[REC] and its sequel, [REC]2, have created just the tiniest bit of paranoia in me. Have you seen them? Did you see Quarantine and its sequel and somehow think that you may have actually seen [REC] but in English with slightly more well known actors and actresses with a higher production value? I’ll tell ya, when I bring up this film nine times out of ten I get the whole, “oh yeah, I know that movie. I saw it. It’s called Quarantine.” Is Quarantine the same as [REC]? Not even remotely. It is true that one is a re-imaging of the other only in the English language. It is also true that the plots are nearly identical. I think I’ve socially network bashed Quarantine to death for simply one reason. One reason more than any other film in which I have placed my dirty talons and ripped; More than the remake of April Fool’s Day. We’ll save that one for the day I get my first prostate exam. Quarantine… the same as [REC]? Saying that they are the same film will only earn you the really real world version of detention with me as your supervisor and forced to endure the remake of Nightmare on Elm Street (because ya’ll hate it so much). I think that the second time I’ve threatened NOES on someone. Maybe even the third.
Forget about Quarantine for the rest of this blog. If you think that you know the story that is told in [REC] it is your first duty to go back and re-watch or watch for the first time this classic piece of demon/plague terror. First, a word from our sponsor (or at least they should be my sponsor with how much I quote from them):
“REC (stylized as [●REC])” follows a Spanish late-night television reporter, Angela Vidal, through the lens of her cameraman, Pablo. During one report of the happenings in a local fire station in Barcelona, the duo follow a team of firefighters who get a call from an apartment building nearby about a trapped woman. When they arrive, they find the apartment's residents huddled in the lobby. They go upstairs to find a woman who is obviously distressed. What follows is a night that none of them will ever forget.” (FYI.. that’s a combo WIKI/IMDB punch of death)
From the outset of this picture you get the feeling like you’re actually watching the news. The quality is less than perfect. The reality film style allows for normal camera errors and inaccuracies. That’s not to say that the film is under produced or amateurish. It’s intentional attention to flaw is a mask it puts on to make you forget that you’re watching a horror picture. The suspension of disbelief is practically instantaneous; Maybe the best example of this film style since the Blair Witch Project; Maybe since Cannibal Holocaust. The boogeyman’s greatest weapon, as is the Devil’s, is misdirection. Look over here while I cover this pitfall with a rug so you can fall right into it. The boogeyman or filmmaker in this case creates an illusion of security. While you’re staring at the screen thinking you’re in the comfort of your own home, watching the news (all be the news in Spanish for the unilingual folks in the room) then he’s got you. Juame Balaguero is your boogeyman, and he reels you into his little ruse.
You open the door at the end of the fire call and enter into a world of claustrophobia. It is a world that has transformed itself from infinite possibility to a cage without hope of escape. If that isn’t enough for you then our boogeyman will throw in what would appear to be zombies. Fast moving, Danny Boyle zombie-like creatures that run at your with vicious teeth thrashing like a friggin’ Great White shark. Are they zombies? Something else? Beyond the fear of overpowering claustrophobia and the fear of being imprisoned you know have to deal with something trying to eat your face off and you have no idea what that something might be. It looks human, but makes sounds that are beyond animal. The sounds you hear are ten steps above a Regan McNeil. The fear of this unknown nemesis that hasn’t shown you his Achilles heel is great for building suspense and is damaging to any sense of hope you may have previously had.
I won’t go through the nitty gritty of the film. The play by play is reserved for those who watch the movie and share in the horror. I will tell you that there is something in the end of the film, an effect… a make-up job, so vicious that I find it difficult to walk in the dark for several hours after the film. If I fall asleep on the couch after seeing the end of the picture and then wake up at 3am, ready for bed, I have to negotiate with myself to get myself off the couch. I have to convince myself that the movie I had just seen was only a movie. Demons or Zombies or Plague… when it looks like that it doesn’t matter. Country of origin simply means it can happen all of the world. When you see, you’ll know what I was talking about. I hope you have the same fear of the dark, the kind you had when you were a little kid.
Now I know you don’t go into horror pictures thinking you’re simply going to be entertained for a couple hours (its probably formulaically 90 minutes). What would give you the impression that you were supposed to sit in your seat, eat your popcorn and keep your mouth shut? Is that what Hollywood has been doing to/for you lately? Entertaining you? [REC] is a picture that plays on your fears and picks them out one by one. [REC] shows you each fear and then begs for you to deal with it. Hey, if you wanted to be entertained you would have gone to see the Last Action Hero remake. You would have seen the latest coming of age drama or perhaps a road movie with endless laughs at the expense of your basic slap stick aficionado entering the 21st century. I’m gonna say this, and I’ll even repeat it so we get it straight. YOU ARE ALLOWED TO SCREAM AT A HORROR MOVIE!!! … one more time… with feeling… YOU ARE ALLOWED TO SCREAM AT HORROR MOVIES!!!
Remember how I asked you to forget about Quarantine? Well now I want you to take the memories you had of Quarantine and analyze them with me for a second. The reason you love Quarantine so much is because it entertains you so well. It’s what our Hollywood machine has come to do ever so well. There’s been some discussion about where American horror movies have gone wrong and why. Our obvious scapegoat is the remake. The remake is the cash cow for any would be horror production. Take the proven film and capitalize on its good name, but make sure to update it and give it our pretty finish so that it appeals to a larger audience. In short, let’s entertain our audience as we’ve done since the early days of film. This same holds true for the majority of non-remake films put out by Hollywood that are prepared for the masses. Clean it up. Add the laugh track. Show enough skin to excited, but make sure the film takes a PG-13 rating or you lose a million bucks a day (if you lucky).
The fundamental argument between [REC] and Quarantine, the argument that seems to make folks like Quarantine better than [REC] is the Turtle Wax. It is the Vaudeville. The fine tuned production value with the near perfect cam work and actors with which you are somewhat familiar. When you step into see Quarantine you say, “entertain me”. When you walk out the door at the end of the picture you say, “That was a great movie”. When you leave the theater after watching [REC] you feel uneasy and maybe even a little sick. Scared or not you have seen things that you won’t soon free from your mind’s eye. This is the value of a horror movie. It does not entertain you. It disgusts. It plays tricks with your perception of what is and is not real. It forces you to challenge reality and forces you to keep watching. The entire movie plays out like the queue for a roller coaster building up tension. When you actually get on the ride it’s a short ride but a powerful experience that has your vocal chords stretched and mouth agape.
So I hope you see [REC] instead of Quarantine. I hope you watch [REC]2 to continue one of my favorite horror stories in recent memories. When [REC]3 rears its head I hope it makes story into the stuff of legend. Something that will scare your kids and your kids’ kids. There are plenty of independent and foreign films out there waiting to devour you. They might not tickle your dick, but they’ll certainly bite it off if you’re not careful.