Foreign Objects travels the world of international cinema each week to look for films worth visiting. So renew your passport, get your shots, and brush up on the local age of legal consent, this week we’re heading to…
Spain! This past weekend at the box-office the pundits found themselves with a bit of a surprise in the rankings. No, not that Robert Fure’s favorite family film Beverly Hills Chihuahua was number one… but that Quarantine was number two. The horror thriller has no stars attached, has a limited audience due to genre and rating, and still managed to beat out Ridley Scott’s Body of Lies with Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe. It really shouldn’t have been a surprise as this is October where even the shittiest horror films usually perform well… and Quarantine is far from shitty. Combine this news with FSR’s ongoing 31 Days of Horror, and this week’s foreign film pretty much picked itself.
[Rec] opens with reporter Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) and her unseen cameraman, Pablo, shooting some footage from a fire station. She’s the host of a show called “While You’re Asleep” which sounds vaguely threatening but is actually a mundane show about people and their late-night jobs. Much of the evening is spent playing with equipment, doing short character piece interviews, and being incredibly bored. Angela wishes the alarm would ring so they can capture something exciting, and her wish is granted when they receive a call regarding an old lady possibly trapped in her apartment. Angela, Pablo, and two fireman rush to the apartment building where they meet up with two police officers already on-scene. With most of the building’s tenants down in the lobby, the camera follows Angela and a couple of the civil servants upstairs to the old woman’s apartment. They break in the door and are greeted by a bloodied and frothing woman who attacks and bites one of the cops. All hell breaks loose from that moment on as the authorities outside seal off the building to isolate the outbreak…
Like The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield before it, [Rec] is told entirely through the lens of a video camera. Unlike those other films, the man holding the camera is a professional newsman which lends credence to his ability to keep filming as the action and terror builds. Most of the film succeeds in keeping the focus on the action instead of ignoring it in favor of reaction shots (I’m looking at you Cloverfield camera-boy… monster on the right, military on the left, and you film your friends’ expressions across the street? Ass.) The shaky format either works for you or it doesn’t, although to it’s credit the movie is far less jittery than the others. The tension stays moderately high throughout as multiple jump scenes and suspenseful crawls through the hallways and rooms keeps you on edge. There are a couple of obvious impending scares that anyone with any horror film experience will see coming, but overall the film maintains its sense of urgency and terror fairly well. And the ending… there is a two or three minute segment that is one of the creepiest and most terrifying I’ve seen in quite some time. (The current remake, Quarantine, copies it, but with all due respect to Doug Jones, [Rec] does it better.)
[Rec] sets out to terrify and it succeeds nicely, but there are a few missteps. Once the situation becomes clear… people are becoming infected and attacking other people… why doesn’t anyone lock themselves in a closet or bathroom? Why doesn’t anyone find a weapon? Why doesn’t the cop shoot more people? And the explanation behind the infection is intriguing but more than a little convoluted. On the plus side however you have the lovely Miss Velasco, who I would watch do absolutely anything on camera. Acting is top-notch across the board as the actors move from normal, believable citizens to terrified and scared victims. It’s not a particularly bloody film, but the gore and effects are all fantastic… especially in those last few minutes. Directors Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza have crafted a frightening and effective horror film and I expect their English language debut relatively soon.
The Upside: Acting is fantastically natural and believable; creepy as fuck ending; Manuela Velasco is so cute and sexy you just want to hug her and hold her tight and protect her from all the evils of the world
The Downside: Some telegraphed scares; inevitably you reach a point where anyone would just put the goddamn camera down; no one grabs a weapon of any kind with one sledgehammer exception