July 15, 2010

Remake a Rec

I recently saw the Spanish horror film [REC] directed by Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza. It's a movie that follows in the footsteps of Blair Witch and Cloverfield, that of the "found footage" genre where the audience's point of view is that of a video camera.

I must admit I was not expecting much, but it turned out to be an amazing film. The fact it was not in English - though subtitled, I do not habla - added to the aura of confusion for me. The characters, though mostly there to be "monster fodder" each had personalities without feeling like stereotypes. The guy I called "Senor Furley" was a particularly entertaining performance to watch.

Beyond that, the film had an artistic flair to it, and there's one particular shot down a spiral staircase that is both horrifying and at the same time, dare I say, beautiful. It was unlike any horror film I have ever seen, even though the story and plot were nothing too far removed from your standard zombie film.

Of course, Hollywood can't leave a good thing alone and decided to make it's own version of the same exact film. Not exactly shot-for-shot, but certainly beat-for-beat.

Unfortunately, it simply doesn't work. The production value is too slick, removing any of the "realistic feel" of the movie. Not only that, but whereas you're rooting for the young reporter in [REC], in Quarantine, you end up identifying only with the cameraman, played by Steve Harris from The Practice.

That's a testament to his acting ability, as he spends most of the film off-screen, behind the camera. However, it also speaks to a complete misfire on the part of the creative team that simply didn't get it and made a film about a raging contagion far too sterile to be interesting. 

Especially comical to me was near the end of Quarantine, where, as in [REC],  the  remaining survivors discover a tape recorder. In [REC], that allows new information to be imparted that provides context for what we've seen so far in the film. In Quarantine, it doesn't work. Literally. The tape recorder doesn't work, making it's discovery completely pointless, and only there because it existed in the original.

Do yourself a favor, seek out [REC] as well as its innovative sequel and leave the American version where it belongs - isolated from the rest of the world and kept under wraps.

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