28 Months Later “In the Works”

Poster for 28 Days Later For fans of the original Danny Boyle directed and Alex Garland written 28 Days Later, this could be very good news. Certainly Facebook is full of fans singing their little rage filled hearts out at the recent news that Garland released stating that the script for 28 Months Later has been finished and is in the works but he will have nothing further to do with it.

Alex talks backstory a bit, not on the new 28 Days story but about the path taken to get a sequel worthy of the original. In GamesRadar+ the screenwriter talks about Boyle’s talking about a Garland written sequel while he focussed upon Trainspotting 2 a couple of years ago.

In reference to the Gamesradar+ story, it should be pointed out that they call the film a “zombie” film, which, technically it is not, the films are post-apocryphal and has nothing to do with hordes of the undead.

At that time Alex said he would write it but did not want any active participation in the project. Producer Andrew MacDonald said that he would take care of it. Regardless of whether the writer wants to work on the project, hopefully this sequel should have the same tones of originality that the first one had in spades. The other thing that 28 Days Later had was that wonderfully haunting music, used in a number of other movies, most notably Kick-Ass where the soundtrack was updated for the “Big Daddy Kills” sequence.

While many still refer to the first two as “zombie” films; the scary attacking people in the verse are not, undead flesh eaters. In 28 Days Later the whole outbreak starts because a few animal rights activists go to release monkies who have been infected with Rage. This virus actually turns the primates into screaming murderous, and enraged, creatures who only want to attack. The virus is transferred to people and poor Cillian Murphy wakes up from a coma to find the world in London has changed for the worse.

The first film was brilliant, the cross plot of the Christopher Eccleston’s Army Major, “I promised them women,” and the Brendan Gleeson’s doomed fatherly cab driver, “Get away,” were just icing on the cinematic cake. Naomi Harris and Megan Burns as the women rounded out the casting for this haunting and damned scary film. Boyle proved once again to be the master of celluloid.

Poster for 28 Weeks Later Then came the “star studded” 28 Weeks Later. Jeremy Renner, Rose Byrne, Idris Elba, Robert Carlyle and Imogen Poots, in what was her second feature film role, were stuck in an inferior version of Boyle’s and Garland’s Rage infested England. The first clue that this sequel would be lacking was the noticeable absence of both Boyle and Garland on the project. I liked the film because Carlyle was in it and he brought his own special magic to the role of the man who deserts his wife to the infected and then lies to his kids about it.

Jeremy Renner also made me a fan for life as the sniper with a heart and Idris Elba was not used enough. The story was a pallid follow up to the first film and it was a bit disappointing to not see anything of Murphy and Harris, or for that matter Burns, and their characters.

Apart from Garland’s admission that the script is standing by waiting to be greenlit, there is no further information about the project. Considering that the writer has also stated that no one, not even FOX were interested in doing another sequel after 28 Weeks Later does not bode too well for 28 Months Later.

If the film does get the go ahead, it is to be devoutly hoped that the studios do not forget the original premise and make the Rage infected attackers zombies. Let’s keep our film-lore straight here, this is not an English version of The Walking Dead. Hopefully more news will be released on the likelihood of this anticipated film being made, sooner rather than later.

Retreat (2011): Apocalypse on a Scottish Island

First-time director Carl Tibbetts (who co-wrote the screenplay with fellow first-timer Janice Hallett) has delivered a brilliantly claustrophobic apocalyptic film with Retreat. With a cosy cast of three, Jamie Bell, Thandie Newton and Cillian Murphy,  Retreat is an atmospheric, tense, scary film that is so full of suspense that you feel the urge to watch it with your teeth clenched.

Rather surprisingly Retreat only got a three star rating on Netflix and IMDb only gave the film a 5.7 out of 10. All three actors turn in a more than adequate performance and Jamie Bell should have been nominated for a best acting award. The more things I see Bell in the more I can appreciate that when it comes to acting, he is a master craftsman who needs to be in more films.

The film starts with Martin and Kate Kennedy (Murphy and Newton) riding out to a remote Scottish island on a boat piloted by Doug (Jimmy Yuill). Doug is taking the young couple to a cottage that he has let out to them on the island. Martin and Kate appear strained and unhappy on the boat ride out and we learn that things aren’t too good between them. They are returning to the quaintly named Fairweather Cottage because they had been there years before during a happier time in their life.

Doug drops the couple off on the island and reminds them that he is on the other end of the CB radio if they need anything. The island is remote and they are the only inhabitants. While they settle into the cottage, Kate starts writing about her troubled marriage and that she and Martin are reeling from her recent miscarriage. The generator dies and Doug has to come out to fix it. The day after he fixes it, the generator breaks again and while Martin is trying to restart it, the generator blows up injuring Martin. Kate radios Doug who says that it will be tomorrow before he can come out.

The next day comes and goes without Doug arriving to fix the generator and they can’t raise him on the radio. Kate looks out an upstairs window and sees a man stumble and fall on the path leading to the cottage. She and Martin go out and bring the unconscious man into the cottage. He is bleeding from a head wound and Kate discovers that their mysterious guest is armed.

While the man is passed out on the couch, Martin takes his gun and hides it in a drawer in the dining room dresser. The man, who is dressed in Army fatigues, wakes up and the three introduce each other. The man’s name is Jack (Bell) and he asks if they are on the island alone and if they have contact with the mainland. Martin explains that they are the only people on the island and that the CB radio is their only means of communication.

Jack then tells them that he is a soldier and that the world is suffering from a major ‘pandemic’ caused by a virus from South America called Argromoto Flu, codenamed R1N16. It is an airborne virus that is highly contagious and deadly. If you contact it, you will start coughing blood, pass the virus on to someone else and then you will die horribly. He tells them that the Army is telling people to barricade themselves indoors until they can come up with a cure.

Jamie Bell as Jack is sinister, aggressive, controlling and scary. Kate doesn’t believe Jack’s story and neither do we. Martin tries to play along until they can find out the truth.

I have heard this film called” Dead Calm on land” and I’ve heard it described as “28 Days Later meets Straw Dogs.” Both comparisons are spot on. This is a thriller of highest calibre and it keeps you constantly on edge and trying to guess which way the film is going. The plot twists are many and you will not guess the ending until it smacks you in the face.

This was Carl Tibbetts first time at bat and he knocked the film firmly and squarely out of the park for a solid home run.  This little film completely sells its plot, characters and mood. It is an unbelievably intense thriller. If I had to give this British cinema offering a score, I’d give it a eleven out of ten and say that this needs be on that list of films to see before you die just for Jamie Bell’s performance alone.  The film is that good and Bell’s performance is that great.

Red Lights (2012): Little Things That You Do

Written and directed by Rodrigo Cortés (BuriedThe ContestantRed Lights is really a psychological  cum paranormal thriller. Rodrigo’s last film Buried did so well, that the studios obviously trusted him to work with the big money, aka star actors. You cannot really get much bigger than veteran actors Robert De NiroSigourney Weaver, and Joely Richardson.

Add into this already heady mix, the more ‘recent’ dependable actors in the guise of Cillian MurphyElizabeth Olsen and Toby Jones and you have a vehicle that just smacks of success. The “Readers Digest” version of the plot is as follows:

Sigourney Weaver

Dr Matheson (Weaver) is a psychologist who is also a veteran paranormal “debunker.” She works with her assistant  Dr Buckley (Murphy) who is a physicist. The beginning of the film sees the two “debunking” a typical haunting. That the two are fond of each other is apparent; these two are not just colleagues, they are friends.

After they finish, Matheson asks Buckley to drop her off at the hospital to see her comatose son, who is hooked up to a life support machine.

We next see the two presenting a class to university students. They are “teaching” them how to ‘fake’ a seance. We are introduced very briefly to Sally Owen (Olsen) who after the class approaches Dr Buckley to turn in an assignment. She clearly likes him and they go out  to a diner.  Buckley explains to Sally about  “red lights” which are the subtle tricks that fraudsters use to fool the gullible.

Robert De Niro at the premiere of Tennessee at...

Enter Simon Silver (De Niro) a blind older version of Uri Geller. He can bend spoons, practice telepathy and apparently can levitate. He is making his first public appearance in over thirty years. He ‘retired’ when one of his most fervent denouncers dramatically had a heart attack and died during Silver’s last public appearance.

Buckley wants to immediately investigate Silver and prove that he is a fraud. Dr Matheson urges Buckley to leave it alone. She had faced Silver thirty years ago and she maintains that he is too powerful to be touched. She also reveals that when she had gone up against Silver before, her young son suddenly toppled over and he has never regained conciousness.

Buckley ignores Matheson’s warning and starts investigating Silver anyway.

The build up of suspense in this film was brilliant. It played more like a mystery/thriller for three quarters of the film. The characters of Matheson and Buckley and Owen were drawn so well that we immediately felt a connection with them. In essence before the first twenty minutes of the film we found that we liked them and cared about what they were doing.

I was a little disappointed that Joely Richardson did not have more to do. She played Silver’s manager/agent and she came across as malevolent and not a little scary. De Niro did what he does best. He dominates the screen with his presence alone. He is still capable of catching our attention without saying a word.

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Elizabeth Olsen gave a very sturdy performance as Buckley’s love interest/partner in crime. Cillian Murphy was the stand-out performance in this film. He has come a long way since 28 Days Later and Inception.

English: Actor Cillian Murphy in 2010.

IMDb gives Red Lights a 6.6 out of  10. I would rate it higher just for the high quality of the acting and for the well woven plot. It is one of those films that you should see at least twice to catch every nuance the film has to offer. Just like the “red lights” mentioned by Buckley, the film will mislead you and trick you.

Despite the mediocre and misleading marketing of the film, it is worth the price of admission and splashing out for a bag of popcorn and a coke.

28 Days Later…(2002) Don’t Get Mad

I will admit to becoming an instant fan-boy of director Danny Boyle after just one viewing of Shallow Grave (1994) and became a devout follower after watching (three times) Trainspotting (1996). So when I saw a trailer for 28 Days Later…  I could not wait to see the film. I knew Boyle would do a brilliant job in the Horror genre. The baby scene in Trainspotting so freaked me out that even after watching it three times, I had to cover my eyes half-way through. Unfortunately, I had to wait.

I had to because I worked nights, delivering newspapers. Six nights a week. So on my only day off, rather than see films at the cinema, I slept. All day. So  I had to wait for the video/DVD to come out and rent it. Even on the ‘small’ screen the film delivered. So much so that I bought the special edition DVD the minute it came on the market.

Boyle has taken the Zombie genre and shifted it slightly to the left. Because the zombies in 28 days Later…are not. They are mindless, they are going to eat you if they catch you, but, they are not dead.

28 Days later opens with multiple scenes of crowd violence and rioting in numerous countries. The camera moves back from the violence and we see a wall full of monitors all showing different forms of crowd violence. Strapped to a table in front of the monitors is a chimpanzee. The chimp has electrodes attached to it’s head. Three Animal Rights Activists break into the  animal testing centre where chimpanzees are  undergoing, what appears to be horrific tests.  The activists  are there to record for posterity the abuse the animals are receiving and to let the poor things go free. A lab technician tries to stop the activists explaining that they are all infected and highly contagious. The technician explains that all the chimps have been injected with an inhibitor called Rage. He also explains that it can be spread through saliva and blood.  The activist’s ignore his warning, and threaten him. The first poor creature they let loose  immediately attacks them. The activists are infected instantly.

28 days later bicycle courier Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up in a hospital bed. He gets up and finds the hospital deserted. Leaving the hospital, he finds all of London is deserted.

So begins the film. 28 Days Later boasts a small cast. For a lot of the film we follow Jim, Selena (Naomie Harris), Frank (Brendan Gleeson) and Megan (Megan Burns) as they flee London and head for an Army safe haven they have heard about on the radio. Constantly on the look out for infected people and ready to run at a moments notice. It seems that Rage was very contagious, with most of the population either suffering from it or getting killed from the infected.  While the four are travelling cross country we bond with them just as they bond with each other. When they reach what looks like their destination, it appears deserted. The Army vehicles are empty, the outposts are deserted and civilian vehicles litter the motorway. Frank makes everyone stay put and he starts searching for people who are not infected.

He walks up to a pylon where a crow is pecking at a dead soldier. A drop of blood falls from the infected body and hits Frank in the eye. The change is immediate. He has gotten the Rage virus. As he moves to attack the remaining three people in his party, an shot rings out. The cavalry arrives in the form of a small rag-tag group of soldiers. They are lead by Major Henry West (Christopher Eccleston) who after dispatching Frank gives the survivors a lift to where the rest of the soldiers are bivouacked.

The small group of Army men are using a deserted mansion that the soldiers have fortified against the infected.  When the small group arrive at the mansion the Major takes them on a tour of the house. They all begin to feel uneasy when, as part of the tour, the Major shows them one of his men who has been infected. They have chained him up behind the house for “observation.”  This “observation” seems to be the soldiers taunting their infected mate and beating him when he comes near. The uneasiness that the three feel is for a good reason. Unfortunately The soldiers have not saved all three of the group at all.  It is revealed that the only way the Major West could get the soldiers to stay was to promise them women. Jim is taken out to be executed and Selena and Hannah, who is only about thirteen, are taken upstairs to get ‘presentable’ as a prelude to gang rape.

Jim escapes his executioners and makes his way back to the mansion. Once there he lets the infected soldier loose. While the infected is rushing through the mansion to kill his former colleagues, Jim goes to rescue the two girls.

This film was an adrenaline pumping, heart stopping film. The music in the film helped to set the mood. Especially the use of In the House, In the Heart which has been used at least twice more in other films. The music makes us the audience feel sad, lost and, as I’ve said in another blog, slightly melancholy. The film was very low budget, but it doesn’t feel like a low budget feature. The actors all give brilliant performances and really help to sell the story.

If you were to make a list of Films that just have to be seen, 28 Days later …would be at the top of the list.