(2007) dir. Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza
[Rec] is a Spanish horror film that was re-made into Quarantine (2008) almost verbatim. Frankly, it’s pretty effective and direct, using a hand-held camera perspective for the entirety of the film, assuming a “caught on tape” effect, rather than an omniscient outside camera typical of cinema. I’ve noted my mixed-to-negative feelings about this technique. Like the re-make, which I saw earlier this year, [Rec] is actually a pretty effective implementation of it.
A camera crew following a team of firefighters for a light-weight news report on “life of firefighters” follows them on a call to an apartment building seeking to help a screaming, crazed old lady. But the old lady is really infected with some super-rabies or something, and attacks and kills and infects everyone in the building. And everyone in the building is “quarantined”, not allowed out, trapped with the increasingly murderous creatures without really knowing what is happening or why.
One of the things that I liked about Quarantine was that there was a limit of explanation, merely suggestions of what the cause is, at the very end, as the lights go out and the vision is limited to that wierd “night vision” lighting where everyone is murky, glowing green, and their eyes are lit like tiny bulbs. In this case, there is a mixture of possession as well as infectuous disease, but ends with the key visual of the lead reporter, the primary protagonist (in this case the gorgeous Manuela Velasco who is kind of a blonder Marisa Tomei), as she is dragged suddenly away from the camera into the darkness.
The film uses the camera’s perspective well in many ways, managing to capture key images, the first vision of the bloodied, zombie old lady framed in the hall light, the plummeting of a body from the top of the stairs, and as noted, the final powerful visual (ironically utilized in the American re-make’s promotional material, trailers, and even movie poster — it’s the last image of the movie! You’ve given it away!) Directors Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza make the most of their story, their constraints, and ideas, though it is still limited in its scope and power. It’s also a little hard to say because the re-make was so true to the original that the surprises and images were all familiar this time around.
I do think it’s interesting that the Spanish original’s title “[Rec]” focuses on the “record” image or button on the videocamera, whereas the American re-make focused on the “Quarantine” aspect of the story. I am sure that it was a more marketable and comprehensible choice, but it does draw focus to a different aspect of the story.
I see that their success has beget a sequel this year. Gotta wonder about that. Not usually the best idea, but a sign of the success of the original. I guess that we shall see. And by “we”, I mean “me”.