Set Visit: 28 Weeks Later

In my report from THE HILLS HAVE EYES 2, I mentioned that it was my very first set visit, but I now realize that was a lie. Two days before we were taken over to Morocco to visit mutants, we got to spend a few days tiptoeing over the infected on the set of 28 WEEKS LATER. And since I love 28 DAYS LATER like a little boy loves a particularly fancy toy, I wandered through the set like a fat woman in a bakery.

The reporter posse was guided through gore factories, costume departments, one particularly impressive "log cabin" set ... heck, we even got to eat some fantastic "craft services" food along with the cast and crew -- inside a broken-down double-decker bus that now exists as a lunchroom at the 3 Mills Studio. Everywhere we went, "the infected" were there. Not to spoil the illusion or anything, but despite their blood-soaked eyes and gore-drenched clothes, these actors and stuntpeople were having a really good time.

It's hard work playing an "infected," believe me (because one of our reporter posse members got to do just that!), but it felt like the gorier the person, the more fun they were having. Actor / "movement coordinator" Paul Kasey described the 4-hour "infected" workshops in which sixty performers prepared to get ... nasty: "They came from different backgrounds: there were dancers, gymnasts, mime artists, circus performers ... so they all had a good idea of the movements, and then we just molded that into what was needed."

And these infected folks got to take center stage in the specific scene we were witnessing. No spoilers: The scene takes place in a cabin where Robert Carlyle, Catherine McCormack, and a few other survivors have been "discovered" by some feral lunatics -- and so they must escape. It'll probably make for a fairly small scene in the final cut, but the cast and crew worked their asses of for (at least) two days. When the shooting ended, we were offered several peeks of the footage, and it looked pretty darn ferocious to me.

Chillin' with the dead...

We then got to enjoy some "rough cut" footage of a helicopter sequence that, frankly, I can't wait to see finished and projected on a big screen. Let's just say it's pretty wild and not mention what happens when helicopter blades come into contact with "the infected." We were all given a nifty little ID badge that was used as a prop in the movie! **(Vie for one of your very own RIGHT HERE!)

To those who hold a special affection for Danny Boyle's original film, you'll be happy to know that not only was the director involved in the sequel (albeit in only a hands-on producer fashion), but also that original producer Andrew Macdonald and screenwriter Alex Garland also stayed close to the production. Producer Allon Reich was asked about "standing apart" from the original, and here's what he had to say: "We were very clear that we wanted it (the sequel) to be a stand-alone movie. If the "franchise" has any value, it's because the films will be very particular, very individual, so we wanted to find a story that would attract a proper filmmaker." The "stand-alone" story is what attracted the director (Juan Carlos Fresnadillo)," and when I asked him if he thought the "concept" was the star of the series, the producer definitely agreed.

The big treat of the trip was when we got to sit down with Andrew Macdonald, who is a longtime producing partner of Danny Boyle's. (Together they did SHALLOW GRAVE, TRAINSPOTTING, THE BEACH, 28 DAYS LATER, and SUNSHINE.) The producer mentioned being elated at how well-received DAYS was here in the States (both critically and financially) before he was asked how he'll try to "sell" the sequel this time around: "Obviously we're going to try to play up the sequel aspect in the poster art and the marketing, but also try to convince an audience that there's an actual dramatic story to tell here. That's why we wanted to hire this director. It's not like he's made five horror films. But he saw something in the early drafts: The 'family' aspect and how that family tries to get back together after the outbreak is over... I think that sort of 'family drama' is what makes it a bit different, at least different than the horror sequels that are just about people being chased all over the place."

Throughout the set visit, many kind words were offered to the folks at Fox Atomic, who apparently left the filmmakers alone to do their thing. Everyone we met on this trip, from the production and costume designers and the actors and stunt coordinators, were not just psyched to be working on a splatter-happy sequel -- there were several excited comments about, yep, the actual STORY of 28 WEEKS LATER. So while the sequel might not be the "out of nowhere" surprise hit that'll have all the horror-heads hoppin', it's good to know that the follow-up was pieced together deliberately and with a lot of care. Now all we have do to is wait until this coming Friday, May 11th, to see the goods!



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