Of all the horror genres, I’ve always liked the zombies the best. The prequel to this film, 28 Days Later, directed by British filmmaker Danny Boyle three years prior, was such a big box office hit, that (of course!) Fox queued up its sequel soon after. But when writers and directors change hands, you get very different movies, almost unrecognizable from each other.
That’s why in TV, you have show runners and a team of dedicated staff writers keeping a coherent style and look of the way a story is told. That should probably be the work flow for film franchises. Once you change the creative heads, you get very different voices. That was definitely the case here.
The 2003 script that Boyle directed from, written by Alex Garland, was a smart metaphor for the war in Iraq that was ravishing through the lands at the time. 28 Weeks Later, however has no such lyrical ambitions. The story is simpler: Two teens go look for their infected mother, break protocol by going into areas they’re not supposed to be in, and discover that there are more zombies out there. They encounter a few people here and there, lose some along the way, and BAM, we are at the end with a predictable cliffhanger that sets us up for a third film, should this one be another box office hit. Well played, producers, well played.
I must say that the actual film came out pretty okay. I like zombies and if you put enough gory details onto the screen, you will get me flinching. But what will get me feeling, are details of the human relationships. If I feel for the characters, I will cry when they get eaten.
28 Weeks Later is a good script to study if you you’re just starting out dissecting screenplay structure, especially as they pertain to horror films. This one’s written pretty much like painting by numbers. If you want more substance, go back to the original. Or better yet, give this year’s Get Out by Jordan Peele a try. We are at a time right now, where our films need to say more than hey, look at all the blood, explosions, or boobs to stand the test of time.
Also published on Medium.