May 10, 2009 § Leave a comment
[REC] is short for record in this fairly brief, seventy-five minute Spanish horror film, a film that manages to be remarkably entertaining (even if it’s also fairly bloody) borrowing the device of a hand-held camera’s point of view. A two-person crew from a reality show called “While You’re Asleep” follows a few firefighters late at night into a building where an old woman on the top floor seems strangely afflicted, all her neighbours huddling at the bottom of the long, ornate stairwell, complaining of wild screams. Within minutes, the situation starts to escalate out of control and the building is quarantined, ominous figures outside every door and window hanging plastic and making threats through a bullhorn.
To call this the stuff of nightmares is something of an understatement — I watched it during the day and I’m glad I did, because I can only imagine how the relentless build-up of suspense would feel otherwise. Cleverly, the film begins with absolutely nothing happening — the host of the show sneaks around a quiet firehouse looking for something interesting and wishing there’d be an alarm. The pace feels a little like sitting at the top of a hill in a go-kart and starting off at a crawl, but finally regretting giving yourself the shove that has you careening wildly out of control by the end.
The word zombie isn’t actually used, in favour of talk of a virus spread through saliva. And, it has to be said the film becomes a trifle predictable, with a couple of those moments when someone creeps slowly into a room to have the inevitable zombie jump on his or her back as soon as they get far enough. But ultimately, the film has a relentless grip on the viewer.
I’m not sure I see the appeal of the zombie genre. I know the original Night of the Living Dead (1968) had a few characters who were alive, but seemed quite dead, emotionally. At the same time there seemed to be a clear divide between older and younger people, with older zombies consuming and converting the younger people. Night of the Living Dead also has a brilliant final moment that almost certainly sets it above every zombie flick made since then. Maybe it’s fair to say zombie flicks are about a lack of compassion in the world, or maybe it’s just fair to say walking dead people gives us the creeps as something fundamentally wrong, aside from playing on our fears of a modern epidemic. Possibly, we don’t like the idea of the dead coming back and being supremely pissed off because it addresses a necessary disloyalty to previous generations — we all need to go our own way, after all. What I can tell you for sure is that this film will scare the living daylights out of you, and that it was remade as an apparently inferior film called Quarantine, in the United States. Subtitles? Bah, we’ll just remake the film!