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[REC]: 78 Minutes Lost Forever

July 24, 2009

[Rec], Juame Balaguero and Paco Plaza’s highly regarded spanish language zombie flick, was kept from American horror fans in favor of Quarantine, the obligatory American remake.  After scaring up 31 million dollars on a meager 12 million dollar budget,  Quarantine disappeared quietly from theaters.  If you are like me, you chose to skip the greedy corporate remake and wait (and wait) in order to experience the purity of spirit that original foreign films often possess.

would it be worth the wait?

would it be worth the wait?

And at first, [Rec] felt worth the wait.  Opening in a fire station, Angela Vidal, the host of While You Were Asleep, stands before her camera man describing the coming nights adventure.  Effectively lulling the audience into a trance, the directors play up the typical boring nights spent in fire departments all across the country.  Angela covers the mess hall, the sleeping quarters, and even looks down to the second floor, telling her viewers, “the trucks are down there, we saw them earlier.”  It is mildly funny, yet somehow feels like  too obvious a trick. 

During a late night basketball game, the alarm finally sounds.  Everyone boards the truck, and we head to an apartment where an old lady is apparently trapped.  Upon arrival, the building tenants, an eclectic group including a mother and daughter, a chinese couple with son, an elderly pair, and an eccentric, effeminate man, all stand in the building’s lobby.  Greeted by the police, the fireman and our fearless host rumble up the stairs.  Discovering a disheveled, terrified old woman covered in blood, the officer tries to calm her; but when he turns his head, she jumps him, taking a large bite out of his face.  It is brutal, violent, and all captured through shaky digital camera.

Racing down the stairs with their wounded man, panic immediately ensues.  The exit doors are now blocked, lights from outside stream in, and confusion heightens the desperation.  Suddenly, our camera catches a falling fireman just as he slams down onto the floor.  Something terrible is still upstairs, and something even more terrible is outside.  The stage is set, and it appears early on that [Rec] will be a powerful, terrifying experience.  The film’s best moment follows as the camera man races behind a small group attempting to escape the building through an upstairs window. Upon entering the room, we see two large sheets of plastic fall to the ground as shadowed figures enclose the building in a protective bubble.  It is truly horrifying. 

Coming to terms with their helplessness, the group heads down to the lobby.  While waiting for the doctors to arrive, Angela, still the host of her show, gets to work.  Each person she interviews has a story to tell, revealing various clues as to the origin of the problem.  A sick dog, a young girl with tonsilitis, an arguing chinese couple’s indigent father, and a sealed penthouse apartment lay the foundation for what is to come.  The cannibalistic tendencies of our old woman upstairs are just the beginning.

Soon more and more are infected, until the building is scattered in a haze of light, blood, and darkness.  Frantic screams emanate from every corner and the camera leads us blindly around dark corners and into empty apartments.  The zombies, frozen in place until recognizing their target, spring forth with blood covered mouths and outstretched hands.  But, in spite of the frenetic action and camera tricks, it all moves rather predictably.  About half way in, boredom sets in as every decision these people make is carefully designed to put them in harms way.

when children attack!

when children attack!

[Rec] has some great moments, but these are spread too far apart; so that what lies between them is predictable, dull, and pointless.  By the time the few surviving participants discover the cause of the outbreak, there is nothing left to care about.  The ending, designed to be shocking, is merely a relief.  There are too many zombie stories better than this one, so save your 78 minutes and invest it in something more original, more fun.


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