Part of a recent crop of cinéma-vérité style horror films that includes CLOVERFIELD (2008) and George A. Romero’s DIARY OF THE DEAD (2007), Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza’s [REC] (2007) arguably tops them all. While Balaguero’s previous films, like LOS SIN NOMBRE (1999) and DARKNESS (2002) offered a more quiet, slow-burning form of horror, [REC} grooves along like a fine-tuned scare machine, never slowing down but, in fact, building up to one of the most chilling climaxes I’ve seen in quite a while.
The host of a late-night television program, Angela, along with her cameraman, follow a fire crew to what should have amounted to a routine stop at an apartment building. Instead, they find that the occupants of the building have fallen victim to a virus of some sort—one that turns them into zombies. Paranoia sets in as the TV crew, the firemen, and apartment dwellers find that the government has sealed off the area, forcing them to deal with the emergency themselves as the infection spreads.
No doubt the plot will sound fairly run-of-the-mill, with surface-level similarities to Romero’s DIARY and the recent MULBERRY STREET (also about a zombie-like infection affecting an apartment building), but [REC]’s narrative takes markedly different course as the reasons for the outbreak become clear. Far from showing all its cards early, the film continues to surprise all the way up until the very end, featuring at least one goose-bump inducing scene that will likely have horror junkies talking for a long time.
(SPOILER AHEAD. SKIP TO LAST PARAGRAPH. To be sure, these are not carbon copies of Romero’s zombies, nor do they simply mirror the victims of the “rage” virus in 28 DAYS LATER. Balaguero and Plaza give us something more akin what Lucio Fulci presented in films like CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD, with zombies that have their origins in Catholic anxiety.)
According to imdb.com, the American remake of this film has been titled QUARANTINE and will be released in October of this year. As in many cases of American remakes, I don’t see the point in waiting for it and would encourage interested viewers to seek out the original. For American viewers with region-free DVD players, Xploited Cinema offers an import DVD of the film.