Sunday, August 23, 2009
Being the Jaume Balaguero slut that I am, I really tried my darnedest to see [REC] when it was first unleashed, but that just didn’t happen. Then, I told myself that I’d see [REC] first before I would ever be unfaithful and lay eyes on its English-language remake, Quarantine.
That didn’t happen either.
And finally, it came about that I simply couldn’t keep putting off Quarantine in favour of its progenitor any longer, so, here I am, with my thoughts on Quarantine.
This very nearly breathless exercise in first-person, handheld POV horror sees Angela Vidal (Jennifer Carpenter) and her cameraman Scott Percival (The Practice’s Steve Harris) doing a piece for The Night Shift, where Angela gets to live her dream for a night—being a fireman.
Well, actually just shadowing a crew of firefighters, first in the station, during their downtime, and later on, when they’re called in for what turns out to be a medical emergency with horrifying ramifications, gradually turning her dream, yes, you guessed it, into a nightmare…
Under the very able and deft direction of John Erick Dowdle (assisted by his brother Drew, who’ve made the example of the Coen brothers their own career template), the palpable tension of a collection of people trapped in a building under very intense conditions is only too evident, as events spiral out of control and hysteria steadily escalates into maddening terror.
And while this is a piece of ensemble horror, credit needs to go to Carpenter, who should be familiar to you from Scott Derrickson’s The Exorcism of Emily Rose, as well as Showtime’s Dexter. As Angela, she’s practically onscreen for the entire length of the film, and is the audience’s “in” to the chiller’s narrative, the gamut of emotions she runs—excitement to anger to indignation to anxiety to balls-out shivering hysteria—mirrors our own, as things rapidly go from bad to oh-so-very-frakking-worse.
Though this doesn’t have the Cloverfield advantage of a cast of relative unknowns (thus heightening the suspension of disbelief), we do get Johnathon Schaech as the 70’s porn-mustachioed fireman Fletch.
And that’s a pretty fair trade-off, I think.
It’s also a credit to everyone involved with Quarantine (including DP Ken Sang and editor Elliot Greenberg, for making the cinematic sleights of hand invisible) that the film’s scares outshine that mustache, ‘cause it truly is a scarifying one, people.
There’s also a very neat Doug Jones appearance in here; trust me, you’ll know Dougie when you see him…
It’s interesting to note that the Dowdles co-wrote the Quarantine script working off [REC]’s Spanish script, since the adaptation began while [REC] was still being completed.
It was in the same week that they completed and presented their Quarantine script that they first saw [REC], and though it did then inform the subsequent development and shooting of Quarantine, this didn’t tread the usual path most remakes take.
And now that Quarantine has proven to be a very effective film in its own right*, it only makes me even more eager, to see both the original [REC], and its impending sequel, [REC] 2, which is said to give the material an Aliens spin, as camera-mounted military types enter the picture to clean up the bloody mess.
Woo-hoo! Fun times!!
* It’s a testament to the achievements of the Dowdle brothers—whose tag-team work on The Poughkeepsie Tapes got them the Quarantine gig—that they were handpicked by M. Night Shyamalan to kick off the “Night Chronicles” with Devil.
The Night Chronicles will encompass three horror films that will find their genesis in original stories by Shyamalan, to be scripted and directed by individuals chosen by him as well.
Devil is to be scripted by Brian Nelson, who’s worked with director David Slade twice, helping to adapt 30 Days of Night for the big screen, and before that, on Hard Candy.
Parting shot: Incidentally, Quarantine—and of course, [REC]—plays like an early Cronenberg mash-up, taking the setting, an apartment building, from one of his films which I haven’t seen (Shivers), and releasing the threat from one of his films which I have seen, and which is reviewed here at the Iguana.
Other films’ reviews accessible in the Archive are shakycam POV horror titles that followed in [REC]’s wake, Matt Reeves’ Cloverfield and George Romero’s Diary of the Dead; Jaume Balaguero’s features Los sin nombre, Darkness, and Frágiles; as well as films featuring Jones (Guillermo del Toro’s El laberinto del fauno and Hellboy II: The Golden Army) and Schaech (Gregg Araki’s The Doom Generation).
Schaech’s work on cable TV’s Masters of Horror is also tackled in the Archive.
(Quarantine Spanish OS courtesy of impawards.com; images courtesy of shocktillyoudrop.com.)