The camera in Quarantine will probably become the envy of budding filmmakers everywhere. Drop it on the floor? It keeps working. Bludgeon a psychotically infected attacker to death with it? It keeps working. Since Quarantine is also a POV horror movie like The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield, the effect is that you’re head-butting that infected person to death. The scene makes even such classic stalker-POV movies as Halloween look almost passive. We also get to sit for a minute or so as the cameraman wipes gore off the lens (or off our eyes).
Quarantine is a remake of a Spanish horror flick called [REC], which opened in its native country almost a year ago and was never picked up for U.S. distribution, perhaps because Sony bought the remake rights and didn’t want to compete with the original. [REC] remains unavailable on American DVD at this writing, so you’ll have to trust me when I say that the material worked better in Español. Largely it’s because, to these American eyes, none of the faces in [REC] were familiar, so the movie’s conceit that we were watching real people in a horrific situation held water — not that we literally believed it, but we were able to enter into the imaginative contract a little easier.
In Quarantine we have rising young actress Jennifer Carpenter, known from Dexter and The Exorcism of Emily Rose, and support from Hostel’s Jay Hernandez and other recognizable actors. For horror fans, who will know a lot of the cast, the illusion never takes hold. The premise remains the same: A TV reporter (Carpenter) and her cameraman (Steve Harris) are doing a story on the local fire department (“local” here meaning L.A.), accompanying a firefighting crew to a tenement where strange things are happening. An old lady screaming in her apartment turns out to be more dangerous than endangered, and her murderous infection spreads throughout the building while the government locks everyone inside.
It’s only timing, I suppose, that gives us two movies in as many weeks concerning mysteriously afflicted people brutalizing one another under quarantine, last week’s Blindness being the other. “Don’t trust the government,” these movies say, a message many Americans are particularly amenable to just now. (“Don’t trust banks either,” says the upcoming movie The International, the trailer for which I saw before Quarantine. I have to imagine that movie will clean up.) But most horror movies do sneer at authority, which can’t save you from the monsters. The problem is, George Romero’s zombie movies said it a lot better.
Quarantine has its moments — I enjoyed seeing veteran stuntwoman Jeannie Epper (profiled in the documentary Double Dare) as the rabid old woman who kicks things off — but it’s a rote reproduction of a more effective film; it doesn’t find anything new in the material, and the performances become irritatingly shrill. The explanation for the events, too, is curiously muted; the tape recorder in the original film that provided most of the exposition has been rendered unplayable here, which raises the question of why the filmmakers bothered to include it. Or why they bothered with the film at all. I guess it’s nice of Sony to bankroll an English-language version of [REC] for those who hate subtitles, but that’s all it’s good for.
(See also [REC])Explore posts in the same categories: horror, overrated, remake