John Dowdle's 2008 Quarantine aka [REC]22 Feb 2020
Quarantine: a strict isolation, usually imposed by the government in order to prevent the spread of something considered dangerous, such as that of disease. The duration of such being typically 40 days, presuming anyone would survive that long….
TV reporter Angela Vidal (Jennifer Carpenter) and her ever ready cameraman Scott (Steve Harris) are documenting a night in the life of the Los Angeles Fire Department - as seen from the inside - with the firemen themselves providing the guided tour. As the hours tick away and night settles in, Angela begins to itch for a call, albeit one not life threatening, so she and Scott can find some action to report in the otherwise boring night; something camera worthy.
Luckily they don’t wait very long before a routine call comes in summoning them to a downtown apartment building where local cops are already on scene. Screams of torment can be heard coming from one of the tenants apartments though upon investigation, it’s unclear exactly why she was screaming. The only signs of disorder is her foaming at the mouth, uncontrollable wheezing, and what appears to be dried blood covering the front of her nightgown and chin. The cops and firemen aren’t too concerned with these minor details at first. At least not until the tenant decides to violently attack one of the cops with her teeth. Suddenly everyone is paying attention.
The whole “film documentary” effect seems to be coming somewhat commonplace in Hollywood, even though we saw it back in 1985, with the release of Cannibal Holocaust. The theatrical release of The Blair Witch Project in 1999 revived the concept, almost acting as a catalyst for copycat writers. I for one think The Blair Witch Project was highly overrated, but I seem to be in the minority with that thought. Since that time though, we have had George A Romero’s Diary of the Dead, Cloverfield, Welcome to the Jungle, and now Quarantine, the US version of the Spanish release [REC].
Quarantine was filmed rather effectively, providing the viewer a broader range of vision than what has been typical in this genre thus far. I would imagine this is largely due to the “character” in control of the camera being a cameraman by trade. Typically, the “documentarist” is a college kid, using a cam for the very first time, or some guy with glasses that keep getting in the way. The camera shakes, scenes are cropped, and you only see half the drama. Scott, the cameraman in Quarantine, was obviously “skilled” so camera shake or moments of un-focus were not due to inexperience, but rather unexpected and sudden events, resulting in them lasting briefly. I found the documentary effect of this movie to be virtually unnoticeable or annoying until the very end at which point, actually aided the fear factor.
In minutes from the tenant’s attack on the police officer, the apartment building is sealed off from the outside world, with power and cell phone service stopped. Not only can the tenants no longer contact the outside world, but the outside world can no longer enter the quarantined zone. No explanation is given; no remedy is provided; and no hope is felt as the tenants begin to realize they have been left for dead. Their only explanation is that the CDC is following government orders and will kill them, rather than letting one of them out of the building.
So what do you do when you are trapped like mice, waiting for the snake to swallow you whole? You look for a way out. Any way out, to avoid suffering death on the inside. Death in a very unpleasant and painful manner. A manner none of them would have dreamed in their worst nightmares, or wished on their worst enemy. Only every way out is anticipated and blocked, and all paths lead back inside. Inside where hell is no longer a state of mind…
Quarantine does a great job of playing up the fear factor and scare tactics, although they lack in originality at times. There is a sufficient amount of bloodshed and gore to keep this film at an R rating, however it is no where near as much bloodshed and gore as has become standard for Hollywood. Did this detract from the movie? For me, not at all. I enjoyed this movie almost as much as the Dawn of the Dead remake. Will others enjoy this movie? Reviews show it will depend largely on whether or not you have actually seen the original [REC] - if you have, most likely this movie will suck, as reviewers claim it pales in comparison. If you have not seen [REC], chances are you will really enjoy this one. I have not seen [REC] and true to theory, I enjoyed Quarantine, and I really need to give credit for that to Jennifer Carpenter for her amazing portrayal of Angela. I felt her excitement at the thought of a real story when the call first came in. I felt her fear when the senseless killings and mass hysteria started. And I not only felt her terror, but believably saw it written on her every moment even after the credits rolled.
I have watched Quarantine 5+ times since its original release, and every time continues to leave me chilled. In my mind, that is the sign of a “keeper” worthy flick. And in my list of favorite zombie flicks, this one is in the top 10.
…….but to be perfectly honest, I can’t wait to see [REC]!