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Movie or Social Commentary

Is it possible for a horror film to become less focused on scaring its audience than on trying to explore an idea in current society? 28 Weeks Later, directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, is the typical zombie film – lots of blood, chase scenes, and individuals struggling to hide from the semi-dead – with the difference being a parallel to current events such as the Iraqi occupation. Although a number of reviewers feel that such psychological/culture themes detract from the film’s classification as a horror movie, it is that exaggerated portrayal of a world and culture gone wrong which makes 28 Weeks Later that much more horrifying.

The movie begins with a couple cooking dinner by candlelight in a small farmhouse. The couple, Don and Alice, continually counts their blessings that they had the foresight to send their children abroad for school, thus sparing the youths the horrors of the “Infected”. In the midst of dinner with a number of other refugees, the Infected suddenly attack, and the movie begins its sudden change from horror film to social critique. Kevin Williamson’s article “28 Weeks Later highly infectious”, published on May 10, 2007 in Sun Media, states that “the movie’s most harrowing moments are grounded not in blood but in character.

” Williamson is not far from the truth. While the Infected are attacking, Alice struggles to come to the aid of a small boy who came to the farmhouse a short time before the attack. Her mission is moral and selfless, although slightly suicidal. She becomes trapped in a small bedroom with one of the Infected and makes a decision which can only be considered nearly saint-like by the audience; she does not run but continues to protect the child. Don, on the other hand, comes to the doorway of the bedroom, sees the Infected staring at his wife, and ignores her screams for him to save her.

Don flees, leaving the other refugees to be torn apart and turned into rabid fiends. He is haunted throughout the rest of the film by his decision and there are a number of shots of Don recollecting his last memories of Alice, memories that consist of the Infected standing between the couple while Alice screams his name hysterically and an image of Alice standing in front of the bedroom window staring down at him sadly before she is pulled away by the Infected.

From that point on, it is hard to sympathize with Don. The viewer is left understanding that Don is a flawed individual; he does not pretend to be a hero, but his obvious lack of courage is alarming. When Don is suddenly reunited with his children, it has to be questioned whether or not Don would even be willing to risk his own life to save their lives. Surprisingly enough, Don becomes the adversary throughout the rest of the film and any parental instincts he might have had are quick to be killed within him.

Even before that moment, he is looked at unfavorably by the children after they realize that the story he told them of their mother’s supposed “death” was really nothing more than a series of lies used to downplay his own involvement. Aside from moral judgment, the film also looks at political events in a broader sense. The setting for the majority of the movie is a section of England now under U. S. rule.

Survivors of the original “Rage” epidemic are being brought back into the country to populate a section known as the “Green Area” and medical officials do complete health checks on every individual entering the area, quarantining and demanding the destruction of those who might put the security of the area at risk. Snipers stand on every roof top and at night, when everything is calm and they are left to their own devices, the snipers entertain themselves by looking in on the personal lives of the newly arrived citizens, including a couple having sex and two children being tucked in by their father (Don and his children, Tammy and Andy).

Williamson even comments that “Given current events, it’s hard not to see the story’s politically charged parallels with a certain other failed American-led mission – what with its militarized zone, occupying U. S. soldiers, displaced residents and the viral insurgency that sees the stitched-together peace come apart at the bullet-riddled seams.

” It is hard to ignore the fact that the military is in charge of anything, and despite their number of plans to keep the virus under control, they still allow miniscule errors to undermine their efforts (such as allowing the children, Andy and Tammy, to escape from the Green Zone and into the outlying portions of London to be exposed to the destruction of the country and the decaying corpses that have yet to be picked up by the soldiers). How can a group of specially trained soldiers allow children to escape and be so incapable in retrieving them?

But while the characters’ many flaws only help to make them more human, and thus, make 28 Weeks Later all the more terrifying, that showcase of human nature has not been appreciated by many critics. Jeffrey Westhoff wrote on May 11, 2007 for the Northwest Herald that, “Under microstupidity comes almost any deed performed by every character. Tammy and Andy are the champs, behaving as if they already lost their brain functions. They sneak out of the compound and grab a motorbike […] and return to their old house to find pictures of their mother. Their little jaunt brings the virus back into the compound. ”

Yes, Tammy and Andy’s idea was flawed and had lethal consequences. But they are also children. Children are known for behaving stupidly and doing things without thinking rationally. They are guided by emotions; they are afraid of the disease but their need to have photographs of their mother to remember her by manages to supersede their fears. Tammy is merely an older sister, struggling to help her younger brother with the mourning process. He is afraid of forgetting what his mother looks like; she does the only thing she can and goes to find him a picture so that he will never have the fear of forgetting.

Tammy tries to nurture and support her brother; she is nearly the only family he has and she is well aware of that. While her decision is slightly impetuous and more than moderately dangerous, her motivation must still be considered selfless; she only takes such drastic actions because she promises Andy that she will not allow him to forget their mother. It is that display of human nature which allows the movie to become all the more terrifying. In what can be considered the most horrific scene in the movie, Don finally faces Alice, who managed to escape the Infected.

In a matter of seconds, he changes from loving husband begging his wife to forgive him to an infected beast, one vomiting blood and killing his wife without remorse when only moments ago, he was telling her that he loved her. That is human nature in itself and an idea which 28 Weeks Later demonstrates effectively. The Infected, while they may be considered zombies, are also representations of human nature; there are two sides to every person, one that is relatively genteel and placid, and another which is violent, selfish, and full of rage.

By manipulating such quick changes in human character (such as Don turning from father and husband to killer), focusing on the characters’ many flaws (all of which only help the audience to look past the typical horror movie stigmas of beautiful women and overly handsome men), and using a setting parallel to current events, 28 Weeks Later is made that much more terrifying because everyone can identify with the characters and the setting and wonder what they would do if put into the same situations.

Works Cited

Westhoff, Jeffrey. “28 Weeks Later”. Northwest Herald [Crystal Lake] 11 May 2007. http://www. rottentomatoes. com/click/movie- 1167909/reviews. php? critic=columns&sortby=default&page=1&rid=1631933 29 May 2007. Williamson, Kevin. “’28 Weeks Later’ highly infectious”. Sun Media 10 May 2007. http://jam. canoe. ca/Movies/Reviews/T/28_Weeks_Later/2007/05/11/4170963. html 29 May 2007.

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