(2008) dir. John Erick Dowdle
An unfortunate member of the hand-held camera perspective in which the camera is held by a character in the film (thus the entire film is assumed to have been shot on a camera “at the scene” rather than some omnisicent “regular” camera view), Quarantine is a re-make of a Spanish film [REC] (2007), a film that hasn’t yet been made available in the States on DVD. That rather convoluted intro is to say that this film uses a trop of camera-work that was tired from its earliest usages and not something that has actually seen itself get furthered in value from its overusage.
Take a look (or don’t) at Diary of the Dead (2007), Cloverfield (2007), The Blair Witch Project (1999) and even Cannibal Holocaust (1980), just to say that the camera in the hands of the crew subgenre of “style” has been around. And with the YouTube world, the cameraphone world, that this is probably going to continue to be a fairly pervasive methodology of shooting horror films.
Conceptually, it’s okay. It’s supposed to put you in the moment, the place. The limitation of perspective doesn’t allow one to know more than any one other character knows about what is happening. When used well, it can be successful, immediate. But it’s also a little too easy, suggesting self-referential motifs, but also not building genunine drama or intensity. Forcing the story through an existing lens is also limiting: how often does a camera in one’s hands hold still long enough for the unfolding of dramatic sequence?
Oddly enough, Quarantine seems to manage to rise above this, to rise above its other simple genre tropes than a lot of other films do. It’s an uber-rabies, zombie infection film, another subgenre of horror that has been growing of late. Though it’s existed since the 1970’s (maybe earlier), since the 28 Days Later… (2002) film, has become the new level of horror film with zombies. It’s a mixture of zombies, madness, viciousness. While at first it was somewhat shocking, it’s also become its own cheap trope.
Anyways, Quarantine is neither the best nor worst of these films. Does it make it worth seeing? Probably I would rack that up to your own predilictions. For me, I’m willing to sit through a few of these films, for some, it might be pure thrills and scares, and others, the last way they would want to spend 90 minutes.