28 Weeks Later (DVD)

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Coming to DVD Tuesday, Oct. 9th

Cast:

Robert Carlyle as Don Harris

Catherine McCormack as Alice Harris

Imogen Poots as Tammy Harris

Mackintosh Muggleton as Andy Harris

Amanda Walker as Sally

Jeremy Rainer as Sgt. Doyle

Directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo

Movie:

It’s been years since we saw Great Britain decimated by the Rage Virus, but for the denizens of this sequel to Danny Boyle’s seminal 2003 plague pic “28 Days Later,” just six months have passed and the stench of rotting flesh still permeates the land. With the virus now contained and the Infected all dead from starvation, the U.S. military has begun the cleansing and repopulation of a small urban pocket under its complete control. The borders are sealed, the skies dominated by attack helicopters, and armed snipers stalk its rooftops – but otherwise, it’s a swell place to live.

Especially for Don (Robert Carlyle), a survivor of the initial outbreak now sittin’ pretty in this Neo-England colony with a respectable job and a gleaming penthouse pad. But Don is haunted by the past – specifically, his escape from some of the Infected at the expense of his wife Alice (Catherine McCormack), abandoning her to die in an act of shameless cowardice he hides even from his children when he is finally reunited with them.

But when quiet Andy and his teenage sister Tammy slip by the soldiers and head for their old house to reclaim some belongings and rekindle their memories of mum, they make a discovery that brings Don’s worst nightmare to life – not to mention everyone else’s.

Though missing the signature spunk and ingenuity of “Days” director Boyle, whose original film set new standards in apocalyptic horror while respectfully tipping its cap to the zombie masterpieces of George Romero, “28 Weeks Later” is an intense, throttling flick, a sequel lacking the character depth and endearment of its predecessor but sporting no shortage of relentless mayhem or high-impact horror. Director/co-writer Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s script shifts its central focus so frequently that it’s difficult to grab hold of our protagonist(s), let alone foster much sympathy, but Fresnadillo (chosen specifically for the job by now-producer Boyle and “Days” screenwriter Alex Garland) handles the visuals and pacing with enough panache to keep us interested through every unsettling scene. Echoing Boyle’s style, he juxtaposes frenetic, verite action with sweeping, eerie visions of a wasted world, depicting familiar subway stations and sports stadiums like foreign landscapes.

The film may be a bit too stylish at times, and some of the plotting reeks of convention (including a member of the Infected who displays some uncharacteristically calculating tendencies and a thread surrounding a potential cure for the virus), but these failings seldom detract from the overall intensity. Likewise, “Weeks” may be more overt in its social implications and its references to past horrors than “Days” (including the most grandiose nod to “Dawn of the Dead” to ever fill the cinematic frame), but such excess seems forgivable in a sequel of this stripe – especially one so consistently entertaining.

Fox’s superb DVD presentation conveys all the richness of Enrique Chediak’s vibrant cinematography, along with the relatively spare but effective splatter. The 5.1 audio punches through your surround system like a raging member of the Infected, and the disc is topped off by a healthy crop of features that not only complement the film and franchise but further them, as well.

Extras:

Director/Producer Audio Commentary: On this dry track, Fresnadillo and producer Enrique Lopez Lavigne drift from topic to topic, musing over the goals of various scenes, the techniques used to achieve them, and some approaches not taken. Fresnadillo has clearly invested a lot of thought into his film, and his investment yields an interesting commentary.

Deleted Scenes: A pair of cut clips fleshes out two sequences at opposite ends of the film, giving us a greater (if somewhat overlong) glimpse into life in the quarantine zone and further emphasizing the familial ties that provide the film its loose narrative crux. Neither is essential, and only the latter is truly compelling, ultimately removed to help keep the climax flowing.

Code Red: The Making of 28 Weeks Later: Primarily a talking-heads piece, this 13-minute featurette’s most interesting touch is its brief discussion of some of the other sequel concepts that were explored, including the story of a Marine rescue squad infiltrating Infected London to rescue the prime minister (drawing to this reviewer’s mind notions of “Aliens” meets “Escape from New York!”).

The Infected featurette: A fun quickie with some behind-the-scenes footage of the film’s infected cast, this brief doc doesn’t elaborate on much not already covered in other features, but it does provide a sense of how much thought went into advancing the concepts of the Infected established in the first film.

Getting Into the Action featurette: This 7-minute spot takes us on-set for the staging and execution of some of the film’s major sequences, and gets perspectives on the film from most of the major players.

28 Days Later: Aftermath: Easily the most compelling and original extras on the disc, these two “animated” comic adaptations (written by Steve Niles, a comic scribe you might be familiar with) bookend the events of “28 Days Later” and detail the origins and fallout of the Rage Virus with some dynamic visuals.

Rounding out the package are trailers for the Fox Atomic sequel club (“The Hills Have Eyes 2,” “Lake Placid 2,” “Wrong Turn 2”), plus “Pathfinder,” “Perfect Creature,” and “28 Days Later.”