Reviewed by Andrew Kasch
Starring Manuela Valasco, Javier Botet, Claudia Font, Pablo Rosso
Directed by Paco Plaza & Jaume Balaguero
This year’s big horror trend (aside from more miserable remakes) seems to be cinéma-vérité with fake documentary flicks like Diary of the Dead, Paranormal Activity, and The Zombie Diaries bursting from the indie floodgates. But unlike the old Blair Witch fad, most of these titles have delivered the goods, which puts extra pressure on [REC], a Spanish import so hyped that the Hollywood remake is already under way.
The concept couldn’t be more straightforward: Angela is a bubbly TV reporter shooting a documentary series on the late-night lives of firemen. Answering a routine rescue call to an apartment building, the crew find themselves in a world of shit when the would-be victim takes a meaty bite out of her rescuers. With cameras rolling, the crew and residents must find a way to survive the zombie outbreak when they find themselves quarantined inside the building by the trigger-happy military.
[REC] is directed by Filmax regulars Jaume (Darkness) Balageuro and Paco (Romasanta) Plaza, which automatically raised a few red flags. Both have produced visually stunning but utterly vapid movies that left me close to clawing my eyes out from boredom, and for the first act of this film, I wasn’t entirely won over. But by the time the end credits rolled, I found myself white-knuckled and gripping my seat from pure exhaustion. This is the kind of movie that is perfectly suited to the talents of these two filmmakers. [REC] isn’t so much a story as it is a ride, and what it lacks in substance, it more than makes up for in pure dripping style.
Balageuro and Plaza take their time to build the atmosphere around their location, then completely explode into a frenzied rollercoaster. Simply put, this experience feels like being trapped in a haunted maze, and there are images here that are the stuff of nightmares. It’s simple-minded, sure, but just when you’re ready to dismiss this one as another unoriginal zombie entry, the directors open the gates and unleash a whirlwind of chaos, claustrophobia, and jump-from-your-chair "Holy fuck!" moments. Natural performances and a lack of music only add to the realism that comes across even with lavish production values.
The final few minutes of this film are terrifying beyond words, leaving the viewer with no answered questions or quaint resolutions. Short and sweet, [REC] delivers a perfect fast-paced ride that will score big with horror fans everywhere despite its familiar elements. Just be sure to see it before the Hollywood-butchered remake.
4 out of 5
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