Monday, October 24, 2011

Halloween Reviews: REC (2007)

The found tape horror genre has increased in popularity since ''The Blair Witch Project'' opened in in 1999. Its origins go further back, however. In 1980, the world gasped in terror as a little gore-fest called ''Cannibal Holocaust'' paved the way for a genre that to this day is reeling out all kinds of weird hybrids, substituting the cannibals with zombies („Diary of the Dead”), giant creatures („Cloverfield”), ghosts („Paranormal Activity”), even people with superhero abilites (the upcoming „Chronicle”). The genre started out as a low budget solution that at once provided gritty realism and low costs. Today, although still a valid solution for cutting expenses, there are studios willing to add expensive visual effects to these movies as the genre breaks further into the mainstream.

„REC”, a movie which now has one completed sequel and two more on the way, is not breaking any new ground, but at the time of its release it was somewhat appealing, sparking some interest that eventually led to an American remake called „Quarantine”, which also had a sequel. The story follows a reporter and her cameraman as they spend a night with a squad of firemen on the job. They start with taking a couple of interviews and getting to know the guys. When the firefighters respond to an emergency call, they tag along. What seemed like a routine mission soon turns into a nightmare as the building they were called to seems to be struck by some kind of infection that turns people into flesh-eating fiends (or Zombies). Things only complicate further when the authorities shut down and quarantine the building. Trapped inside, the two reporters, the firemen and a few other survivors, have to figure out a way to stay alive and escape.

Basically, this is a found footage version of „28 Days Later”. The zombies are lightning-quick and very loud, because nothing makes the blood in your veins freeze solid like the hellish squeal of a zombie. Later there's some sort of supernatural explanation that seems to veer towards demonic posession, but the plot doesn't do much explaining. In terms of technical values, the audio makes the whole experience work, mainly because the camera shakes and swings so much that the only identifiable elements are the sounds. And the close-ups. When the action winds down and you can see stuff again, you see faces. Terrified, anxious faces. There's not a lot of emotion to be found here. The main requirement for an actor in a horror flick is to be able to act scared. The cast here is effective, so I have no complaints. What I will complain about is the noise factor. There's a whole lot of screaming and I know i said the sound is essential to the experience and I know that this being a „realistic” depiction of a freak event, it's a given that people will scream, but the noise levels are nearly intolerable, annoying even. Similarly, the shaky cam effect is prone to induce headaches. If you usually avoid these kind of movies, you might as well scratch this one off your list as well.

Overall, there's little here that would make me recommend „REC” to anyone other than the most hardcore horror fans. Otherwise, it's a serviceable entry in the genre. It's effectively scary and violent, but lacks any kind of solid emotional involvement, or even a plot for that matter. It's one big gimmick, a roller-coaster ride of frights and nauseating camerawork. But like I said, it is effective.

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