Quarantine (2008)

quarantinesmall - Quarantine (2008)Reviewed by Nomad

Starring Jennifer Carpenter, Johnathon Schaech, Jay Hernandez, Steve Harris, Columbus Short, Rade Serbedzija

Directed by John Erick Dowdle

YEAAA! Shakey Cam, Motherfuckers!!

Just thought I’d get that out there in a positive way right off the bat. Quarantine is the story of Angela Vidal (Carpenter), ace reporter, saddled with telling the riveting, true story of a random LA fire department, and YOU are along for the ride of your life through the POV of the cameraman. Through an exhaustive tour of the firehouse, we learn where they keep their boots, bunk down, and most importantly for Angela, how the pole works. Oh yes … she works the pole. For some reading this, you are already sold. Admit it.

Just when you thought you couldn’t handle any more dirty firehouse hijinks, the alarm sounds and the truck speeds off to aid the citizens of NY. As you’ve all seen in the trailer, commercials, and incessant sneak previews on just about every channel I’ve hit this week, the call is answered and chaos takes over. In no time flat, confusion turns to horror, and upon attempting to bring in back-up, our heroes find themselves sealed into the building at gunpoint. No cell phones, no cable, no motorcars … not a single luxury. Like Robinson Crusoe … with an undisclosed illness turning the rest of Gilligan’s crew into bloodthirsty creeps of course.

quarantine01s - Quarantine (2008)The rest of this movie plays like a very slow version of 28 Days Later without the cool music and a complete lack of intensity, wasted horror makeups we fly past on the wings of the almighty shakey cam, and throwaway performances from a group of actors, the bulk of whom I generally enjoy seeing in movies. Quarantine is hard to watch, and I don’t mean because it is horribly slow and uninteresting. It is physically hard to watch as the camera jumps around, zooms in and out quickly, and shifts from person to person as if it can’t find the spot it meant to focus on. To emphasize my point, in the last minutes of this film, I realized Dania Ramirez (the formerly evil hotty from “Heroes”) was in her underwear the entire time … and I didn’t even notice. This made me a little sad.

Because Quarantine has a single perspective, it is pointless to talk about cinematography. There does seem to be some attempt to play around with lighting, either via the spot mounted on the camera or rooms the characters flee into, but it only succeeded in adding to the confusion created by the camera movement. Less light, no matter how dramatic, means less understanding of what is going on in a space. When the action finally reached some semblance of momentum, I couldn’t even figure who was still alive. Without the ability to root for your favorite characters (whom we’ve only met for 3 minutes anyway), we are forced to constantly fall back to little Angela, whose antics in the firehouse were so high school cheerleader-esque, it was as if she was the bikini clad weather girl who made out with the lead anchor man for a shot at the occasional fluff piece. In my experience with horror films, and my own personal taste, that is the character you are most anticipating receiving a cruel and swift death. The film trudges on, rolling out conveniently timed scares you saw coming with ample time to lean over and tell a friend. Not a successful jump scare in the lot. In fact, there are no scares to be found throughout.

quarantine02s - Quarantine (2008)It hardly seems worth mentioning individual acting performances with all the information above at your disposal. Rade Serbedzija (AKA that cool Russian guy) mumbles in the background of scenes, hardly ever even visible. Greg Germann delivers one funny line and then becomes the guy who delivers plot information so ridiculously tied to his profession that it proves even more comical. Johnathon Schaech (AKA the pedophile stabby killer from Prom Night) wears a vintage 1980’s mustache and spits out forced lewd comments by the fistful. Let me just skip the rest and lay it to rest with Jennifer Carpenter (your reporter), who flails her arms, stares longingly into the camera with her best face of desperation, and appears to be hyperventilating for an hour straight. I’ll give her extra points for never passing out. To be fair to this cast, as I’ve said, I’ve seen most of them in far better work, acting on a completely different level. It’s as if they all knew they were performing in a B-movie gone horribly wrong and phoned it in.

An entire movie set in a sealed off, old school apartment building with terror around every corner should convey a severe sense of claustrophobia in every shot. Quarantine may as well have been filmed in a warehouse. This is just another missed opportunity that should never have been attempted in the first place. When high production values and superior special effects we are only allowed to look at for 2 seconds at a time are the only compliments I can muster, there is something seriously wrong. Having not seen REC, the Spanish original, I can’t go on to make comparisons or advise you to see the original, but I can only imagine it must be better than this. Sadly, this is not the worst horror film I’ve seen all year, but it is hardly worth your 10 bucks this weekend.

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1 1/2 out of 5

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