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Reviewed by: Pat Torfe

Directed by: Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza

Manuela Velasco
Pablo Rosso
Ferran Terraza
Jorge Serrano

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What's it about

A TV news team consisting of spunky reporter Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) and cameraman Pablo (Pablo Rosso) follow a group of firefighters in order to do one of those human interest segments that your TV station puts on when there's no interesting news. After a slow night, the firefighters are called to an apartment complex, where an old lady has been acting erratically. Things go from weird to f*cked up when when the lady chomps on a cop. Soon, the government quarantines the building, trapping Angela, her cameraman, and several unsuspecting victims inside. Seems there's a biological plague going around, and it's not swine flu.

Is it good movie?

A little while back, we ran an article on how foreign horror films were kicking North American horror's ass. I'm not going to get into specifics, but this film is one of those putting the boots to us. Directed by Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, [REC] has been freaking out everyone and their mom on the other side of the pond for over a year and then some. Only now do we Region 1 fans get to see what all the fuss is about. And oh yeah, there's a reason.

Almost right away, you could tell Hollywood is miles away from this low-budget production. Cinematographer Pablo Rosso and his directors present an environment and characters about as real as they could get, with none of the structured or artificial stuff we've been spoonfed over our so-called lives. No romancing, no so-perfect-it's-fake relationships, no random junk in an apartment building that's specifically positioned for the best lighting. Just a situation that we know dick-all about that's out of control with an unfamiliar setting, upping the tension and unease for everyone watching. The lack of any music also keeps the realism factor high.

Character-wise, unlike in the remake, you give a damn about these folks. No one's swearing for no reason at all (really, expressing emotion like this is annoying if you do it all the time), no one's the clichéd bad boy/slut/nerd or whatever, and the emotion is palatable. Angela doesn't turn into Jennifer Carpenter's character in the remake, who you wanted to kick down the stairs once things got hairy. The firefighters are there, and while you don't know enough about them as you'd like to, you still care about them as people. They aren't the disposable types you'd find in North American films.

Any negatives I have about the film are minor. Sure, the pacing, which goes on its merry way for the most part, does slow down at points. But that really acts as a sort of breather for the audience. The shaky camera does get a bit on the annoying side, as it might be a tad overdone for some, but again, it adds to the situation. Really, the only complaint I have about the film isn't really about the original, but the remake. We'll save that one for later, however. As for [REC], if you're looking for a horror film that grabs you by the junk and leads you through pitch blackness, not knowing when or if you'll escape, you've got it right here.

Video / Audio

Video:Shot on handhelds, the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer suits the film perfectly. Out of context, it's less than spectacular, though. Flaws such as skips and jumps add to the feeling of authenticity, as well as the softness and grain of the picture. Really, in this case, if you did try to do anything to the picture, the effect it has on the tone of the film changes.

Audio: Coming in two flavours, if you have a choice between the original Dolby Digital Spanish 5.1 track, and the dubbed Dolby Digital English 5.1, which would you choose? Obviously the former (which also has English subtitles), which unlike the video, the filmmakers decided to enhance by opening up the field a bit. While we do get some action in the read and side channels, the majority of the action takes place in the front. Speech was natural and concise, with good range on the effects and ambiance.

The Extras

Want to piss off fans? Give them a pithy extra like this. The only extra on the disc (apart from the start-up trailers) is an 18-minute making of entitled [REC]: Making Of. In the making-of, we hear comments from directors Paco Plaza and Jaume Balaguero, director of photography/actor Pablo Rosso, sound director Javier Mas, and actor Manuela Velasco. The project's origins and story are covered, as well as the structure of the film and the filming techniques. Info on the sets, cast and performances, as well as makeup effects and technical issues are also covered. We're also treated to one of the deleted scenes from the film, as well as some of the behind the scenes footage.

But really, the featurette doesn't give us the good stuff, nor does it match up to the 2-disc editions folks in Region 2 land got. I'm talking about a much beefier making-of, TV spots and trailers, in-depth interviews with the crew, deleted scenes and more info on casting and behind the scenes stuff. Guess you'll be on eBay after reading this, won't you?

Last Call

A slick and delightfully scary ride that the remake wishes it was, [REC] scores another one for foreign horror. If only Sony treated us to a better set than this one...

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