particularly well I thought because the soldiers who rescue the main characters become the bad guys of the film - the director subverts convention in that the figures which in other films might represent safety, protection and the restoration of order, are transformed into monsters (worse than the infected). In the second film, however, the forces of order spend most of their time charging around, blowing things up and shooting people in a rather uncomplicated and one-dimensional fashion. OK, there's some ambiguity towards the US troops in the film - they end up trying to wipe out the repopulated London colony in order to contain the virus - but they do this out of panic, incompetence and sheer super-power heavy-handedness rather than out of any sophisticated or complicated moral ambiguity - they're no Christopher Eccleston. 'What do you expect?', the director seems to ask with a shrug - 'it's the US army and the US army just charge around blowing everything up given half a chance. It's not their fault'.

I suppose I'm glad I saw the film and on balance I'd recommend it. Just don't watch it if you've drunk any caffeine in the past 24 hours.

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