Sometimes hype can be a bad thing for a movie. Sure, hype helps in the box-office, but when it comes to the anticipation, it can often outweight the quality of the final product. It happens with much-loved movies of late like Juno, Little Miss Sunshine and Garden State. All perfectly fine movies to be sure, but you can’t help but feel that they might’ve been alot better had they been allowed to sneak up on you unawares. This is often magnified when it comes to horror movies, especially sleeper hit scaries like The Blair Witch Project, Switchblade Romance and recent entry The Orphanage. Not only is damaging that everyone who’s seen it before you saying “OhMyGod Its SOOO Scary!” that it leaves you in a constant state of tension so that its actual scare levels aren’t a fraction of what you anticipated, but on top of that, horror movies are too subjective to be so broadly reviewed. What one person might find terrifying, another person my find laughable, or worse still, boring.
So, with this pitfall of criticism in mind, its still fair to say that [REC] is the scariest movie of 2008 so far, and quite possibly one of the scariest of the Noughties Decade.
The film itself seems to be aware of the consequences of being a member of the horror genre, so greets you in a manner so as to lower your initial expectations. Angela and Pablo are the on-screen presenter and off-screen cameraman of TV show While You’re Sleeping, and are on a tag-along with a fire-brigade when a call comes out for a woman trapped in her apartment. When they arrive at the apartment block, the police are already inside, with most of the residents awake and complaining about all this fuss over one weird old lady in her room. But everything takes a turn for the worse when they find said weird old lady in her room; she appears to be delusional, covered in blood, and proceeds to take a chunk of out of a policemen’s neck. When they try to take him out of the building, they find that the government has quickly put the building into quarantine lockdown. Any attempts at escape will be met with deadly force, all cell-phone, TV and radio signals have been blocked, and they are told to just sit tight and wait for further instruction. But following a quick headcount, the residents realise that they are already a few people short, and there are several blood curdling screams coming from the floors above……
Using a very quick stroke of a very broad brush to establish the remaining (living) characters, directors Paco Plaza and Jaume Balaguero spend little time constantly cranking up the tension for the remainder of the movie. While at its heart a zombie movie, there is very little to relate this to Romero’s Dead series, or even the 28 Days/Weeks Later couplet. This has more in common with Cloverfield and great-but-virtually-unheard-of Right At Your Door, by placing a potentially huge situation in the confines of a very claustophobic setting, and for putting right in the middle of the fear with its First Person Perspective, i.e. you are the camera. If anyone bumps into the camera, the microphone cuts out temporarily and the camera will lose focus, lending itself immensely to whatever might be lurking in plain sight when we regain composure.
Running in at just 75 minutes, it doesn’t give itself a chance to outstay its welcome, with not one second of screen time wasted of potential fear, and therefore doesn’t lend itself well to easy criticism. The same nit-picking question of “Why are they still filming?” that pulled at the seems of The Blair Witch Project and Cloverfield is pushed aside by the fact that the man holding the camera is doing his job; he’s a camera-man! However, the climax of the film may well split audiences; while its still undeniably scary, it may jolt some out of the 70-odd minutes of reality based horror that preceeded it.
And while a few months from now, when watched again on DVD, it will potentially have lost alot of its fear factor because the surprise factor has gone, for now it should be heralded as one of the great cinematic experiences of the year. At least until its US remake Quarantine is released this Halloween. Never before has this reviewer wanted a movie to be over so badly because it was just too damn scary…..
Eight Point Five Out Of Ten