Friday, March 9, 2012

Movies: [REC], [REC] ², and Quarantine

[REC] - Everyone's always all smiles in the beginning...

[REC] (2007) is a Spanish horror film about a reporter and a cameraman shooting a late night piece at a local fire station. The fire crew gets a call to deal with an emergency at a small apartment complex, and the reporting crew decides to tag along. Shortly after arriving at the complex, terrible events ensue.

[REC]² (2009) is the sequel to [REC], taking place later the same night, as the authorities send a medical officer and a S.W.A.T. team into the complex for further investigation. Need I mention, terrible events ensue?

Finally, Quarantine (2008) is the U.S. remake of [REC], with Jennifer Carpenter in the lead.

I found all three to be highly entertaining, and worth a watch.

I don't subscribe to the notion that a U.S. remake of a foreign film is automatically a bad thing. Certainly there have been plenty of execrable remakes that make people understandably wary of them in general, but a film should be judged on its' own merits. Quarantine works where most remakes don't, in that it respects the original material and doesn't make any superfluous or ridiculous adjustments.

Quarantine was the film I saw first, then [REC], and just recently [REC]². What I found pleasantly surprising is that all three were inventive enough that I was never bored, and each subsequent film didn't diminish its' predecessors.

I'm going to get into spoiler territory, so if you want to see the films fresh, stop reading now. See 'em, I think you'll like 'em. Otherwise, continue on after the screenshots.

[REC] - If you open a door to an apartment or room, and you see someone standing in the dark facing you like this: (1) back up (2) close the door (3) run!

[REC]² - Don't you listen? Should I have said it in Spanish?

- Spoiler Territory -

These are all found footage films. Often, the found footage device doesn't work, because at a certain point your suspension of disbelief comes crashing down when the events unfolding in front of the characters makes you ask "why don't they just put down the camera and get the hell out of there?" (e.g. Cloverfield).

[REC], in this regard, is likely the most believable found footage film. Initially, the camera crew is just shooting an interest piece for local TV. Then, before they know the full extent of the situation they're in, they keep filming because the interest piece has evolved into a full-on news piece. When the authorities quarantine the building, locking them inside and sniper-shooting would-be escapees, they keep filming to have a record of government corruption along with the inexplicably horrible things they've been experiencing, and they hope this record will reach the outside world. In the end, they find themselves in a situation where the camera is the only thing they have, via night-vision, to be able to see and therefore survive. It's perfect.

[REC]² has an equally clever found footage set-up: it's ostensibly a medical investigation, so all the video recording that's taking place is to collect additional forensic evidence. On top of that, all the S.W.A.T. members have little lipstick-sized video cameras built right into their helmets, so it's not like people are lugging around giant cameras in the midst of all the carnage, and when the film needs to, it simply switches views between these cameras. I suspect this is also a small nod to Aliens here by the film-makers.

[REC]² - S.W.A.T., now with picture-in-picture

Beyond the successful use of the found footage device, I liked how each film envisioned the source of the threat, and it's likely that the order in which I saw all three films helped. Quarantine uses biological warfare for domestic terrorism as its' source, as in "what if Timothy McVey developed the Rage Virus from 28 Days Later?", which is an interesting way of making a horror film resonate with U.S. audiences. [REC] is decidedly more religiously supernatural, where what initially seems to be a viral-zombie outbreak is revealed to be a demonic-possession outbreak. There is a difference, you know!

Finally, [REC]² has an imaginative climax that I appreciated, involving rooms that only exist in the dark.

All in all, three really freaky, entertaining horror movies, if that's your bag. Like I said earlier, see 'em!