PLOT: When a television news reporter and her cameraman spend an evening filming a local firehouse, things seem fairly dull and quite. But soon, they get a call involving an elderly woman who is not answering her door while strange noises seem to be coming from her room. Once they arrive at her rundown apartment complex, they find that the old woman is infected by some form of sickness. After she attacks one of the policemen on duty, every one in the building finds that they are being quarantined inside with no way out. Soon, it becomes a fight for survival as the sickness spreads, and all those infected are sent on a bloody warpath to rip into some human meat.
QUARANTINE is the latest excursion into the combination of the horror genre and cinéma-vérité. An almost shot by shot remake of the Spanish thriller [REC], it finds itself in similar terrain as CLOVERFIELD and Romero’s DIARY OF THE DEAD. And in many ways, it works quite well. I certainly wasn’t bored as Angela (Jennifer Carpenter) and her mostly unseen cameraman (Steve Harris) find themselves trapped in a building with other survivors. All the while fighting off others who are infected with a sickness that I won’t give away. In fact, I had a lot of fun with much of it. While it is sort of hard to credit John Erick Dowdle and Drew Dowdle for creating a creepy new horror flick. As I said, if you have seen [REC], there will be no surprises here. It is so close to the original, except without the subtitles, which is a big reason why this film exists. The truth is, most Americans don’t have any desire to watch a film and have to read what is being said. It is sad too, because they are missing out on some really brilliant work.
But here we are, another view of a mysterious illness turning people into ravenous monsters. There are elements of many other films here, most notably Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. The tenants in the apartment range from a mother with a sick child, a couple who don’t speak English, the a-hole who is intent on saving his own butt. There is enough fodder here to fill up a good ninety minute horror entry. But the main focus is on the eyes and ears of what is going on. Both Angela, the all too familiar “on-air personality” and the man that she tells to “film everything…“, a single bit of dialogue used to keep it as realistic as possible. And I actually did buy most of the recovered footage aspect of the film. The fact that they snuck around and were able to pull off the images they did, without it feeling completely unbelievable, worked well enough. And the deaths that are captured on film are fairly gruesome without lingering too much of the grotesque nature of the hell they have found themselves in.
Now let’s talk about Jennifer Carpenter. Her performance has received quite a few attacks. And the truth is, her character gets pretty damn annoying at times. She reminded me of the woman in AIRPLANE! that everyone has to try and “calm down” by beating her up and doing all sorts of abuse to. Angela is hysterical, she won’t shut up when it is imperative that she should and she will probably irk the hell out of many a viewer. But does that make for a lousy performance? I don’t think so. To put it in perspective, imagine one of your local newscasters being put into a situation where things are absolutely dire. Do you really think that some drama queen anchor woman isn’t going to annoy the crap out of you? Ms. Carpenter’s Angela felt like the typical, ‘What about me?’ type that many of these women (and oftentimes men) seem to be. And frankly, imagine yourself in a situation where you know you are going to die a horrible death… I’m guessing there are more than a few of you who would lose all sense of composure. And you might even be grossly irritating. In that sense, I think her performance works just fine… a self-centered personality doomed to a most likely, pretty damned awful fate.
As for the rest of the cast, they service the script well enough. The beauty is in the story and the atmosphere. While it might not be the horror event of the last ten years, I was for the most part glued to my seat, I found myself watching the screen with the occasional sick smile I get while watching a fun horror flick. I also appreciated, the very subtle explanation of the events taking place. The idea of the government concealing off a group of people for the greater good is not hard to imagine. Again, most of the credit goes to Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza who directed a damn solid original feature. But you have to give props to both Drew and John Erick Dowdle for at least taking what worked and just adding a bit of style to it. QUARANTINE is a well done film. It offers up a few good scares and is able to make the whole camera’s eye view seem believable. For an unnecessary remake, this is a very stylish and atmospheric thriller just in time for Halloween. While it may piss off fans of the original, it is definitely worth a look for those who don’t want to deal with subtitles. My rating 6/10 -- JimmyO
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