October 14, 2008

Movie Review: Quarantine

quarantine1_smallHere is a film that has had an interesting history. It is a remake of a Spanish film called [REC], which received some very positive buzz around the horror world, some calling it the best horror film since The Descent. Pretty high praise, at least in my eyes as that was a rather intense excursion into terror. Well, the remake rights to the original movie were purchased by Screen Gems along with the caveat that [REC] would not be released on American shores until after the run of Quarantine. Interesting precedent, instead of just remaking popular foreign films, studios are swooping in and snagging them before anyone even sees them. I guess I don't have any real problem with this, or remakes in general, but if this proves successful it will be intriguing to see if the practice carries on.

quarantine1For what it's worth, I have not yet seen the original film, but even with this being a nearly shot for shot remake, I am still keenly interested in seeing it. You know, even when you remake something, no matter how good or bad the end result is there is no way you can erase the original and what it accomplished. There is clearly something about the first film that made it remake worthy, and it will always exist. So, for those who talk about disrespecting or ruining the original, get over it, that film you love is still there for you to enjoy. As for my desire to see the original, I am definitely interested in seeing the performances and how their reactions compare to the remake.

Quarantine does not really offer up anything original (well, duh, it's a remake, but I think you know what I mean). While it does not have that stroke of originality, what it does, it does exceedingly well. This film offers up thrills, chills, and scares that will leave you looking over your shoulder long after you leave the theater.

quarantine3I saw this at the last screening of the day, when it was over I sat there in the theater for a few moments while the credits rolled, composing myself and preparing to leave. I got back to my home shortly past midnight, the rest of the family was away and the windows were dark, the air outside was crisp and cool. I got out of my car in the inky blackness, walked down the driveway to get the mail. The more steps I took away from my car, the more the chill got into the skin on the back of my neck and by the time I got to the end of the driveway I was looking over my shoulder. The return trip back up the driveway went by in a flash, followed by many lights going on. Now, it wasn't that I was scared or anything, but the film certainly made an impact.

What was the film about, you ask? Take the none-too-new-but-still-effective handy cam footage gimmick of films like Cloverfield and Diary of the Dead, mix in a bit of 28 Days Later, and top off with a healthy dose of Japanese ghost story, mix well, bake until black, serves as many as will have it. This is the sort of movie that starts off innocently enough, introducing some tension building elements, allowing that feeling of dread to make the hairs on your neck stand up before allowing all hell to break loose, making sure you know there is no escaping from this nightmare. It's true, once inside the apartment building and those plastic sheets come down over the windows and doors, you do not have a prayer. The only question remaining is just how long will you last before the hammer drops.

quarantine4Angela Vidal (Jennifer Carpenter) is a young reporter doing a remote with a local firehouse with her cameraman Scott (Steve Harris), where she will be shadowing a pair of firefighters, Jake (Jay Hernandez) and Fletcher (Jonathan Schaech). It starts simply, a little fluff piece, a tour of the house, a slide down the poll, and a little off-color banter that can be "edited out." The bell rings and the crew, with Angela and Scott in tow. What will the call be? An actual fire, or perhaps a medical emergency? Once they arrive, it is not immediately known.

The police are there with a group of tenants milling about the lobby. Our heroes climb the stairs, bust in the door only to find an elderly woman standing there breathing funny. After a few tense moments, she lunges from the shadows and a chain reaction of death and terror is begun. People die, blood is spilled, and the military shows up outside, sealing them inside.

Now we are in full-on survival mode. The tenants, firemen, police, and intrepid Angela discuss, argue, and try to figure out what is going on and what they need to do. The problem is that the longer they wait, the harder it is going to be to avoid the inevitable.

quarantine5There is a lot of running, screaming, and plenty of blood. I knew what I was watching was something I have seen before, but the atmosphere, jump scares, and surprisingly crowd pleasing moments dragged me along, waiting, wondering what was around the next corner. What is the cause of this? Who is behind this? Why are the reports saying everyone is out? Good question. You get a few bits of information to make an informed guess, but the truth of the situation is still out there.

I really liked this a lot more than I was expecting. The acting was fine, nothing outstanding, but it did the deed. Granted, I was not expecting Oscar caliber work, but it was naturalistic, despite the audiences insistence on knowing better than them. That's always intrigued me, the audiences that talk about how stupid the characters are. Honestly, how do they know how they would react in this situation? It is easy to judge from the safety of a theater, it is an entirely different matter when you need to have a clear head with a blood thirsty thing bearing down at you.

The film was directed by John Erick Dowdle, who co-adapted the screenplay with his brother Drew Dowdle. They did a fine job keeping the pace up and the tension high. Their last film, The Poughkeepsie Tapes, is still awaiting a release. Perhaps the success of Quarantine will get that to the screen?

Bottomline. Yes, it is a remake, and I still need to see the original, but do not let that keep you from a frighteningly good time at the theater. It certainly had an impact on me.

Highly Recommended.

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