The found footage craze that came in the wake of The Blair Witch Project’s wild success has drawn a lot of criticism. Common complaints involve the prevalence of shaky cameras, low production values, and wondering why the hell people keep their cameras on all the time when they should really be running from the monsters they’re filming. For the most part, those complaints are valid, but every so often a found footage horror film will sneak through that proves to be pretty damn fun. Quarantine is one of those movies.
A remake (hey look, another one!) of the Spanish horror film REC, Quarantine follows a news reporter who’s stuck filming a thankless human interest piece following a team of firefighters on the night shift. Things start to get interesting for her when they’re called to a medical emergency at an apartment building in downtown LA, though when they arrive things go to hell when they find themselves at ground zero for an outbreak of a particularly vicious strain of zombifying rabies. They are soon locked in with the horror as SWAT teams barricade the building, threatening to shoot anyone attempting escape, and can only sit by as the infected begin to outnumber the living.
Quarantine is a great example of one of my favorite, very odd subgenres of horror film where the supposed bad guys are actually the good guys. While the SWAT teams keeping the people inside at gunpoint are militaristic and frightening, when you look at it they really are the only ones here saving the world. It’s callous to think of it this way, especially when you’re surrounded by a group of mostly likable survivors, but it has always been one of my favorite little subgenres because of just how conflicted it makes you feel.
As well, Quarantine is a wonderfully restrained zombie movie, aided immensely by the found footage style. There are no hordes of thousands of the living dead bursting through doors at a moment’s notice, just the couple dozen residents of this mostly abandoned apartment complex, allowing you to recognize pretty much every zombie as they come into the scene. There are no massive firefights; in fact, there are almost no guns in the whole movie. These people are trapped fighting the infected with whatever they can get their hands on (including one wonderfully gratuitous moment where a zombie is beaten to death with the camera, filming the entire time), and more often than not have to resort to running instead of fighting. These aspects, as well as the dim apartment setting and the handheld approach, give the film a feeling of extreme claustrophobia that only intensifies as the situation gets more out of hand.
Too many people complain that it doesn’t hold a candle to the original REC. Not having seen the original, I can't really speak to that. What I can say is that every time I watch this movie, usually once a year after having more or less forgotten about it, I always find myself saying, "You know what? That's a lot better than I remember. Not perfect, but better than I remember."
(SPOILER ALERT/GRIPE: While I enjoy the hell out of this movie for the most part, the ad campaign still pisses me off to no end. Why? Well, pretty much every poster, trailer and TV ad for the film was based around the FINAL FRICKIN SHOT OF THE MOVIE! Way to give away the ending of the movie, Quarantine advertising people.)
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-- Matt Carter
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