Every once in a while, you’ll watch the news and it’ll be someone fretting about how some foreign country’s test-scores are better than America’s and what are we going to do to maintain global supremacy? I worry too, although I don’t worry about test scores. I worry about why other countries are kicking our butts at scary movie making. I mean, America is pretty violent for a first-world country, we ought to have enough life experience to draw on. But it seems like the last decade has seen other countries, I’m thinking Japan, France, and now, Spain, excelling at making horror movies. If someone put a gun to my head and asked me why, I’d probably be forced to say that American movie studios keep giving money to franchises that are going to be a sure draw, aren’t willing to lose part of the market by giving movies a rating above PG-13, and are willing to sit back and remake superior foreign pics since Americans can’t be bothered to read subtitles. I spent last night watching the 2007 Spanish film [REC] which was, of course, remade virtually shot for shot as Quarantine. I haven’t seen Quarantine but I did see the ball of suckitude that was George Romero’s Diary of the Dead, that was actually released in the same year. How can two movies released at similar times with such similar premises be so different? Because [REC] was really good and I that it had a chance to be seen by a wider audience, instead of just being remade.
Manuela Velasco stars as Ángela Vidal, the host of a t.v. show called “While You’re Asleep.” She follows people whose jobs happen at night-time and tonight she’s following the local firefighters in Barcelona.

It’s a pretty standard assignment, even pretty boring because it takes forever for them even to get a call. Eventually the alarm does go off and she follows Manu (Ferrán Terraza) and Álex (David Vert) to what should be an easy call for a distressed elderly woman.
Things aren’t as easy as they seem, when the old lady bites the hell out of a police officer and Álex. Soon, the building is being barricaded from the outside and the residents are left wondering what the heck is happening.

Guillem (Carlos Vicente) tries to patch up the police officer and Álex, while rumors fly. Is the building quarantined because the penthouse used to be a nuclear lab? Is it because the little girl, Jennifer (Claudia Silva), and her dog are both sick? There’s a strain of xenophobia as the Spaniards blame the Japanese family and complain about them eating raw fish (Apparently, they never thought about the Spanish bringing back ceviche from the Americas.) There are few answers as one by one people succumb to the mysterious disease and then reanimate with a nasty attitude. This leaves Ángela and her cameraman, Pablo (Pablo Rosso), in the middle of a zombie sandwich with zombies on the bottom floor and zombies on the upper floors. Is the answer in the msyterious penthouse full of Catholic paraphernilia? Don’t ask me, I won’t tell.

I’ll be upfront with what I dislike about this movie. It’s a found footage movie so there’s a lot of shaky-cam. I find that to be quite headache-inducing and it’s hard to take screencaps from, even if there’s a really pretty shot. There has to be a way to make a found-footage movie that’s realistic without making me barf.
Secondly, the movie is only seventy-eight minutes long. That’s not a lot of time to develop characters, although they weren’t nearly as annoying as the jerk-tongs in Diary of the Dead. I think that another fifteen to thirty minutes could have led to a little more character development. The movie is a bit of a slow burner, but I think a bit more time could have been used to build up more tension. It would have been cool to see the tenants huddled in the lobby, trying to figure out what exactly is going on, before they entirely lost their cool.
My final issue is language. I watched the movie subtitled because watching foreign movies dubbed is for wieners. Wieners I say! I have the eensiest Spanish knowledge, mostly swear-words, and couldn’t help but feel that people were saying way more than could be conveyed via subtitles. I felt like I was missing something. That’s more of a personal issue, though, like maybe it’s time that I finally learn another language.
You know, I said that Americans don’t read subtitles and I think that’s true…to an extent. I think Americans don’t read subtitles because we’re told we don’t read subtitles and it becomes a self-reinforcing cycle. I think that you should give subtitles a chance because you’re missing out a lot if you don’t. I thought they’d be really difficult but after about ten minutes the subtitles and speech kind of mesh up in your mind.
On the plus side, this movie is quite good at building up tension. I found it to be quite scary, especially the last fifteen minutes. I can’t say everything without giving away spoilers, but I will say that I liked the subtle mix of religion. I found that to be refreshing in a genre that could be said to be a little dead SEE WHAT I DID?
I like Ángela, she’s tough but she doesn’t automatically turn into Ripley at the first sign of trouble. I can’t lie, I’d probably freak out as much as she did once the lights went out.
I guess my final message is that I really wish that studios would spend more money importing and distributing foreign pictures instead of just remaking them. I mean, look at the trailers for [REC] and Quarantine and compare the shots.

Not to mention, the trailer for Quarantine gives away the ending if you watch it closely.


About scarina

I like scary movies a little too much. I thought I'd share my obsession with you.
This entry was posted in 21st century, diseases, foreign, zombies and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to [REC]

  1. Crypticpsych says:

    Oh, the trailer isn’t the only thing that gives away the ending of Quarantine…the POSTER gave away the ending…figure the logic of THAT marketing decision out.
    I really liked [REC] as well. Found-footage usually doesn’t bother me too much unless it’s REALLY shaky shakycam (see: my reaction to the series “The River” earlier this year). I think with [REC], I kinda just got sucked into it far enough that the found-footage felt organic to me. But I can totally get it bothering someone.
    Incidentally, if you liked the subtle mix of religion, I’m curious to hear what you’ll think when you see [REC 2]….not saying anything more than that to avoid spoilers. For the record, I like [REC] more than [REC 2] (which I do still like in general) but, in some ways, I actually am the oddball who likes some bits of [REC 3] more than both of them…I like the goofy dark comedy elements and the fact that it completely departed by happening in a different location and mostly not being found-footage (and I LOVE the female lead). Again though, not saying anything more to avoid spoilers. (I watched them all this year for the first time, in order so that I’d be able to do an advance review of [REC 3].)
    As for your comments on American releasing of foreign horror movies…there is not a typeface large enough for me to scream YES with in agreement with everything you said both at the beginning and in your discussion of watching movies with subtitles. One of the things I really love about working for the site I do is that, living so close to NYC, the advance screenings often fall to me. Usually we don’t get them from big companies like Sony though…we get them from IFC and Magnet. And THOSE are the companies who pick up the indie films and the foreign films when the other companies leave them hanging out to dry, ending up releasing them VERY limitedly and into VOD and on demand. In fact, I think they have a deal with Netflix, so they go up on instant stream after a time too for that reason. Anyway, that’s why I ended up getting to see a slew of great foreign releases in 2011 that didn’t really get huge 3000 theater releases (It’s also the reason why, if I remember correctly, every single one of my top 5 films was a foreign film on some level even if that foreignness was just Canada). Every time I see a great foreign film or limited release film, it kind of pains me because I know something else got a massive release that deserved it far less.

    • scarina says:

      [REC] is a good case where the footage eventually feels organic & you adjust to it. Diary of the Dead did the opposite for me, it felt like it was filmed in soap-opera vision.
      Argh, damnit. Quarantine! How dumb do they think we are? Now I definitely have to add [REC 2] & [REC 3] to my queue.
      You’re super lucky in that regard, I love the works of IFC & Magnet. & Canada has been doing some kickass work lately. They’re not just America’s hat, they’re like a fright mask. In fact, I brought Pontypool with me for vacation.
      It is deeply frustrating seeing such stupid movies getting wide releases. No wonder the industry is suffering.

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