Reviewed by Uncle Creepy
Starring Jennifer Carpenter, Johnathon Schaech, Jay Hernandez, Steve Harris, Columbus Short, Rade Serbedzija
Directed by John Dowdle
Distributed by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
The Spanish thriller [Rec] knocked me right on my ass. Surprisingly some of the best films of 2008 ended up being shot cinéma vérité style, and this one was no different. [Rec] was visceral, in your face, and as real as it could possibly be given the subject matter. When news of a remake broke, it was kind of bittersweet. Why not just release the original one here? Why do it over for American audiences? My answer would come when I saw the film, but before we get to that, how’s about a refresher on the plot?
Angela Vidal (a brilliant Carpenter) was doing a piece for her local news outlet about what it’s like working for the fire department. She was to hang with the firefighters, slide down the pole (I watched this scene in slow-motion … five times), and turn in your basic fluff. If Angela was really “lucky”, there might even be a small disturbance or two that she could ride along on. No sweat, right? Well, that disturbance ended up coming, but it was anything but small.
She and her camera guy end up following the fire crew into a building that quickly becomes quarantined by the C.D.C. No one is to be let out under any circumstances. If that isn’t bad enough, some of the occupants within the building, who are obviously trapped there as well, end up showing signs of a strange sickness. A malady that will ultimately turn them from harmless people into blood-thirsty savages with nothing more on their agendas other than tearing apart whatever or whoever gets in their way. As you can imagine, things don’t go well at all for our heroes. Not well at all.
In comparison to the original film, Quarantine holds up surprisingly well. This completely shocked me as I was totally ready to just write it off. Dowdle’s direction of the live action is spot-on, and Jennifer Carpenter, as always, delivers a film stealing performance. You can literally feel her fear. It gnaws at you. You share it. This chica is just unbelievable. Just like in The Exorcism of Emily Rose, she owns this movie. Every second of it.
Some have said this remake brought nothing new to the table. I completely disagree. Quarantine is far more violent, the infected seem a lot more vicious, and some of the kills in the flick, especially one involving the camera, are pretty inventive. That may not seem like very much, but for this reviewer it made all the difference in the world. In fact, I’d be hard pressed to say which version of this tale I like better. They both certainly bring more than expected to the table.
In terms of which package, the DVD or the Blu-ray, is worth your coin, both have identical sets of supplemental material. The only differences to be found are the fact that the Blu-ray is BD-Live enabled (though not active at the time of this writing), and it looks and sounds surprisingly better than its DVD cousin. I really didn’t think 1080p would matter when watching a film shot in this style. I could not have been more wrong. The picture quality is razor sharp and highly detailed, and the sound mix? It is pretty insane too. Since there’s no score, the only accompaniment we get for most scenes is the whirring of helicopter blades or the scream of sirens outside. These two factors, coupled with the building’s natural creaking and groaning, make for a truly creepy multi-channel experience. Stuff like this is what a Dolby TrueHD sound mix was made for.
The bonus material leaves a bit to be desired, however. Things kick off with an insanely boring audio commentary with writer/director John Dowdle and writer/producer Drew Dowdle that’s riddled with back-patting and gooey love without even a single mention of the original film. Do yourself a favor — stay far away from this tripe. It’s sickeningly sweet. Ack!
From there we get three featurettes, all shot in standard definition, that clock in from anywhere between three and ten minutes long. Mainly this is really just your typical behind-the-scenes, yadda, yadda, except for one particular piece — the eight-minute featurette Dressing the Infection: Rob Hall’s Make-up Design. Robert Hall’s work on this film is pretty damned incredible and worthy of its own look. I just wish we could have seen more of it in the film itself. If you engage in any of the disc’s extras, make it this one.
So that’s it. Well, not really. I just have one last complaint. Whoever decided to put the film’s final moment in every bit of marketing material for this movie should be fired and never allowed to work anywhere near this industry again. I mean, come on! Really? The last shot? Even on the poster? I just don’t get it. Sigh. Hey, Sony, now that this one is officially in the proverbial bag, how about you get to giving [Rec] the proper treatment it deserves? Is that asking too much?
3 1/2 out of 5
3 out of 5
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